Speaking at media day on Monday, Bryant praised this year’s squad.
“On its face, it’s the best talent I’ve been around,” said Bryant, via the Los Angeles Times. “Whether that translates into winning a championship, that remains to be seen. But just on paper, you’re obviously talking about defensive players of the years, MVPs, All-Stars. You’re talking about a myriad of things where guys are on top of their position and have been at the top of their position.”
That’s a lot coming from Kobe given the kind of teams he’s played on in the past. The ’99-’00 Lakers that went 67-15 in the regular season and won the NBA championship were arguably his best team. That squad featured Shaq in his prime, a 21-year-old Kobe, Glen Rice, Ron Harper, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, and clutch Robert Horry. That group went on to win two more titles (except Harper and Fox who weren’t on the ’01-’02 team). And if you want to talk about all-around talent, the ’03-’04 team that lost to the Pistons in the Finals had future Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone in addition to Shaq and Kobe. Malone was 40 at the time and never played again after injuring his knee that season. Payton was 35.
The current Lakers team features four likely Hall of Famers, just like that ’03-’04 team. They also have Ronald William Artest, who is a former All-Star and NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison. But we must look at context rather than resumes. Jamison is 36 and of diminishing skills; Artest is turning 33; Steve Nash is 38; Kobe is 34; and the young one, Dwight Howard, is coming off back surgery.
The Lakers are obviously an excellent team on paper, but I don’t think everything will be a breeze the way many are expecting. And I’m not convinced this team is better than the ’99-’00 squad.
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