Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

Kobe Has Been Great, But The Greatest Laker???


December 15, 2014

Kobe Bryant

When the National Basketball Association revealed its list of the 50 greatest players of all time I was on the selection committee.

When the list was made public, unfortunately so was the balloting of every committee member.

For years afterward several players who weren't chosen confronted me to ask me why I didn't vote for them.

Really, it was an impossible task. There were 70 or 80 deserving players. No amount of research allowed me to feel comfortable about my choices, especially the last 20 or so.

I won't say I'll never do that again but I'm being extremely careful to avoid putting myself in such a difficult position any time in the future. Or right now when Kobe Bryant has passed Michael Jordan for third place on the all-time scoring list.

Bryant is receiving many well-deserves accolades. I admire his passion for the game and treasure the years when I've been able to cover the Lakers and witness his marvelous play.

Gosh, I was in Honolulu for the Lakers' training camp in 1996 when he was a rookie just out of high school.

But I'm not going to say he's been a better player than Jordan They're both legends and how do you choose between them?

For one thing, as Bryant has gone ahead of Jordan to rank behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone on the scoring list let's not forget he's played in about 200 more games than Jordan. Bryant is in his 19th year and Jordan retired after 15 years.

We're also hearing these days that Bryant is the greatest Laker ever.

You can make an argument about that, but I can't thrust him above Abdul-Jabbar, who scored more points, or Magic Johnson, Jerry West or Shaquille O'Neal. And let's not forget Elgin Baylor, who thrilled Laker fans of his era at a time when the NBA was new to Los Angeles and the Lakers drew small crowds before Baylor and West energized the franchise.

And do we want to exclude the Minneapolis Lakers, most notably George Mikan, who starred before the team moved to Los Angeles?

Hey, come to think about it, maybe Chick Hearn is the greatest Laker of all time.

That's something to think about.


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