You may not love them, but you respect them: the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have boasted greats such as Kareem, Wilt, Shaq, and Kobe, but how do they rank in the 10 greatest Lakers of all-time?
10. Gail Goodrich: 1965 – 1968, 1970 – 1976
Goodrich appeared in five All-Star games, was a part of the 1972 Championship team, and was the leading scorer on the team with 25.9 points per game in the regular season. The most important thing about Gail Goodrich is when he headed to the New Orleans Jazz, the Jazz sent Los Angeles (among other things) a 1979 first round pick and thanks to good fortune, the Lakers would end up drafting Magic Johnson.
9. George Mikan: 1949- 1956
Back when the Lakers were in Minneapolis, and basketball was still very primitive on the national landscape, there was George Mikan, a dominant force. Rebounds weren’t even tabulated until the second season of the league and that’s because of “Mr. Basketball” and in his second season in the league, he averaged 28.4 points, and 14.1 rebounds per game. Mikan would lead the league in scoring for next few years, as he was the focal point of the first dynasty in the league.
Under Mikan, the Lakers won five of their titles, including three consecutive titles. Also, Mikan’s dominance was so great it cause the league to change two rules: the shot clock was introduced and the widening of the lane was added, as well as the “Mikan Drill” — rebounds with one hand and uses same hand to lay it in — and it’s still something post players learn.
8. Wilt Chamberlain: 1968 – 1973
What can I say about Wilt that I haven’t said before? He is one of the greatest to ever grace the NBA stage, however the Herculean Wilt in Philly wasn’t the same one that landed in Los Angeles. The L.A. Chamberlain wasn’t used for scoring, but for his defensive prowess. When he became Laker it took a few season to win a championship, but his presence certainly made the team better every season until his retirement. Not to mention, he was part of the legendary Lakers who won 33 consecutive games in the regular season, a record that has yet to be broken .
7. James Worthy: 1982 – 1994
Worthy was a life-long Laker, as he appeared in seven All-Star games, two All-NBA teams, All-Rookie 1st team, three Championships with the Lakers, and averaged 17.6 points on 52.1% shooting for his career with L.A. in the regular season. He averaged over 21 points, with a career average, for the postseason; his first triple-double was in Game 7 of the 1988 Finals, in which he tabulated 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Obviously, he was the 1987-88 NBA Finals MVP. Worthy had an effortless athleticism and he was smooth glide to the basket and of course, he was kinda clutch with his career 54.4 FG% in the postseason.
6. Shaquille O’Neal: 1996 – 2004
During Shaq’s eight-year tenure with Los Angeles, Lakers went to four NBA Finals, L.A. won three of those. In every one of those wins, he was named the NBA Finals MVP, and on his arrival the Lakers were contenders once again. That’s not considering the countless appearances on All-NBA and All-Star teams. All, but one of his seasons as a Laker, he averaged more than 26 points per game, and his career average with L.A. he averaged 27 points per game. Shaq was another reminder of how the Lakers never rebuild, they reload.
5. Elgin Baylor: 1959-1972
Perhaps the words “forgotten Laker” summarizes Baylor’s career with Los Angeles. Enthusiasts think of elite scorers and Los Angeles and Baylor is thrown by the wayside. He is the franchise leader in points, 27.4, and in total rebounds, 11,463; second in rebounds per game, 13.5; third in made free throws, 5,763; fourth in total points, 23,149. These are only a portion of his franchise tabulations, not to mention his 30+ points in 11 consecutive playoff games. The Lakers drafted Baylor in hopes of reviving their struggling franchise, and he did just that.
It’s hard to create an image of what that era basketball looked like. There were no fanciful dunks, no putbacks, no 360 layups, it was simply two types of shots: one-handed set shots, or jump hooks. A possession would look like this: grab a rebound, run it, then take a quick shot. That’s it. When Elgin burst on the scene, well one could say he pioneered a new breed of NBA.
Really, that’s all I need to say about Elgin Baylor and my fellow NBAers already know what I’m speaking of. He had this innate use of mid-air body control, a mass amount of shots, and incredible strength and of course, his signature running bank shot. Sure, he never was a part of a team that won an NBA Championship, but take note, this was during the time where the tyrannical Boston Celtics RAN the NBA.
Elgin Baylor was an acrobatic NBA player that changed how the NBA was looked at and brought a nouveau style to a game (Yeah, I kinda like Elgin Baylor).
4. Jerry West: 1961-1974
Want a player that represents the Purple and Gold through and through? That’s Jerry West, he was part of the 1971-72 championship Lakers that brought the first trophy back to Los Angeles (the others were won when they were in Minneapolis). While he was on board, the Lakers did see 9 NBA Finals, there was that one sole win.
Mr. Clutch was a paragon of influence, one that strives for excellence. He had career averages of 27 points, and 6.7 assists per game and during the 1969-1970 NBA season, he averaged 31.2 points per game. West wasn’t defined by the amount of rings he did or didn’t have, he was defined by his NBA body of work. His person accomplishments in the postseason speaks for itself: 40.6 points (1964-65), 34.2 points (1965-66), 30.8 points (1967-68), and 30.9 points (1968-69).
3. Kobe Bryant: 1996 – present
Kobe was born to play basketball, we have seen him grown from talented teen, to arguably one of the best players to ever play the game. He could care less about what others think of him, he just looks at the end prize: winning.
He holds a bevy of Lakers records from most points scored in a game, 81, to All-Time Lakers leader in games played, games played, and field goals attempted among various other Laker and NBA records.
Say what you may about Kobe, but his mental toughness and his killer instinct within the game is never questioned. Also, people can say that Shaq was brought in to help Kobe early on, fair enough. However, L.A. was missing a dominant center for a their past Championships, Kobe is just pure greatness.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1975 – 1989
Kareem was pure substance, he was solid; a player that encompassed fundamentals. Sure, he won five NBA Championships, but he was just dominate. His basketball IQ was supreme, as he was a vital piece of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kareem would bring his patented sky hook to Los Angeles and his presence would be felt immediately as he won the league’s MVP that first season in L.A. with 27.7 points on 52.9% FG shooting, 16.9 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks per game. Kareem would end up winning two more MVP’s in Los Angeles along with leading the Lakers to five championships and Lakers’ drafting of Magic Johnson in ’79 helped this dynasty.
While he was at the Lake Show he added 13 more All-Star appearances — bringing his total to 19 — and would retire in 1988-89 with career averages of 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks.
1. Magic Johnson: 1979 – 1991, 1995 – 1996
Magic Johnson represents the vitality and royalty that is the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic may have not defended as well as other, but the fact remains, he had it all. He was the best all-around player to don a jersey, he had all the weapons necessary to perfect his game.
Just like another Lakers great, Jerry West, he played in nine NBA Finals, but he took home the prize five times, one of those being as a rookie.
He appeared in 12 All-Star games, 10 All-NBA First teams, and within eight years, he was named NBA Finals MVP three times.
This doesn’t even touch on the subject, that Magic made all of his teammates better; miraculously if you were meh-ish playing at ____ position, with Magic you were automatically transposed into a champion.
Once a Laker, always a Laker.