By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Laker lore would have it that the legend of Los Angeles legacy is rooted in the Converse of big-men that scale higher than the rafters where they belong, or even the iconic, landmark Hollywood sign of Southern California. Hey, even their best Point Guard was 6 foot 9. Still, speaking of Magic the Lakers real history lies with the tricks of the trade of a two man team. One big guy, one little man. This hasn't just come about with the big man Jahil Okafor passing small-ball revolution of D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson following the California king crowning of Steph Curry's Golden State Warriors as NBA champion. The Lakers have experienced a changing of the guard already a half century ago in the post Minneapolis Mikan age. Now in this big-three generation that sees the taller Julius Randle forming with a young backcourt to hopefully have the success Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard could have had, it's time to look at who is really the most dynamic L.A.L. duo of all-time. Especially in the wake of Shaq Week that saw O'Neal and Kobe Bryant getting together and hashing out over podcast that reopened the debate at whether they where the best to ever do it, Lakers or otherwise. There's only one way to find out. Let them fight (erm...we mean play)!
Shaquille O'Neal & Kobe Bryant vs Pau Gasol & Kobe Bryant: Say what you want about the Spanish Bull, but if it wasn't for Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant wouldn't have one more than Shaq. Gasol is a Hall Of Fame, jersey retired worthy Laker legend in his own right. Even in the big-man stakes, albeit in a different form. That being the European revolution that he and Dirk Nowitzki brought to a new millennium league. Popular consensus would have Shaq throwing Pau around the paint like a rag doll. But this cricket, rickety post player would have the skill to slice and dice the Diesel's D. His range would allow Gasol to bring O'Neal out of his comfort zone and to the perimeter, but once it got back to the paint a few dominating dunks would devastate Pau's defence and confidence. The real intriguing match-up would be number 24 against number 8. Kobe vs Kobe. Like those like Mike debates, old money versus new money. Old Kob' is a hell of a lot smarter and more experienced than his young afro self, but that doesn't stop number 8 from unleashing a repertoire of moves that Vino just can't age with anymore as the Black Mamba is looking out for his own snake in the grass. When it comes to the most competitive player since Jordan many think the only guy that could take Kobe one-on-one in his prime is himself. So maybe these two cancel each other out...or even explode. Luckily for young Kobe back then he has Shaq on his side...and no David or Spanish version of Paul is toppling this Goliath.
Wilt Chamberlain & Jerry West vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Magic Johnson: Wilt Chamberlain is the most dominant centre of all-time. Maybe even more than Shaq. But we'll never get to see that particular match-up. Because Kareem proved he could handle his own literally in history against the man that once scored 100 points in a single game. No one could guard Abdul-Jabbar and his signature sky-hook, which reeled him in enough points to become the all-time league leading scorer. Even 100 points in a single game is a shade of someone who has totalled 38,387 for his entire career. Although nobody could wilt Chamberlain's dominant averages of around 50 points and 25 rebounds per. Kareem certainly wouldn't stunt The Stilt, but the man who could go toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee could certainly endure this epic 'Game of Death'. And nothings stopping that shot. That just leaves the logo and the man that may as well have redesigned that NBA one the way he saved in redemption and succeeded in the revolution the league in its golden era alongside Boston Celtic Larry Bird. If you though Wilt against legendary Boston Celtics big-man and big-time defender Bill Russell was huge just wait until you saw what really made the Lakers/Celtics NBA rivalry so storied in the 80's. That was just Magic and even though Jerry West was the Mr. Clutch that could launch desperation shots from mid-court with an ease that made them look mid-range and good, no one is grabbing and pulling anything out the hat against Earvin Johnson.
Shaq & Kobe vs Magic & Kareem: Ironically, in beating Jerry, Magic faces the one, two punch that West (as more than an NBA logo, but Lakers owner) got to sign for the new Lake Show on the dotted line that lead to so much more to come. And with all due respect to the fire and ice of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor it really comes down to these two in this purple versus gold scrimmage through history. Besides so many teammates are big three and game "Worthy" but none quite like this. Now today they may say that even with the drama, Shaq and Kobe are the best double-act ever-even more than the Chicago Bulls Jordan and Pippen-but are they really the partnership of perfection? Maybe you could call Phil, but I'm sorry Mr. Jackson we call it like this; Shaq may be the enforcer but the kung-fu finesse of Abdul-Jabbar would finish everything else off. Besides Shaq's baby-hook may have been a sweet shot, but its just a junior to the iconic Sky-Hook move that nobody has been able to emulate to this day, just like the same amount of players who have been able to cap Kareem's totals. Now when it comes to holding guard from the Forum to STAPLES, opinion is divided. Shaq introduces the closest to M.J., Kobe to us as "the greatest Laker of all-time", but perhaps the M.J. number 24 is really close but no Shaq cohiba to is number 23 backwards. Because to some even Magic is better than Mike, the man who passed the torch to the greatest of all-time just like he passed everything else. Now surely Kobe couldn't play these assist lanes. Kobe may demand the ball more than almost anyone that's ever played this game and with good reason, but Johnson could change the game without even taking a single shot. And THAT is why he'd be the one left holding the ball...if he'd even let you see it. Now tell us you don't believe in Magic?!