Gary Payton Rips Fans Comparing LeBron James’ Lakers to His Iconic Team With Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal: “I Don’t Think Russell Westbrook Is Playing the Way He Should Be Playing”

Published 01/11/2022, 3:30 PM EST


Coming into the 2021-22 NBA season, LeBron James and the Lakers were the talk of the town. Owner Jeanie Buss and her management built a strong roster, oozing with experience. It made fans wonder if a potential re-ignition of Kobe Bryant’s iconic LA setup was possible. During the season, however, it has been anything but smooth sailing for Frank Vogel and co.

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Although the Lakers made some sensible exchanges, there was always a question of the age factor. After all, a vast majority of the team was aged above 30. With the likes of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis occupying a lot of floor space, long range shooting was also an issue. Dismissing any sort of comparison between the LeBron and Kobe era of Los Angeles, former legend Gary Payton recently took a dig at Westbrook.

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Gary Payton believes there is no comparison between LeBron James’ and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers

53-year-old Gary Payton is a retired legend of the game. During his illustrious career, he had a one-off outing with the Lakers. A 9-time All-star, Payton completed a deadly Lakers lineup that included the likes of Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal. In 2003-04, the Lakers finished as the runners-up. And according to the former NBA champion, the current team is nowhere near his side.

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Speaking on ‘The Draymond Green Show,’ Payton told the Warriors star about the difference between the two generations. “[In 2003] Kobe had got in trouble in Denver, Shaq was with Dr. Bucks, and then Karl got hurt. And guess what Draymond, we still made the championship.”

He added, “I don’t think this Lakers team is nothing like our team in 2003 at all. I think we had players that knew their role. I think the Lakers team right now, they’re very hurt. A lot of them are not playing. And I don’t think Russ (Russell Westbrook) is playing the way that he should be playing.”

Nov 2, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) reacts with guard Russell Westbrook (0) after his basket scored against the Houston Rockets during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If the current Lakers players are to emulate what their former stars achieved, it will take a monumental effort en route to the final. Do you agree with Payton’s comments? Although bold, he certainly has a point.

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Sankalp Harikrishnan

551 articles

Sankalp Harikrishnan is an NBA and Tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He aspires to pursue Sports Journalism and has represented his institution in cricket, badminton, soccer and table tennis. Sankalp idolises Roger Federer and Stephen Curry, and has an inherent love for statistics.

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