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 20 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 20.
The rankings were determined by solely focusing on each Laker’s accomplishments with the franchise. Without further ado, here’s selection no. 18.
Seasons with Lakers: 12
Statistics: 8.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 46.9 FG%
Accolades: 5x NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-88), 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team (1982, 1984-85, 1987-88), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1987)
A Los Angeles native, Michael Cooper was selected by the Lakers with pick no. 60 in the 1978 NBA Draft. The 6’5 shooting guard became a mainstay in the rotation during the 1979-80 season and never looked back from there.
Cooper won his first of five championships with the Lakers in 1980 and quickly became a vital part of the Showtime era.
Though he wasn’t known for his offense — the most points per game he averaged in a season was 11.9 in 1981-82 — Cooper brought elite defense to the court and locked down the opposing team’s top scorer. Additionally he was perfect for Showtime’s up-tempo offense, flying down the court for thunderous finishes in transition.
He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 1981, the first of three such selections for Cooper. The following year, Cooper made his first NBA All-Defensive First Team — an honor he was recognized with five times over the course of his career.
From 1984-88, Cooper and teammates Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helped deliver three titles in a four-year span for Los Angeles — defeating the rival Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals twice during the process.
In the midst of that stretch, Cooper took home NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1987. He played in all 82 games that season and averaged 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per contest.
Cooper wrapped up his 12-year stint as a player with the Lakers at the conclusion of the 1989-90 season, after appearing in 80 games as a 33-year-old while continuing to thrive on the defensive end.
He later on became an assistant coach for the organization in 1994 — a position he held for five years, and was part of two respective coaching staffs.
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