LeBron James Is Already the Greatest Laker of the 21st Century

Illustration for article titled LeBron James Is Already the Greatest Laker of the 21st Century
Photo: Harry How (Getty Images)

It seems unfair for one sports franchise to receive such fortune. With LeBron’s decision to move to Los Angeles, eight of the NBA’s top 20 players ever will have played for the Lakers while in their prime.


For much of this spring and summer—shit, for much of his career—LeBron’s place in the NBA’s legacy hierarchy has been fiercely debated, with many arguing that he’s close to surpassing or may have already surpassed Michael Jordan for the G.O.A.T. title. (My opinion? I believe LeBron is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan was, but Jordan was greater. If this makes no sense to you, I don’t care.)

But now, a more relevant question today is whether he’s the greatest Laker ever.

Of course, to answer this, a working definition of greatness is necessary. Because I am kind, I will allow you to come up with your own. Still, regardless of how you decide to define it, I believe we can all agree that LeBron, right now, is already the best and greatest Laker of the last 20 years. Particularly the last 10. No one who has worn a Laker uniform in that span, not Andrew Bynum, not Mike Penberthy, not Smush Parker, not Derek Fisher, not Lamar Odom and not even Pau Gasol, can you make a reasonable and sane and not-dumb-as-the-everlasting-fuck argument for.

This leaves us with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and possibly Shaq, as valid challengers to this claim. No one else, though.

Magic and Kareem are arguably ahead of him, for greatest Laker ever status, but only those two. Perhaps, one day, he’ll surpass both of them—like he’s surpassed everyone else in that franchise—and there will be no need for qualifiers like “greatest of the last 10 years” and “greatest of the 21st century” and “greatest since 1996.”

We’ll see.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



The Kobe Shade is epic. I’m not sure the man will be able to see the sun again after this.  LOL

Random aside: I had a job interview once that required a lunch where I’d get to meet with the principals of the company.  My hiring manager had just moved west from Cali where he shared a church with one Kobe Bean Bryant.  I had to play it cool to not burst out laughing that someone that cocky would go to a church (and a predominantly White one at that), but people are Strange.