CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- NBA fans and internet inhabitants debate the league's All-time greatest player relentlessly. The primary side-by-side comparison these days for "GOAT" status centers on Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James. Other legends have supporters. Jordan and James, who made his first appearance in Washington as a member of the Lakers Sunday night, dominate such discussions.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks inferred another former Laker is worthy of such greatest ever talk when answering a question about the expected pro-Los Angeles crowd inside Washington's arena.
"There are organizations and rightfully so that their crowds are global. You can argue [the Lakers] had the greatest player ever to play the game for 20 years before LeBron got there," Brooks said.
Do the math. He's not talking about Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry West or Wilt Chamberlain. That's Kobe Bryant's music.
"Everybody is a fan of Kobe and now they have LeBron. Now they have another guy who could arguably be the greatest player ever," Brooks said.
Back it up. Again, many thrust James, a four-time league MVP and three-time NBA champion, into the debate with Jordan, whose cultural reverence exceeds his six titles, 32,292 points scored and countless honors.
Bryant's résumé is all kinds of impressive. The 20-year veteran and 18-time All-Star passed Jordan as the league's third-time scorer, and won five championships. Top 5-10 player, perhaps. The GOAT? That's not an argument often heard beyond loyal Laker fans that grew up during Bryant's reign. It's not even clear he's the best Laker of all-time considering the competition.
Bryant's career deserves praise. Brooks didn't go out on the flimsiest of limbs. Still, that's quite a statement from a longtime coach and former player.
Perhaps the presence of James back in Washington, a place he's thrived over the years, sparked Brooks' comment.
"So, [Los Angeles is] going to have fans. Those guys are fun to watch. I love watching LeBron play even when he (scored) 57 (points) last year against us and made 11 of 14 mid-range shots."
Don't forget the game-tying banked 3–pointer at the buzzer in regulation during the 2016 regular season. Los Angeles won in overtime, snapping Washington's 17-game home court winning streak. Brooks hadn't.
"Even the 3 that [LeBron] sent to overtime with whatever on the clock that he traveled on," the coach joked.
Clearly, Brooks isn't over those moments. That alone didn't lead him to nominate Bryant as perhaps the best ever, although at this moment, maybe.
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