SportsNation Blog Archives Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant is in the stage of his career at which people start asking him for lists of things. He's already listed the top five players he's faced in his career, featuring such luminaries as Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Jordan's Bulls made Kobe's list of the top five toughest teams he's faced -- but neither team LeBron James has played for did. In no particular order:
San Antonio Spurs
The Bulls, sure. The Spurs, no surprise there. The Kings, though? Remember, during Kobe's championship days, the Kings featured Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber and others. Unsurprisingly, Kobe's got a long memory.
In his 20 NBA seasons, Kobe Bryant has faced a number of brilliant players: vets near the end of their careers, such as Karl Malone and John Stockton; fellow stars who entered the league around his time, such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett; newer standouts such as Dwyane Wade and Stephen Curry.
None of those made his top five "toughest players to face" list. As relayed by our own Baxter Holmes, here it is:
Top five players Kobe says he has faced: Olajuwon, MJ, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Clyde Drexler. Adds that it's hard to pick just five.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 21, 2015
Michael Jordan? No surprise. LeBron James? Not really either. Kevin Durant? When he's healthy, he's electric. And Hakeem Olajuwon? There's a reason they call him The Dream. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is Clyde Drexler -- but no one is about to claim he wasn't great.
The key point is the second thing Bryant told Holmes: It is hard to choose a top five from 1996 to 2015.
Kobe Bryant is saying goodbye. Tim Duncan isn't -- but he surely will soon. (Right?)
Both players soared over their generational counterparts and won five titles each, albeit in different ways. Kobe flashy, Duncan subdued. Kobe with mountainous highs and abyssal lows, Duncan with a steady run that makes us wonder if he can keep this up for a few more years.
But who was better? Mike and Mike discussed in the video above -- pointing out that it's very hard to choose between the two.
Now it's your turn:
Kobe Bryant is done at the end of this season, having announced his retirement via a poetic letter on The Players' Tribune on Sunday.
Even though this news is far from surprising -- the 37-year-old has been struggling for several seasons now -- the news of a legend's impending departure always shakes the foundation of sports.
Here is how some notable names reacted:
Hard to believe @kobebryant is finally going to hang it up. One of the NBA's great champions. Enjoy the rest of this season my friend.— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) November 30, 2015
One of the most under appreciated players to ever play is saying goodbye to the game he gave his all!... https://t.co/BOi32TOJQS— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) November 30, 2015
Much respect to @kobebryant as he announces his retirement after the season. A fierce competitor and one of the greatest to ever do it!— Eric Gordon (@TheofficialEG10) November 30, 2015
Kobe is the greatest competitor I have ever faced. I am glad he's found peace, I don't know if we ll see another like him. Enjoy the last 66— Shane Battier (@ShaneBattier) November 30, 2015
KB scored 56 on me in 3(!) qtrs my rookie year. Pushed me to be better more than any player I've faced. He has my ultimate hoops respect.— Shane Battier (@ShaneBattier) November 30, 2015
Thanks for everything to the greatest basketball player of all time Kobe Bryant. The game will never be the same!! pic.twitter.com/usVftyfIKu— Jusuf Nurki (@nurkic23) November 30, 2015
I might cry when Kobe retires yo... Crazy man— Isaiah Austin (@IsaiahAustin) November 30, 2015
Nothing but tremendous respect and admiration for @kobebryant I have always been the biggest fan of his competitive drive. Thank you— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) November 30, 2015
Shout to @kobebryant on his illustrious career in the NBA! One of the greatest of all time...— Lupe Fiasco (@LupeFiasco) November 30, 2015
Kobe been waiting his whole life to get them bars off.— Vince Staples (@vincestaples) November 30, 2015
Meanwhile, off social media, Metta World Peace interacted with his longtime teammate the old-fashioned way: by getting his autograph.
NBA top fives are in the air. Kevin Durant gave his list two weeks ago, and now, one of Durant's picks has made his own choices.
In an interview with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, former Los Angeles Lakers (and Orlando Magic ... and Miami Heat ... and a few other teams) big man Shaquille O'Neal was asked his all-time starting five. His answer:
"Bill Russell won 11 championships. Charles Barkley is my guy, but I like Karl Malone. Then there's the guy who made me who I am -- Dr. J [Julius Erving]. I've got Michael [Jordan] at the two. Then, I'm going to go with the big guard with Magic Johnson at the one."
Now, O'Neal made sure NOT to put an exclamation point on his list, saying:
"I see a problem with answering these questions. A lot of people get their feelings hurt. Then some of you guys [reporters] be trying to start trouble, like Shaq leaving Kobe [Bryant] off. Then it's Shaq and Kobe.
"But that's my top five for playing reasons and what they did. Russell doesn't have high [statistical] numbers, but with 11 championships, nobody is beating that."
We're not doing that, Shaq! We know you're mending fences with former teammate Kobe Bryant and certainly wouldn't leave him off as a dig. Heck, he wouldn't be on this writer's top five, either -- not because Kobe hasn't been great (he has), but when you get to the upper reaches of the NBA's all-timers list, it's really, really, really competitive.
Having said that, O'Neal did make some interesting choices; Malone and Erving, in particular, don't appear on a great deal of these lists. So we ask you: