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Is Kobe the best Laker ever?

In last night’s loss to the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant became the all-time leading scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers, surpassing Jerry West in the third quarter. His 25,208 career points ranks 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. After the game, Kobe said:

“It’s a great honor, to say the least, to be with all the great players and the rich tradition that we have.

It’s a great accomplishment. (Jerry West) taight me so much when I was 17 years old. He taught me a lot about the game, and the rules, and on and on. It’s me passing him in the record books, but I feel like it’s us. It’s still Magic (Johnson). It’s still all of the other great players.”

He is without doubt one of the game’s greats, but where does Kobe rank amongst the Lakers list of all time players? He has excelled in LA since entering the league in 1996, winning four championships and one MVP in that time, and Kobe has the advantage over players like Shaq and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he has spent all of his career with the Lakers, and was drafted out of high school, allowing him to break franchise milestones and get himself into the record books. He is also one of the most clutch players ever, and is arguably the most clutch player at the moment in the NBA, alongside Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade. Kobe also holds the second highest points total in a game, dropping an astonishing 81 points on the Raptors in 2006. That said: some Laker fans just don’t like Kobe and would prefer to place him beneath the likes of Magic, Kareem, Elgin, West, Wilt and Shaq.

Here are the stats: Kobe ranks No. 1 in total points and fourth in scoring average (25.3 ppg) among Lakers, third in field goals made, first in threes made, and second in free throws made. Bryant is third in total assists and 10th in rebounds, second in steals and seventh in blocks. He has won one ring less than Kareem and Magic, but has plenty of time to win more rings, and the Lakers are favourites to repeat this year.

Here are my choices for the greatest Lakers of all-time:

5) Elgin Baylor

Played for Lakers: 1958-1971. Drafted: 1st pick, 1958.

Points: 23, 149 Rebounds: 11,463

Assists: 3,650

Awards: 11 x All-Star, Rookie of the Year 1959

An excellent shooter, the 6’5’ forward was known for his hanging jump shots, as well as being a gifter rebounder and passer. Jerry West described Baylor as, “one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known, I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven’t seen many that can compare with him.”

4) Jerry West

Played for Lakers: 1960-1974. Drafted: 2nd pick, 1960.

Points: 25,192 Rebounds: 5,366

Assists: 6,238

Awards: 14 x All-Star, 1 x MVP (1972), Finals MVP (1969), 1x NBA champion (1972)

A combo guard excellent both on offense and defence, West was known as “Mr Clutch”, for his exceptional ability in the clutch. One of the best ball-hawks, man to man defenders and shot blockers among guards, West remains the only player to win a Finals MVP as a member of the losing team.

3) Kobe Bryant

This is where I believe Kobe fits in. If he can win a few more rings for LA and carry on producing at the same level for at least the next five years, he could end up as number 1 on this list.

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Played for Lakers: 1975-1989. Joined: from Milwaukee Bucks, 1975

Points: 38,387 Rebounds: 17,440

Blocks: 3,189

Awards: 19x All-Star, 6 x MVP, 2 x Finals MVP, 6 x NBA champion

The 7’2’ center is the NBA’s highest points scorer ever and is known for his famous “skyhook” shot, which was basically unblockable. An unstoppable threat, he was a key player in the Lakers’ “Showtime” era along with Magic Johnson.

1) Magic Johnson

Played for Lakers: 1979-1996 Drafted: 1st pick, 1979

Points: 17,707 Rebounds: 6,559

Assists: 10,141

Awards: 12 x All-Star, 3 x MVP, 3 x Finals MVP, 5 x NBA champion

It had to be Magic here. Johnson was “Showtime”: a fast-paced style of basketball described as a mix of “no-look passes off the fastbreak, pin-point alley-oops from halfcourt, spinning feeds and overhand bullets under the basket through triple teams.” The NBA’s all time leader for assists, Magic combined the size of a power forward (at 6’9’), the one-on-one skills of a swingman, and the ball handling talent of a guard, making him one of the most dangerous triple-doube threats of all time; his 138 triple-double games are second only to Oscar Robertson’s 181. He even played at center in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals, deputising for the injured Kareem and scoring 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals to win his first NBA championship.

Honourable mentions: Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Adam Morrison (only joking!)