The top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time. Hmmm. That is a daunting assignment. The flashiest team in the NBA has seen its share of dominance in the sport since joining the league in 1960, and the L.A. Lakers boast some of the greatest players, and most colorful characters ever to pick up a basketball. Still, in the almost 50 years of Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball there have been those players who rose above the rest, carving themselves a place in basketball history with their accomplishment, and it is to them that this list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time pays tribute.
10 – Byron Scott
While not a household name like many others on this list, Byron Scott spent his time with the L.A. Lakers being underrated and underappreciated. A shooting guard on those legendary Lakers teams of the 80s, Scott labored in the shadows of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He never made it to the All-star game, despite leading the Lakers in scoring in the 1987-88 season, and the NBA in 3 point percentage in 1984-85. No, Scott never got his due. He’ll just have to be satisfied with his 3 NBA Championships, and his inclusion on the list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time.
9 – James Worthy
When your number is retired by a team as successful as the Los Angeles Lakers you know you’ve had a remarkable career. James Worthy, like Byron Scott, may not have had the star power of Magic and Kareem, but his 7 All-star appearances, and his NBA Finals MVP award shows that someone was paying attention to the contributions of this Hall of Fame small forward. He racked up more than 16,000 points and 1,000 steals during his time with the L.A. Lakers, and his clutch play in the post-season saw him finish his time there with a more than respectable 21.1 points-per-game playoff scoring average.
8 – Gail Goodrich
Not all the players on this list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time came from the glory days of the 1980s. The L.A. Lakers teams of the early 70s weren’t too shabby either, and Gail Goodrich was leading the way during that time. He was part of the team that won an NBA record 33 consecutive games in 1971-1972 and went on to win an NBA Championship that same year. He led the Lakers in scoring in 4 consecutive seasons, and still holds the franchise record for consecutive free throws made with 40 (he did it twice).
7 – Wilt Chamberlain
Though Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain is best known for his time as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, this most dominant of all NBA big men spent the final 5 seasons of his legendary career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his accomplishments while he was there were enough to earn him a spot as one of the top 10 greatest L.A. Lakers. Though his numbers weren’t quite as impressive as those he put up earlier in his career, Chamberlain was still putting points on the board, and he led the NBA in rebounding in 4 of the 5 seasons he was there. He captured his 2nd career NBA championship with the club in 1972, the first for the L.A. Lakers, with Chamberlain taking home NBA Finals MVP honors that season.
6 – Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be remembered as the most dominant big man in the history of the NBA. Personally, I don”t think he has done enough to make that claim, but he has certainly done enough to make the number 6 spot on this list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time. His arrival, coinciding with the addition of Kobe Bryant, in the 1996-1997 turned the L.A. Lakers into a championship contender overnight. Shaq and his Laker teammates enjoyed great regular season success for the next few years, but it took a few years for these gifted athletes to mesh together, but when they finally got it figured out, the Lakers, led by Shaq’s dominant presence at center, achieved the rare Three-peat, winning back-to-back-to-back championships between 2000 & 2002. O’Neal finished his time in L.A. as one of the leading scorers in franchise history, amassing almost 14,000 points, very few of them from free throws, in his 8 seasons with the club.
5 – Elgin Baylor
This Lakers’ legend was around before the team even arrived in Los Angeles, drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers with the number 1 pick in the 1958 draft. He wasted no time justifying his high drafting, averaging 24.9 points and 15 rebounds a game in his rookie campaign. He also poured in 55 points in a single game that year, the 3rd highest total in NBA history at that point. These achievements made him a no-brainer for rookie of the year that season, but he was just getting started. He averaged well over 30 points a game for the next 3 seasons, including 38.3 ppg in the 1961-62 season, the highest season scoring average in history by anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain. He upped his 55 single game point mark with an incredible 71 point performance in 1960, setting an NBA record in the process, and his 61 point performance in the 1962 NBA finals remains the greatest single game total in NBA finals history. Over his career he scored more than 23,000 points and pulled down over 11,000 rebounds, and those numbers might have been much higher had his career not been derailed by injuries. Sadly for Baylor he never achieved NBA championship glory, as the Lakers finally won it all the same season Baylor retired. Though he has that hole on his resume, his other achievements earn him a deserving spot at number 4 on the list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time.
4 – Kobe Bryant
Sorry Shaq fans, but Kobe is better. Bryant and O’Neal arrived in L.A. at the same time, and for a while there it looked as though Shaq would be remembered as the more dominant of the two, but while Shaq’s star is fading fast in Phoenix, Kobe is just reaching his peak, leading his young Lakers’ team to an NBA finals appearance against Boston this season. Kobe has 5 NBA championships on his resume, and though it isn’t looking good for him to add to that total before he calls it career, you never know with this incredibly determined athlete. Though his team accomplishments are most important to him, he has done some impressive things individually as well, including once scoring 81 points in a single game, the 2nd highest total in NBA history. He has poured in the points throughout his career, and if he can stay healthy from here on out has a legitimate shot at finishing his career as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
3 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
This towering, lanky center is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and a huge reason the Lakers won 5 NBA Championships in the 1980s. Teamed with Magic Johnson, Kareem was nearly undefendable, pouring in huge points with his signature skyhook shot. He had an immediate impact when he arrived in Los Angeles in the 1975-76 season, leading the team in scoring that year, and for the 10 seasons following as well. He wasn’t just a scorer though. He ranks 2nd in NBA history in blocked shots, and 4th all time in rebounds, and his 6 NBA MVP awards are the most in league history.
2 – Jerry West
This Los Angeles Laker legend is an automatic for a high spot on the list of the top 10 Los Angeles Lakers of all time. When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960, West was their first ever draft pick, taken 2nd overall that year, and his career numbers give testament that the team made a wise choice in selecting him that year. His incredible 27.0 points-per-game career scoring average is 4th best in NBA history, and he was even more clutch in the playoffs with a 29.1 career ppg average, second all time behind some guy named Michael Jordan. He made the All-star game in all 14 of the seasons he played, won an NBA championship, and has an NBA Finals MVP award on his resume as well. Truly one of the greatest L.A. Lakers ever.
1 – Magic Johnson
Few players in the history of any sport have been more adept at making their teammates better than Magic Johnson. His incredible creativity, athleticism, and vision on the court were truly a marvel to behold as he routinely “Went Globetrotter” on his opponents, setting up his teammates with circus-style plays. He was the key component in the Lakers offense during their dynastic years in the 1980s, leading the NBA in assists 5 times during that span. He had 24 assists in a single game on 3 separate occasions, including once in a playoff game (an NBA record). He won 3 MVP awards and 5 NBA Championships, and added over 17,000 points and 10,000 assists during his career, numbers that would have been much higher had the discovery he was HIV positive not forced him into early retirement. He was called Magic for a reason. He is simply the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time.
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