The Los Angeles Lakers are easily the most storied franchise in NBA history. Beyond just the 17 championships — tied for the most in league history — they also have been home to a majority of the league’s greatest players. Most of these great names were brought to the team during the Buss era, from when Jerry Buss bought the team in 1979 to today under the tenure of Jeanie Buss.
Even though Buss has only been in charge of the team for a few seasons, she has been around for all of the ups and downs that have befallen the Lakers franchise. Perhaps no one alive knows and embodies the Lakers the way Buss does.
This is why she had incredible difficulty naming the five most important Lakers of all time, as it’s almost impossible to narrow all of the team’s history to just five people. She managed to do it, but obviously had to leave some big names out, via “All The Smoke” with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson:
“You have to start with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Kobe [Bryant], and LeBron [James]. Magic [Johnson], yes of course, Magic. He might have to be No. 1. Does Phil [Jackson] count as a Laker? Yes? Then definitely Phil.”
Johnson, Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar, James and Jackson is a hard list to argue with, although some will certainly try. Of course, names like Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain were left off the list. However, Buss later said that she never met Chamberlain, possibly explaining his absence.
In the same vein as Chamberlain, O’Neal did not have the longevity with the Lakers franchise to make this list. West is perhaps the only Laker with as big of an impact as the five she named. However, one person had to be excluded, and West’s time spent with other teams since leaving the Lakers franchise likely put him further out of mind.
All five of the names Buss listed either spent their entire career as Lakers, or they spent the most significant part of their career in L.A. The only exception to this is James, who has only been with the team for three years. However, Buss explained earlier in the show that James’ leadership through the tumultuous 2020 season to bring a championship to the Lakers is what makes him such an important figure.
Julius Randle thinks about Bryant every day
Beyond Bryant being one of the most important Lakers of all time, he is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s most impactful. Before his tragic death, he began a new stage of his basketball life as a mentor, and one of his mentees was Julius Randle.
Randle started his career alongside Bryant in L.A., and he said that to this day, he thinks about Bryant daily. Randle said he wishes Bryant could see the player he has become, as he made his first All-Star appearance in 2021.
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