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.
Bryant shoots to kill
It comes down to a jump ball between two different kinds of Lakers, doesn't it?
Kobe Bryant is the better player, Magic Johnson the better performer.
Kobe is a cold-blooded assassin; Magic is Showtime charm and smiles.
Lakers fans respect Kobe; they adore Magic.
Enough with sentiment.
The truth is this: If I had to win one game to save the world and prove the Mayans wrong, I'd go with Kobe. He's the greatest player we've seen since Michael Jordan — even Jordan says so.
Name another player today who would cut out your heart — and any other organ — to win?Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun