Kobe Bryant: The Greatest L.A. Laker Might Be the Greatest Ever

He’s the greatest Laker of them all, and in case you didn’t know, that franchise hasn’t exactly had chopped liver playing for it over the generations.

It all started with No. 99, George Mikan, the NBA’s first redwood. That was when the lakes the team played near were in Minneapolis, not Los Angeles. Mikan was 6′10″ at a time when any player whose dome rose more than six feet from the ground was considered basketball-ready.

Mikan played among relative Lilliputians, but that doesn’t take away from the trail he blazed in the NBA; that is, being the first true big man who wasn’t as immobile as a pylon and who was dominant.

Mikan only played seven seasons in the NBA, but that’s like saying Godzilla was only in Tokyo for half an hour. George left his mark, no question about it.

Then there was the terrific duo of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, once the franchise moved westward to Southern California. The ole lefty from UCLA, Gail Goodrich, joined them in 1965, and soon afterward so did Wilt Chamberlain. They were bolstered by key role players like Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian, Keith Erickson and LeRoy Ellis. That’s how you win 33 straight games, as the Lakers did in 1971-72, with Baylor only playing in nine games all year long.

There was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who came over from the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975 and went on to become the league’s all-time leading scorer. Earvin “Magic” Johnson went from an NCAA title with Michigan State in 1979 to an NBA Championship with the Lakers one year later.

Kobe Bryant trumps all of them. Heck, he might trump just about anyone who wore any uniform, except for Michael Jordan—and it’s not a slam dunk (pun intended) that MJ was the better player.

The Lakers are in town to play the Pistons tonight in Detroit. Once upon a time that meant a playoff-like atmosphere and a possi...

About the Author