Nothing will get NBA fans more worked up than debating who is the greatest player in league history, as the arguments can get very vitriolic. Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet officially decided to dip his toe into these perilous waters.
Unless you’ve been living in space for the last few decades, the top two most acceptable GOAT answers are Michael Jordan and LeBron James, with names like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell occasionally nabbing a few votes here and there.
In an appearance on the “Ball Don’t Stop” podcast, VanVleet said that he believes Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of all time. While traditional arguments often exclude Bryant, those who saw his prime are well aware of the fact he could go toe-to-toe with anyone.
“Kobe is the guy for me,” VanVleet said of his basketball idol. “The skill set, the mentality, the athleticism, the will…surgical. He’s the guy.” While this may not satisfy either the Jordan or LeBron diehards, VanVleet is part of a generation that grew up idolizing both No. 8 and No. 24.
Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet thinks Kobe Bryant is the GOAT.
This is not the first time we’ve heard VanVleet praise Kobe in such a direct fashion. During an appearance on “All the Smoke” last year, VanVleet talked about how one of of his most cherished basketball memories was watching Kobe and the Lakers take down the 76ers in the 2001 Finals.
It’s a shame that VanVleet never got to match up against Bryant in his career, as Kobe retired the year before Fred made it to the Raptors. Given VanVleet’s consistent effort and drive on both ends of the floor, he clearly took queues from Bryant’s style of play.
VanVleet is not the only star point guard who shares this opinion, as Kyrie Irving also believes that Bryant tops everyone else across the NBA lexicon. While agreeing with anything Irving says is usually a huge red flag that would get fans questioning VanVleet, this take seems a bit more grounded in reality.
If VanVleet ends up having one-third the career that Kobe had, he will be a Raptors immortal that will see his No. 23 retired forever. One of Bryant’s defining traits was overcoming pain and adversity to lead his team to gritty playoff wins, and VanVleet will need to replicate his idol if he wants to help Toronto get a ring in the near future.