When it comes to ranking the top ten players of all time, at least a few players will feel like they are disrespected by not being mentioned. After all, it is extremely difficult to choose the 10 very best players out of a legitimate 20 who feel they have a shot.
While it is quite undisputed that Michael Jordan is the #1 greatest player to ever play, things get tricky as we go down the list. Wilt has the records, Kareem has the longevity, and LeBron is the most recent all-time great that is still playing. As a result, these guys feel they have a shot.
But one name is often disrespected, and that is Kobe Bean Bryant. Kobe is the closest thing to Michael that we have ever seen, and that should mean that Kobe should follow MJ in the pecking order. Kobe has the rings, the postseason success, the numbers, and the overall skill that passes the eye test.
Here are the reasons why Kobe is the 2nd greatest player of all time.
1. Five Rings In Seven Finals Appearances
Kobe Bryant has some amazing achievements in his career, including a legendary 81-point performance and countless game-winning baskets that provided iconic moments in NBA history. But perhaps the greatest achievement in Kobe’s careers are his 5 NBA titles. When comparing to the likes of another Lakers legend in Magic Johnson, Kobe’s 5 rings in 7 appearances usurps Magic’s 5 in 9 appearances. Not to mention, Kobe has won more rings than LeBron James and Larry Bird.
Even though Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 6 rings, he won 5 with Magic and had a stacked squad with the likes of Finals MVP James Worthy on the team. Kobe Bryant had the great Shaquille O’Neal, but he was the closer for the team and arguably just as important as Shaq for winning three NBA titles. Not to mention, Kobe managed to take down a superteam Boston Celtics (featuring a young Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett) with Pau Gasol and Andre Bynum by his side.
2. He Never Left The Lakers
Another big mark in Kobe’s career, that he deserves credit for, is sticking with one franchise for his entire career and delivering 5 NBA titles to the Lakers. Imagine if Kobe decided to join forces with other superstars to form a superteam of his own, how many would he have won? Kobe’s killer instinct and flawless skill set would make him the best player on any superteam he formed.
When compared to LeBron James, his greatest rival in the modern era, Kobe’s 5 rings for the Lakers stand out more. He never left his team, sticking through it even when Shaq was traded. All he needed was a big man to help him rebound and defend with an inside presence, and he won two more. LeBron actually formed a powerhouse superteam with Dwayne Wade (a top-three player at that time) and Chris Bosh. If Kobe teamed up with Garnett or Nowitzki, Kobe would certainly have many more rings.
3. Great Teammates, But Not Top 50 (Except Shaq)
Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen to form the best defensive duo in history. LeBron James had Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving to take the big shots and be the alpha scorers on his teams. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most consistent player in NBA history with the most unstoppable move ever.
But Kobe had Shaq for 4 years but was left to find his way after Shaq was traded. He managed to have Pau Gasol, a great player but not close to the likes of Wade and Pippen. MJ had the luxury of playing with Pippen throughout his career en route to 6 titles. LeBron had Wade and Bosh, then later joined a terrific Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Of course, Magic always had a great team with Kareem and Worthy.
No matter what support case Kobe had, he was always the main perimeter player and the man who took the biggest shots in the game. Once Shaq left Los Angeles, he never had the best overall team in the league yet managed to win back-to-back titles.