In honor of the NBA’s 74th anniversary this year, ESPN released their list of the top 74 players of all time, and the Los Angeles Lakers organization was well-represented with 14 of their current or former players overall, and six in the top 10.
To no surprise, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan came in at No. 1 on the list. Lakers to make the top 10 include LeBron James (No. 2), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3), Magic Johnson (5), Wilt Chamberlain (6), Kobe Bryant (9) and Shaquille O’Neal (10).
The other Lakers to make the list are Jerry West (16), Elgin Baylor (22), George Mikan (34), Anthony Davis (45), James Worthy (51) and Pau Gasol (65). Then there’s also Karl Malone (17), Steve Nash (30) and Gary Payton (53), who had outstanding NBA careers but only spent a short time at the end of it with the Lakers.
The list is a spinoff of ESPN’s annual current player rankings, which saw both James and Davis make the top 10 this past year.
As is the case with any list ranking all-time greats, fans will certainly find issues with this one. The most obvious one that stands out right away is Bryant at No. 9 and O’Neal at 10. Players rank ahead of them include Bill Russell (4), Larry Bird (7) and Tim Duncan (8).
Bryant and O’Neal’s Lakers faced off against Duncan and the Spurs in the postseason five times from 1999-2004, winning three of the series, and 14 of 25 games overall.
Regardless, the Lakers having 14 of their players make the list is by far the most of any organization, which isn’t surprising considering the organization has won 16 championships in its storied history.
The team was in the mix for a 17th championship, which would have been led by James and Davis, before the NBA season got shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If basketball is able to return though then they will be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
It will be interesting to see how many more championships James needs to win before being considered for the No. 1 spot ahead of Jordan. In his career, James has more points, rebounds, assists, blocks, All-Star appearances and All-NBA nominations than Jordan.
The latter has the former beat in championships, scoring championships, MVPs and Finals MVPs though, so James still has some work to do to get the top spot. Winning a championship or two with the Lakers certainly would help, as would it for Davis, who cracked the top 50 despite only playing eight NBA seasons to this point.