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.
Seasons with Lakers: 14
Statistics: 22.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.5 BPG, 56.7 FG%
Accolades: 5x NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-88), 3x Regular Season MVP (1976, 1977, 1980) NBA Finals MVP (1987), 13x NBA All-Star (1976, 1977, 1979-89), 6x All-NBA First Team (1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1986), 4x All-NBA Second Team (1978, 1979, 1983, 1985), 3x All-Defense First Team (1979-1981), 4x All-Defense Second Team (1976-78, 1984), NBA Rebounding Champion (1976), 3x NBA Blocks Leader (1976, 1979, 1980), Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 1995)
I will hold firm that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be higher on this list and I argued vehemently for it. Kareem’s impact on the Lakers and the NBA as a whole is basically unmatched and he is one of the greatest players ever.
The Lakers acquired Kareem before the 1975-76 season in exchange for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman, and Dave Meyers in what is one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. Kareem paid immediate dividends, winning MVPs in his first two seasons.
The team surrounding Kareem wasn’t great, however, and the Lakers failed to make the NBA Finals. That is until they drafted a rookie point guard by the name of Magic Johnson. Magic was exactly what the Lakers needed to get over the hump, but the team still revolved around Kareem.
He turned in an outstanding 1980 season, winning the last of his regular-season MVPs tallying 24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.4 blocks, and 1.0 steals while shooting 60.4 percent from the field. He stepped it up in the 1980 NBA Finals where he averaged 33.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks in the first five games.
Of course, it was in that fateful Game 5 where he badly sprained his ankle, but he stayed in the game anyway, finishing with 40 points and 15 rebounds to give the Lakers a crucial 3-2 lead. Of course Magic would finish things off with his epic Game 6 performance, but it was Kareem who got them to that point and many believe he deserved that NBA Finals MVP even after missing Game 6.
Throughout the 1980s Kareem continued to be the rock of the Lakers’ offense, even as he began creeping up in age. The Lakers became a running team with the ‘Showtime’ offense, but when things slowed down they could always rely on Kareem to get them a bucket with his patented skyhook, the most unblockable shot in NBA history.
Kareem averaged at least 21.5 points every season through 1986 when he was 38 years old, but even in his later years, he continued to prove his greatness.
After the Lakers were run off the floor in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals, many in the media declared Kareem too old to hang anymore. He shut everyone up by averaging 25.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists to lead the Lakers to their first-ever Finals win over the Boston Celtics. Kareem would be named NBA Finals MVP, the oldest player ever to win the award.
He really began to slow down in the late 80s but remained a trusted part of the offense. When the Lakers needed a basket in the final seconds Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals, coach Pat Riley gave the ball to Kareem over Magic or James Worthy and Kareem delivered by drawing a foul and hitting both free throws to clinch the last of his six NBA championships, five of which came in L.A.
Kareem retired after the 1989 NBA season as the league’s all-time leader in points scored, games played, field goals made, and minutes played. He still holds three of those records as Robert Parish would surpass his games played records.
With his dominance, for so many years, championships won and accolades overall, Kareem was truly one of the league’s greatest players. No.7 may be lower than I would like to see, but it doesn’t diminish his greatness.
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