As we head into the next Los Angeles Lakers season, and a new era in Lakers basketball, the staff here at Lakers Nation has decided to take a look back and rank the 10 greatest Lakers of all-time.
The staff put together a list of the most significant figures in franchise history based on accolades, achievements and statistics. While there were many deserving candidates, the group was ultimately narrowed down to 10.
The rankings were determined by solely focusing on each individual’s accomplishments with the Lakers. Without further ado, here’s selection no. 6.
Seasons with Lakers: 8
Statistics: 27.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.5 BPG, 57.5 FG%
Accolades: 3x NBA Champion (2000-02), Regular Season MVP (2000), 3x NBA Finals MVP (2000-02), 7x NBA All-Star (1997, 1998, 2000-04), 6x All-NBA First Team (1998, 2000-04), All-NBA Second Team (1999), All-NBA Third Team (1997), 3x All-Defense Second Team (2000, 2001, 2003) NBA Scoring Champion (2000), Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 2016)
Shaquille O’Neal was perhaps the most dominant center in NBA history, and his best seasons came with the Los Angeles Lakers.
After spending his first four seasons with the Orlando Magic, Jerry West was able to convince the former No. 1 overall pick to sign with Los Angeles as a free agent in 1996, following in the footsteps of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the next great center to wear the purple and gold.
Shaq was hampered by injuries a bit in his first few seasons with the Lakers, but in the 1999-2000 season, he established himself as the best player in the league, averaging 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.0 blocks en route to his only regular season MVP award. He was one vote shy of becoming the first unanimous MVP in league history.
That same year he, along with head coach Phil Jackson and a young star in Kobe Bryant, led the Lakers to the franchise’s first championship in over a decade, defeating the Indiana Pacers in six games.
The same nucleus went on to win two more championships in the next two years, as O’Neal continued to dominate, winning three straight NBA Finals MVPs. The 2001 Lakers are known as one of the best teams ever. They went 15-1 on their way to a championship, which stood as the best playoff record ever until the Golden State Warriors went 16-1 this past season.
The Lakers failed to reach the Finals for a fourth consecutive season in 2003, but they revamped the following season by adding veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton. The team never quite gelled chemistry wise, but still reached the Finals on talent alone but were defeated by the Detroit Pistons.
At that time there was a big personality clash between O’Neal, Bryant and Jackson. With the trio no longer being able to coexist, the franchise decided to stick with the younger Bryant so O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in the 2004 offseason for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant, marking the end of O’Neal’s eight-year tenure in Los Angeles.
No one will ever forget the impact O’Neal made in the city in his time here though, and on any other franchise, he would easily crack the top five list.
The Lakers retired O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey after his playing days were over, and after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, he received a statue outside of Staples Center of him hanging on the rim after a dunk. The statue is one of the coolest looking statues in all of sports.
More than just his play on the court, O’Neal was one of the most polarizing and popular players in the history of the league and Laker fans will always remember him for that big personality.
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