Kobe Bryant believes the Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal were uniquely constructed to beat small-ball teams like the Warriors.
Kobe Bryant believes his Los Angeles Lakers teams with Shaquille O'Neal would have held their own against the small-ball teams of today's NBA.
In TNT's "Players Only: Shaq & Kobe" sit-down conversation special, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal re-hashed their days with the Lakers, including how they'd match up with other great teams in NBA history. Bryant seemed to mention the Golden State Warriors by mentioning "small ball."
Nearly every great player in NBA history has argued that their teams could beat the Warriors. Many of today's NBA analysts believe the Warriors, with their speed and shooting, could run bigger, slower teams off the court. If nothing else, their reliance on three-pointers would put math on their side.
But Bryant argued that the Lakers were uniquely constructed to take down the Warriors.
"I don't think you guys really understand how much we controlled paced and tempo," Bryant said of critics who argued the Lakers couldn't keep up today. "Because with [Shaq] down there, the game stops. You can't go anywhere. Because the defense has gotta come down and get you, which stops them from running out. There's nothing you can do. There's no long rebounds, none of that going on. The game is always chopped up because you're always drawing fouls all the time.
"And so, I would just love to see how they would deal with that."
There hasn't been a singular, foolproof method to beating today's Warriors, but they have at times struggled with physical teams that slow the game down and prevent transition opportunities. The Lakers, with O'Neal in the paint could have done that, perhaps forcing the Warriors to go big, and making the game ugly by drawing fouls.
Of course, even Bryant recognized that the entire exercise is silly. While talking about other great dynasties, he said there's no real way to figure out who would win.
"I would love to be able to take our '01 team, matched up with the '91 Bulls team ... the '89 Lakers, before Magic [Johnson] got hurt, and roll the ball out, and we can play and see what happens," Bryant said. "But unfortunately, we can't. So to be able to sit here and say we were the best, we're better is — what difference does that make?"
Bryant is right — those teams will never face off, so nobody will ever know. It makes for a fun debate, nonetheless.
Of course, Warriors coach Steve Kerr may have had the best answer to the entire subject last year.
"They would all kill us," Kerr said of former dynasties. "The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the '50s would've destroyed everybody."