With the 2017-18 Los Angeles Lakers just concluding their preseason, it can only mean that the regular season is around the corner. As this new era of Los Angeles basketball gets ready to take the court, our staff at Lakers Nation has put together a list of the 20 greatest Lakers of all-time.
The list will countdown these Lakers legends until the beginning of the regular season, to celebrate the illustrious history this franchise has been through. The rankings are strictly based on their accomplishments with Los Angeles, as our staff debated their accomplishments, accolades, clutch moments, and difference-making duties for this organization.
Although many Hall-of-Fame players have worn the purple and gold jersey, this list was not just restricted to players. So without further ado, here is No. 9.
Seasons With Lakers: 11
Accolades: 5x champion, 7x Coach of the Month, 610-292 regular season record (.676 win percentage), 118-63 playoff record (.652 win percentage)
Perhaps no two coaches in franchise history have made as much of an impact as Pat Riley and Phil Jackson have had. Riley came in at No. 14 earlier on the list, while Jackson made his impact with two different championship eras.
Jackson came to Los Angeles during the 1999-00 season, seen as the last necessary step to mesh together a dynasty in the making. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and the rest of the Lakers had trouble elevating their game to the next step, needing a coach to come in and push the team in the right direction.
After collecting six championships with the Chicago Bulls, Jackson entered his tenure with the Lakers as the ultimate mastermind, knowing when to push buttons and when to provide a team-building atmosphere. While some of his players called his tactics a little outlandish, Jackson was persistent with his relaxing situations, including yoga and meditation sessions.
His ability to push his team was something other coaches could rarely do, especially when managing the egos of both Bryant and O’Neal. However, he succeeded, as in 2000, he led the Lakers to their first championship since the ‘Showtime’ era. It was the first of three straight championships for Jackson, the third time in his coaching career that he accomplished the feat.
Although the end of the dynasty would be a rather shaky breakup, Bryant would later understand that there weren’t many coaches around like Jackson. The Lakers would bring back the Hall-of-Fame coach after a one-year hiatus, as he would guide the ship during Bryant’s prime.
A couple of seasons later, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, a player whose basketball IQ would perfectly mesh with Jackson’s triangle offense, as he submerged himself into a prominent role.
The Lakers then once again made three-consecutive NBA Finals, capturing the final two trophies of his and Bryant’s career. Jackson’s teams posted above a .500 record in all 11 seasons he was with the organization, as he mastered the triangle offense and implemented it into the NBA.
Under the guidance of longtime assistant and fellow Lakers legend Tex Winter, the triangle offense would change the landscape of the NBA as one of the modern systems that could demolish teams if executed properly.
While his impact on the Lakers can’t necessarily be put into numbers, his former players can attest to the difference that he made. O’Neal and Bryant continually state how Jackson knew how to push the right buttons, while using creative techniques such as designating books for his players to read based on how he viewed their personalities.
Although many coaches tend to teach from the neck down, Jackson was one of the rare coaches that taught from the neck up, always pushing his players to succeed mentally.
Previous: No. 10 James Worthy