The Los Angeles Lakers have a legacy of great big men that is unmatched amongst any other NBA franchise. With all-time greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and George Mikan you have three of the ten best centers of all-time in NBA History.
And then you have Wilt Chamberlain. Arguably the most dominant force the NBA has ever seen. But where does he rank amongst the Laker greats?
It’s not as easy as it may seem because not only did Wilt only play five seasons with the Lakers, one of which he only played in 12 games due to injury, and his numbers, particularly scoring wise, were nowhere near his dominant levels with the 76ers and Warriors.
On the other hand, Chamberlain was asked to change his game and focus on defense and rebounding by Coach Bill Sharman late in his career. And he was still a key component to the Lakers’ first championship in the city of Los Angeles, garnering an NBA Finals MVP Award as the Lakers bested the New York Knicks in the 1972 NBA Finals. Chamberlain averaged 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds in the series.
At the end of the day, while Wilt may rank higher than these guys in career accomplishments, I just can not put him ahead of Shaq, Kareem, and Mikan as Lakers greats. As do most discussions, it starts with the championships.
Shaq won three rings, Mikan and Kareem each won five, while Wilt only won the single championship. Also, despite playing in only five seasons with the Lakers compared to Mikan’s seven, Shaq’s eight, and Kareem’s 14, Wilt had easily the lowest scoring average of the four.
There is no denying Wilt’s skill and talent and his place in Laker history is cemented. But when it comes to the best of the best in Laker big man history, Wilt is just a step below the big three.
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