Republished and Updated from April 3. 2016
With the retirement of Kobe Bryant on the immediate horizon, we thought we’d take another look at the Top 10 Lakers of All-Time. Currently, the Lakers trail the Celtics for the most NBA championship trophies, but through the years Los Angeles has dressed no shortage of NBA greats in their purple and gold jersey. The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, have 21 current Hall of Fame inductees, and can count 8 players who were named to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time in 1996. And we know that number will only grow.
Starting with a basketball pioneer like George Mikan, who redefined the game playing in Milwaukee during the first few years of the NBA, to the mid-century greats like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and the indomitable Wilt Chamberlain, who made the Lakers the team to follow out west. Then came “ShowTime” and the 1980’s Lakers with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper, and Byron Scott, followed by the three-peat era players such as Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and the already legendary Kobe Bryant. The list to pull from is as long and talented as it is storied.
But first a little background. With all such lists, the real issue was deciding who’s not going to make the Top 10 and that became more evident as we worked our way towards the end. We thought a better angle might be to use a consensus format, polling from lists generated by ESPN, HoopsHype.com, Bleacher Report, our entire staff, along with an L.A. Times Fan Poll, with each ranking list holding equal weight and averaged across the 5 sources.
We kept the general inclusion requirements fairly simple. Each player had to have played at least three seasons with the Lakers in order to be eligible. Our staff rankings weighed players MVPs and other individual accomplishments, franchise records, personal statistics while on the Lakers, career numbers, as well as player’s roles in the playoffs and championship runs.
During the process we were fortunate that passed Pau Gasol (who is now with the Chicago Bulls) and Kobe Bryant (who has already indicated that this would be his final season), we didn’t have the too great dilemma of rating active Lakers players.
With that all said, we present the Top 10 Lakers of All-Time:
#10 Gail Goodrich
Gail Goodrich had his number 25 retired by the Lakers on November 20, 1996. Goodrich ranks among all-time club leaders in several categories, including total points, assists, free throws made, and games played, and holds the Los Angeles franchise record for consecutive free throws made and was a member of the Lakers’ 1971-72 NBA Championship team. He led the Lakers in scoring four consecutive seasons, joining Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to accomplish this feat. Goodrich was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
#9 George Mikan
George Mikan was nicknamed Mr. Basketball and played 8 seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers. Mikan is widely viewed as one of the pioneers of professional basketball, redefining the role of big men with his rebounding and shot-blocking, as well as his ability to shoot over smaller defenders with his ambidextrous hook shot. Mikan was a 2× NBL champion, NBL Most Valuable Player, and 4× NBA All-Star and is often considered the greatest player of the first half-century of basketball.
#8 James Worthy
James Worthy played his entire career for the Lakers. In 12 seasons the first overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft was a member of three NBA Championship with the Lakers, winning the NBA Finals MVP in 1988. Worthy was a 7x NBA All-Star and led the Lakers in scoring twice in consecutive seasons. Worthy ranks among all-time Los Angeles franchise leaders in several categories, including scoring, steals, and field goal percentage and averaged 21.1 points in 143 career playoff games. His number 42 was retired by the team in 1995.
#7 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was traded by the 76ers to the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 1968 season and played for 5 seasons with the team alongside NBA greats Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. It was the first time that a reigning NBA Most Valuable Player was traded the following season. Chamberlain won his second NBA Title in 1972 and was named the Finals MVP. In the last year of his career, Chamberlain made an astonishing 72.7% of his field-goal attempts while playing all 82 games for the Lakers and averaging over 43 minutes per game. His number 13 was retired by the Lakers in 1983.
#6 Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976 after playing 13 seasons as a forward for the Minneapolis / Los Angeles Lakers, appearing in eight NBA Finals. Baylor was the first overall draft pick in 1958 and won the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959. During his career as a Laker, he was an 11x NBA All-Star, averaged over 30.0 points and 14.0 rebounds 3x during his career, and led the team in rebounding a club-record 7 consecutive seasons. Baylor’s number 22 was retired by the team in 1983.
Shaquille O’Neal played eight seasons for the Lakers (1996-2004), teaming with Kobe Bryant to win the championship in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He was the 1999-2000 NBA MVP and the NBA Finals MVP for all three of those Lakers titles and made the All-Star Game in seven of his seasons in Los Angeles. He was traded to the Miami Heat in July 2004. The Los Angeles Lakers retired O’Neal’s jersey in April 2013 and announced in January 2016 that they will honor O’Neal with a statue that will be unveiled sometime during the 2016-17 season.
#4 Jerry West
Jerry West was a 14x NBA All-Star, played in 9 NBA Finals (winning in 1972) and remains the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP despite being on the losing team (1969). After his playing career concluded, he was head coach of the Lakers for three years, leading Los Angeles into the playoffs each year and earning a Western Conference Finals berth once. West was named general manager of the Lakers prior to the 1982–83 NBA season and guided Los Angeles to 6 championship rings during his tenure. His number 44 was retired by the Lakers in 1983.
#3 Kareen Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and led Los Angeles in scoring a club-record 11 consecutive seasons. He ranks among NBA all-time leaders in rebounds and blocked shots, and was a member of six NBA championship teams including 5 with the Lakers. The NBA Most Valuable Player 6x, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1970, and NBA Finals MVP twice. Jabbar played 20 years in the NBA, including 14 with the Lakers, and his number 33 was retired by the team in 1989.
#2 Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers for parts of 13 seasons after winning championships in both high school and college. Johnson was the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft and won a championship and a Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season. He would go on to win four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. The 12x All-Star 3x Finals MVP, and 3x League MVP played his last game for the Lakers in 1996.
#1 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was an 18x All-Star, 15x member of the All-NBA Team, and a 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. He has led the league in scoring twice, ranks third on both the league’s all-time regular-season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists, and holds almost every single Laker individual scoring record. His 20th season with the Lakers sets an NBA record for the most seasons with the same team.