When former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson tweets we pay attention. And when his tweet says something disparaging about the team we reflexively get mad — even when he’s right.
The great ones Michael, Larry, Kareem, LeBron and now Kevin Durant can put their teams on their back and win!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 28, 2014
But was Magic right to exclude current Laker great Kobe Bryant from his list?
In short, the answer is yes. Kobe Bryant is a great player. You know it, I know it and Magic knows it. He isn’t the guy to put the team on his back and win. And for all his achievements, awards and accolades, Bryant has never been that guy. Who am I to say that? Just some hack. But year after year the most prestigious NBA sportswriters and broadcasters back me up on this.
Each year members of the sports media vote for the league’s most valuable player. In 17 seasons, only once did Bryant win that vote. The total wins for those on Magic’s list in order are five, three, six, and four. Then there’s Kevin Durant who is on pace to run away with his first this year. That one will tie him with Bryant. The difference between the two is that Durant’s will be the first of many as he enters his prime while Bryant is quickly plummeting out of his prime.
Persistent Kobe apologists will fall back to the last leg they have to stand on: Kobe’s five championship rings. Those can’t be denied, and I wouldn’t want to deny them. But it has to be pointed out that in his five championships he was Finals MVP only twice — three times he was Shaq’s sidekick. Furthermore, in Game 7 of his second Finals MVP year, he couldn’t put his team on his back and win. It had to be Ron “Metta World Peace” Artest that saved the day and carried them to the championship.
Kobe Bryant is a champion, a competitor and an NBA all-time great, but Magic was right to leave him off his list. And while backlash from the Laker community has forced Magic to step away from his stance, I won’t be influenced by such pressure. I’ll put it to you like this; if there was a Greatest of All Time pick-up game Kobe is in the gym, but he’s sitting on the floor trying to get next.