Believe in Magic
Kobe Bryant is great but hardly the greatest Laker of all time.
The title has to come from the Showtime era because that always will symbolize the franchise. Magic Johnson is No. 1 on this list. He redefined the point-guard position, brought Hollywood to basketball and is still the face of the organization.
Most important, Johnson always will be more beloved by fans in Los Angeles than Bryant. Unless he retires as the all-time scoring leader, Bryant probably finishes third just behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
As for O'Neal, the biggest surprise is he made the comments now instead of waiting so he could use them to publicize his next book.
Kobe is no Magic
Sorry, Shaq, but your attempt to reconcile with Kobe by calling him the greatest Laker of all time isn't flying. Granted, Kobe has five titles, two scoring championships, two Finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP award on his resume. And he might not be done. But nobody personified the franchise like Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Like Kobe, he owns five championship rings. He won three regular-season and three NBA Finals MVPs. Far more important, his no-look passing, flashy style and versatility defined the Showtime-era Lakers and helped boost the league at a time it sagged. Add in that Johnson helped broaden what it meant to be a point guard and the Magic Man gets the nod.
Bryant is closing in
Is the world still spinning comfortably on its axis? Everybody OK in Lakersville? Shaquille O'Neal called his teammate-turned-enemy the best Laker ever. Stunning. And almost true.
Magic Johnson still holds the torch as the Greatest Laker Ever and has the most popular trophy at Staples Center to back it up. Kobe Bryant is, however, edging closer. They've each won five championships, so that's a draw, but Bryant won with entirely different teams — three rings via brute force with O'Neal and two via the kinder, gentler Pau Gasol. Impressive.
Johnson gets the edge because he has been retired for almost 20 years and is still an LA icon. The greatest Laker ever still has a magical touch — for now.