Shaq’s Kobe Bryant GOAT take hit with Stephen A. Smith reality check

Tony Nguyen | Uncategorized
May 10, 2024

Recently, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar center Shaquille O’Neal made waves with his comments that his late great former teammate Kobe Bryant, with whom he won three NBA Championships in LA, belongs in the GOAT (greatest of all time) discussion. “The only thing I don’t like about the [GOAT] conversation is they don’t put my boy [Kobe Bryant] in it… Michael, LeBron, or Kobe? Now y’all can debate,” said the Lakers legend, per ClutchPoints on X (via the BIG podcast).

One person who politely disagrees with O’Neal’s take that Bryant belongs in the GOAT debate is none other than ESPN sports media personality Stephen A. Smith, who recently took to First Take to deconstruct O’Neal’s argument.

“I’m not saying anything now that I didn’t say to Kobe’s face when we used to debate,” said Smith, via First Take on X, the social media platform formerly referred to as Twitter. “…he’s number two at the two guard. He’s not number one. We all know he’s not (Michael) Jordan. He didn’t have Jordan’s resume… Again, not only did he not measure up to Jordan, although he came closest… I have to take into consideration that you had Shaq for your first three rings. I’ve got to take into consideration that you couldn’t coexist, you and Shaq couldn’t coexist with one another… what about the fact that the last five years of your career or so you missed the playoffs? Last four or five years?… I think that Kobe from a skill perspective was absolutely elite. Greatness, nothing short of it. But when we think about what Michael Jordan brings to the equation, I have to say you’re number two behind Michael Jordan at your own position. And then when you look at the impact that LeBron has had on winning in his prime years no matter where he’s went… that’s why I have LeBron James at number two on Mount Rushmore.”

A heated debate

Kobe Bryant’s stature as a legend in one of the NBA’s biggest markets as well as the championships he won initially as a second option to Shaquille O’Neal undoubtedly played a large role in the reputation he sustains today as one of the game’s greats. One of the key reasons that many point to for Bryant’s GOAT claim is the fact that he won all of his championships in one city and “never quit” on the grind; however, Smith himself knows better than most that that wasn’t quite the case, as Bryant actually called into Smith’s radio show in 2006 to publicly demand a trade from the Lakers, a demand that was later rescinded once the Lakers got Bryant more help.

It should be noted that when Bryant was the best player on his last two championship teams, he took down several elite teams in the process, including the Boston Celtics and others.

In any case, unfortunately, putting a player slightly behind Michael Jordan and LeBron James in all time rankings seems to be taken as a sign of disrespect when it is actually quite the opposite.