Lakers History: The Five Greatest Lakers Centers

Originally Published on May 8, 2012

The Lakers have hosted some of the greatest centers the league has ever seen spawning from its Minneapolis days to their current home in Los Angeles. Most championship teams are anchored around a dominate big men and the Lakers have been fortunate enough to have acquired talent seven-footers. These players dominate the paint on both ends of the court and when they are going, they are nearly unstoppable.

5. Andrew Bynum

The Los Angeles Lakers shocked many by taking a raw high school senior out of New Jersey with their 2005 lottery pick. The Lakers had a mediocre season prior and used their tenth pick to get Andrew Bynum out of St. Joseph High School. At the time, Bynum was fairly unheralded and the coaching staff knew it had to work with him intensively before he could become a marquee center.

Bynum’s rookie season was not very successful and he only received 7.3 minutes per game. However, as time moved on he amassed more playing time and got better every season. Bynum eventually helped the Lakers win the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals, but he still took a back-seat to his front-court mate Pau Gasol.

However, this season Bynum has emerged as the Lakers’ second option and he is making his case as the best center in the NBA. Bynum has averaged 17.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. If he continues his stellar play, he can surely move up this list.

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4. Wilt Chamberlain

Although Wilt Chamberlain was out of his prime when he was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers, he was still a dynamic and dominant center. Chamberlain had his best seasons with the Warriors and Sixers, but his time with the Lakers should not be over-looked.

“The Big Dipper” played alongside another Lakers legend in Jerry West and those two worked together and finally won an NBA championship in 1972 when they beat the New York Knicks. Chamberlain was the Finals MVP of the series and got the missing piece in his trophy case.

Chamberlain spent five seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and in that time he averaged 17.7 points, 19.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.

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3. Shaquille O’Neal

Although Shaquille O’Neal’s exit from the Los Angeles Lakers left a sour taste with fans, his impact on the franchise can not be overlooked. O’Neal was by far the most dominant center in the league and we may never see someone at his size hold his skills and agility.

O’Neal and Kobe Bryant formed one of the greatest duos in NBA history and those two worked to win three consecutive NBA titles. O’Neal did win Finals MVPs for all three titles and his performance in the post-seasons was amazing. With the NBA title on the line, O’Neal averaged a staggering 35.9 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks and led the Lakers to a 12-3 record in the span.

O’Neal spent eight seasons with the Lakers and will be remembered for his play on the court and his personality off it.

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2. George Mikan

George Mikan was Shaquille O’Neal before the actual O’Neal made it to the NBA. Mikan was the original NBA center and paved the way for the great big men that followed him.

Mikan started the Lakers to their winning ways and his play on the court with that size was something the league had never seen.

Mikan played for the Minneapolis Lakers and was the original star of the franchise which has won a total of 16 titles, looking for its 17th this season. Mikan played seven seasons with the Lakers and in that time he averaged 23.1 points per game and 13.4 rebounds.  His stats in the playoffs were even better, as put up 24 points and a little under 14 rebounds per game.  “Mr. Basketball,” as Mikan was called, led the Lakers to five championships from 1949-1950 and won three consecutive from 1952-1954.

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1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered one of the greatest players to have ever played in the NBA and many have named him the greatest center in league history, not just Laker’s history.

Abdul-Jabbar spent his first six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and in that time he won one NBA championship before joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1975-1976 season. Abdul-Jabbar found a home in Los Angeles and he made an immediate impact on the franchise.

He won NBA regular season MVP the very first year he joined the Lakers and he ended up winning two more with the franchise. Once he was paired up with Magic Johnson, the two players brought five titles to the Lakers and Abdul-Jabbar won Finals MVP in the 1985 run.

In addition to the championship rings as a player, Abdul-Jabbar was a 19-time All-Star, ten-time All-NBA Team, a five-time All-Defensive Team, and has won two titles as a Laker assistant coach.


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