Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Makes Someone a "True" Laker or Yankee?

Kobe Bryant achieved another milestone in his long, illustrious career last night, entering the 30,000 club, an exclusive group of one name guys like Michael, Wilt, Kareem and, uh, Karl (Mailman sounds better). Besides proving that guys whose names start with K are really good at scoring (watch out for Kris Humphries), the other bond that most of this group shares is Lakers purple and gold. 4 out of the top 5 scorers in NBA history at some point wore purple and gold (Malone had his one forgettable year chasing a ring but it still counts). This fact inevitably brings up the top 5 all time Laker discussions. Trying to pick a top 5 for a franchise that has arguably had more talent in their uniforms than Hooters is tough goings though. And since we love to argue almost as much as we love top 5 lists here at PTU, this is a prime opportunity for an argument about top 5 lists. Both franchises are literally embarrassments of riches. Both have dominated their respective leagues for decades, and both attract both front running fans and ardent haters in equal amounts.  But what exactly makes a player a "great Yankee" or a "great Laker"? Can we call someone a "great blank" if they only played a few years for that team, or if they arrived as a player for hire out to get a ring? I say "yes" to both of those questions.

First off, let's get to the top 5s. For the Lakers, my top 5 in no particular order is Kobe, Magic, Kareem, Shaq and Jerry West.  Getting narrowly edged out is Wilt, Elgin Baylor and George Mikan (sorry, guys). My Yankee top 5 would be Mantle, Gehrig, Ruth, Dimaggio and Jeter. My apologies to Whitey Ford, Yogi, Scooter, Mariano, and Reggie Jackson. I didn't include Mr. October but our own Hater J left him off his list due to the fact that he doesn't consider him a "true Yankee". But what makes one player a "true Yankee" or Laker and one not? The way I see it, if a player had his best years wearing your jersey, he can be classified as a great for your organization regardless if he forced a trade to somewhere else or arrived via free agency. Most Los Angelinos won't remember Shaq rapping about how his ass tastes (thankfully), or an aging Shaq struggling to dunk in Boston or Cleveland. They'll remember him catching the lob from Kobe in game 7 against Portland, or scoring 60 on his birthday against the Clippers, or absolutely dominating three straight Finals from 00-02. You can't leave Shaq off the list of top Lakers just because it's impossible to name 5 guys who had as dominant a 5 year span in purple and gold as he did. Unlike say Kevin Garnett, who came to the Celtics after his prime, or A-Rod who has won MVP's in pinstripes but has mostly been hated by Yankee fans, Shaq played his prime years for the Lakers and won three titles (winning MVP each year). He is as much a true Laker as there ever will be.

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