If you put it to a vote of the fans, Magic Johnson would probably win with Kobe Bryant a close second. Then again, maybe Chick Hearn deservedly wins it all.
But among the candidates there seems to be a mutual admiration society. Jerry West said Kobe Bryant was the best Laker ever. Saturday, Kobe returned the compliment (as reported by Kevin Ding in the Orange County Register):
“It’s Jerry West, because of everything that he’s done, as a player and then as a general manager,” Bryant said Saturday. “He’s responsible for managing here, he’s responsible for Shaq (O’Neal), he’s responsible for myself. He put the whole picture together and everything that he’s done. To me, he’s the greatest.”
When it was pointed out by a reporter that Magic Johnson beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals and West did not, Bryant’s reaction spoke to his disagreement with the notion that Bryant needs to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals to establish his legacy.
“What is everybody’s fascination with the Celtics in terms of going down in history? It’s a little weird to me,” Bryant said. “I think Jerry’s body of work and the championships that he’s been responsible for (matter). Just my opinion. You can have your own opinion, it doesn’t really matter to me. In my opinion, I think Jerry West is.”