Former Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant put together an illustrious career that put him among the greatest players to play the game. That unsurprisingly has landed him a Hall of Fame bid in his first year of eligibility, which will take place in 2020. Bryant‘s expected first-ballot induction has also begs the question about where he stands in franchise history among the already inducted Hall of Famers who have graced a Lakers uniform over the last 60-plus years.
Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career
Over his 20-year career, Bryant reached great heights, both individual and collective, with the Lakers. His play on the court helped earn him an everlasting legacy of being regarded as one of the greatest players to play in the NBA.
Bryant has numerous personal accolades, such as being an 18-time All-Star, a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection, nine-time All-Defensive First-Team member, and three-time All-Defensive Second Team selection, among others. He also holds many Lakers’ all-time record while placing himself third on the all-time regular-season scoring list and fourth on the all-time postseason scoring list.
Beyond that, he earned the reputation as being one of the best scorers and all-around players that the league has had. He is held in extremely high regard by his peers who will have him on the path to becoming a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer next year.
Where does Kobe Bryant rank in Lakers’ lore?
Bryant’s stellar career also rightfully put him in the conversation of being among the greatest players to wear a Lakers jersey. There have been numerous all-time talents that have played for the franchise, primarily before his time in the league.
It reasonably begs the question about where he ranks with these players such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquill O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain, who spent the bulk of their careers with the franchise. Each of these players has voiced that Bryant has made his stake towards being the greatest player in team history as the team accolades back that notion up, but at the same time, it’s hard to put him past each one.
O’Neal has been quite vocal about that notion, but during his time in Los Angeles, he won three NBA titles with an NBA Finals MVP award, won an MVP trophy, seven All-Star Game nods, and five All-NBA First Team selections. However, Bryant may hold the edge because of his longevity over O’Neal only in that regard. The same could go for Chamberlain as he spent just five years of his illustrious career with the franchise that include four All-Star awards, an NBA title, and a Finals MVP award.
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit above Kobe
It comes down to being a tough task to put him ahead of either Johnson or Abdul-Jabbar.
Johnson is one of the most recognizable faces that the NBA has ever had while he helped lift the Lakers to great heights during his time. In his 13 seasons, all spent with the team, winning five NBA titles with three NBA Finals MVP awards in nine NBA Finals appearances, three MVP awards, 12 All-Star selections, and nine All-NBA first-team nods. He also finished as the all-time leader in career assists.
Meanwhile, Jabbar is argued by many as having a substantial stake as being the greatest player in league history. In his 14 years with the franchise, he won three of six NBA record MVP awards, five of his six NBA titles, one of his two NBA Finals MVP awards, and 13 of his 19 All-Star selections. Although he didn’t play his entire career with the Lakers, it’s hard to ignore his career in its entirety as he’s league’s all-time leading scorer and holds numerous NBA records.
It isn’t a slight by any means to Bryant’s career, but it’s quite challenging to place him above Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar firmly. His legacy shouldn’t diminish with that, and it could be strongly argued that he deserves this mantel in Lakers’ history. One thing that can’t be contended is that he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.