Reason #2: Championships
The ultimate goal of every NBA franchise is to win the NBA title. With a slightly higher standard, the Lakers franchise goal is to win an NBA title every year. The Lakers hang 16 championship banners in the rafters as proof of their dedication to winning.In Lakers land, rings matter, and nobody brought more as a player than Kobe.
Despite 14 years and playing along side Hall of Fame players like Gail Goodrich, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West was only able to amass one championship. The one championship he did win was in the 71-72 season where they faced an injury depleted New York Knicks team.
Kareem Abdul-Jabber played his first 4 full seasons with the Lakers and came up empty in the championship front. It wasn’t until his 5th season when the Lakers drafted a young point guard from Michigan State by the name of Magic Johnson that Kareem was able to secure that first ring in Los Angeles. Kareem ended up winning 5 championships in total with the Lakers but he was a shell of himself in the latter 2 when he reached his 40’s. In the final two championships, Kareem was a contributor, with Magic, Worthy and Byron Scott carrying the load.
Magic has the same number of rings as Kobe in his jewelry case, but does have more NBA final appearances; 9 to Kobe’s 7. He won as a rookie and continued to win until he was forced out by HIV in 1991. Just prior to his retirement announcement he had led the Lakers to an upset series victory over the favored Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference finals, but fell victim to the Michael Jordan led Bulls in the Finals. As far as winning goes, you can’t make a case against Magic.
A case that can be made with Kobe is that he accomplished something that no other Lakers great ever did, and that was be the centerpiece to two separate championship teams with a complete rebuilding phase in between.
Kobe was part of the dynamic duo with Shaq in the early 2000’s that netted the Lakers 3 rings and 4 finals appearances. The team was then chopped down to spare parts with the trade of Shaq and Kobe was left alone in probably his peak years with the likes of Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and the infamous Smush Parker in the starting line up.
Many predicted that Kobe would never again be able to carry the Lakers to another championship. Miraculously Kobe was able to carry that sorry excuse of a starting line up with Smush to two playoff appearances. Within 4 years of the dismantling of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty another one arose with Kobe as the centerpiece. Kobe, with a different supporting cast, won two more championships and made three more final appearances. This feat is something that no other Lakers or even any other star NBA player can claim and that is why Kobe’s 5 rings trumps Magic’s 5.