The 2010s for the Los Angeles Lakers has brought about highs and lows as they had some of the greatest players of all-time suit up in the purple and gold as well as plenty of intriguing young players looking to make a name for themselves and everything in between.
Despite going through the roughest stretch in team history, the Lakers still had many players produce great seasons and memorable moments to bring smiles to the faces of the fans.
Here are the top-10 players of the 2010s:
10. Anthony Davis
If this was judged on talent alone, Davis would be top-three but the fact remains he does not even have half of a season with the Lakers which relegates him to this spot. However, what he has done in that short time frame has proven why the Lakers were willing to part with so much to bring him in.
So far, Davis leads the Lakers in points, rebounds, and blocks. He will surely be selected to his seventh straight All-Star team, possibly his fourth All-NBA First Team selection and is far and away the frontrunner for the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award so far.
If there were odds on who would be at the top of this list for the 2020s, Davis would be the heavy favorite, especially if he is able to lead the Lakers to a championship. However, for this decade, he just barely makes the cut by way of pure dominance in a short period of time.
9. Nick Young
With Kobe Bryant dealing with injury after injury and very little in terms of promising young talent, Lakers fans had little to look forward to for some time. The one positive, entertaining thing was the emergence of Nick Young.
What made Young so fun to watch was his confidence and fearlessness to take any shot at any time. He always felt he was the best player on the floor and would act as such which led to some great moments. A crazy three-point barrage would be followed by some ridiculous shot attempt that no one would even think about trying, except for Swaggy P that is.
He never backed down regardless of the situation and was one of the few players at that time who rose to and relished the challenges that Bryant brought. The records at that time were not great, but somehow Young found a way to givefans some fun moments along the way.
8. Jordan Clarkson
With so many draft picks, the Lakers brought in a number of young players in hopes of unearthing a new All-Star player. However, the first one to really stand out as a potential contributor was not one of their top-10 picks, but rather a second-rounder in Jordan Clarkson.
After spending the first part of his rookie season developing his game in the G League, Clarkson came on strong down the stretch, winning Rookie of the Month in March on his way to a First Team All-Rookie selection. The following season, he was second on the team in scoring and looked every part of a promising combo guard.
Admittedly, his point guard skills seemed to diminish as he became primarily a scorer, but he was more than capable of taking over a quarter or game any night of the week and had some outstanding games as a member of the purple and gold.
7. Julius Randle
The first of the team’s numerous top-10 picks this decade, Randle’s career got off to an awful start as he broke his leg in his very first game. However, that did not deter him from putting in all of the necessary work to grow into a monster and by the end of his Lakers run, he was playing beautiful basketball.
Randle’s game was not pretty, but it was very effective as he used his combination of brute force and strength along with surprisingly good ballhandling and playmaking for a forward to lead the young Lakers to a shockingly good finish down the stretch of the 2017-18 season.
By the end of the season, Randle was practically a lock for 20 points and 10 rebounds and some of the best bigs in the league struggled to stop him. Even though he made the decision to leave in free agency following that season, his stretch of play — especially in 2018 — made him one of the most promising young big men in the NBA.
6. Kyle Kuzma
The last of the young Lakers remaining in this new era, Kyle Kuzma made his presence felt immediately after being drafted, shining in the Las Vegas Summer League before carrying that over to the regular season. It was apparent immediately that Kuzma was a born scorer who could put the ball in the basket in any way possible.
Kuzma formed a connection with Lonzo Ball immediately, leading to the point guard looking for Kuzma all the time and he was always ready to score. Kuzma’s fearlessness endeared him to Lakers fans immediately as did his style and swagger off the court. Kuzma just felt like a Laker.
What stood out about Kuzma early on was his work ethic. It always felt like Kuzma was working on new moves and he never seems to be satisfied at where he is at. He also hears the criticisms about his shortcomings — such as defense and passing — and worked hard to improve in those areas with visible improvements being seen throughout the seasons.
It says a lot the Lakers were insistent on keeping him out of the Davis trade and there is still plenty of room for him to grow. He was a First Team All-Rookie selection in 2017 and a future All-Star berth is not out of the question either. If the Lakers can accomplish their goal of winning a championship, there iss a good chance Kuzma will have played a large role in that.
5. Brandon Ingram
Lonzo Ball had the most hype, Kyle Kuzma had the flashiest game, but when it comes to who was the best all-around player of all the young Lakers, it was Brandon Ingram who stood above the rest.
Simply put, whatever the role Ingram needed to fill he was capable of filling it. The growth he showed every season was evident with the only thing really holding him back being injuries. Ingram was best with the ball in his hands, showing himself to be capable of creating shots for himself and others. He was also a solid defender who could guard three positions.
Ingram’s work ethic was a huge selling point as well as he was known to put in extra work in the gym all season long. Despite his quiet demeanor, he was feisty player, never hesitating to mix it up with anyone from the opposite team and by the end of his third season, it really felt as if he was coming into his own as a potential All-Star.
It is no wonder why the Pelicans were insistent on Ingram being the centerpiece of the Davis trade and seeing what he has done in New Orleans brings a smile to Lakers fans still.
4. Lamar Odom
Outside of Kobe Bryant, there is an argument to be made that Lamar Odom was the most beloved Lakers player of this decade.
Odom only spent two seasons with the Lakers this decade, but what did he do during this time? In 2010, he was the third-best player on a Lakers team that vanquished the Celtics in defending their NBA championship. In 2011, he had one of the best seasons of his career and was rewarded by winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Odom was just such a versatile player the Lakers could slot him anywhere. His ballhandling and vision allowed him to initiate the offense but at 6’10, he had the size to go in the post and hold his own on the boards. Whatever the Lakers needed, Odom could provide.
His departure was a sad one, but the proof of how much he meant to the Lakers was seen by the outpouring of support the fan base and his teammates have given him since he left. Some players just make an impact and Odom was one of those players.
3. LeBron James
The first big free agent signing by the Lakers since Shaquille O’Neal all the way back in 1996, LeBron James came in and immediately changed the game.
Instantly, the Lakers were back in the spotlight and James was at the forefront. Though there were some struggles, the Lakers looked to be on the path back to the playoffs before James went down to injury. Even in what was considered a down season, his numbers were right on par with his career averages.
Things have gotten even better in Year 2 as a refreshed James has been on a mission to prove to his doubters that he has plenty left in the tank. He has taken over as the full-time point guard, nearly averaging a triple-double and finding himself on the short-list of early Most Valuable Player candidates.
It seems like every week James is breaking another record or surpassing another legend on one of many all-time lists. Should James bring a championship back to Los Angeles, he could find himself at the top of the one that matters most.
2. Pau Gasol
Probably one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in NBA history, Pau Gasol was simply amazing for the Lakers.
Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals is enough to get him on this list as he stepped up on the biggest possible stage with a 19-point, 18-rebound performance that had many believing he was deserving of NBA Finals MVP. He would follow that up with another All-Star nod and All-NBA Second Team selection in 2011.
Gasol was one of the most skilled big men the game has seen and he was the perfect fit next to Bryant. He was also an absolute professional who always seemed to be on the trade block, but never let that distract him or alter his game. Even in the most awkward possible situation — having to return to the Lakers after the failed Chris Paul trade — Gasol was still able to put that behind him and play basketball.
When a great player leaves a team in free agency, fans are often angry and bitter towards them but in the case of Gasol, no fan or teammate had a bad word to say about him. Fans continue to root for Gasol regardless of what team he plays for and it is only a matter of time before he sees his jersey in the rafters next to the rest of the Laker legends.
1. Alex Caruso
But I did think about it briefly.
1. Kobe Bryant
There was never any doubt. Arguably the greatest player to ever wear the purple and gold and one of the best in NBA history period, Kobe Bryant brought everything a player could bring to a team this decade.
NBA championship? Check. All-NBA and All-Star selections? Check. Memorable moments? Check.
Whether it was some unreal clutch performances like the Toronto Raptors game where he hit three straight threes to send the game to overtime. Or maybe the most bada** moment in NBA history when he knocked down a pair of free throws with a torn Achilles. Then, of course, there is the greatest final game performance in sports when he dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz in his NBA swan song.
Simply put, Bryant was not just a Laker, he was THE Laker. He embodied everything it meant to wear that jersey and his spot at the top of this list was never in doubt.