The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably one of the most elite franchises in professional sports. With 16 NBA Championships dating back to their days in Minneapolis, the Lakers have had a wealth of talented stars that have dazzled the hardwood and helped make the NBA what it is today. Here are the Top 5 Lakers of all-time.
1. Magic Johnson: At 6’9, Earvin “Magic” Johnson redefined the position of point guard. His cat-like instincts and ability find the open man often made it appear as if he had eyes in the back of his head while leaving defenders looking foolish. Magic spent all 13 seasons of his NBA career with the Lakers before retiring prematurely after testing positive for HIV. During his career, Magic scored over 17,000 points but even more impressively finished with over 10,000 assist. That equates to directly contributing to over 37,000 points during his abbreviated NBA career. Johnson led the Lakers to five NBA championships in a nine-year span earning league MVP honors as well as Finals’ MVP three times a piece.
2. Shaquille O’Neal: At 7’1 and a generous 325 lbs, Shaq was arguably to most opposing figure to ever play professional basketball. O’Neal joined the Lakers after four years with the Orlando Magic. During his eight seasons in L.A., Shaq averaged 27 points and just under 12 rebounds a game. He led the Lakers to four final appearances in five years with three straight titles between the 1999-2002 seasons. He was named Finals MVP in each of the championship years and NBA MVP in the 1999-00 season. Although Shaq would go on to play with four more NBA teams and win a 4th championship with the Miami Heat, without a doubt, the most productive stint of his career came in L.A.
3. George Mikan: The NBA calls George Mikan it first “superstar,” so what would a Top 5 Lakers’ list be without him? Mikan was 6’10 and one of basketballs’ original big men. He joined the Lakers of the then Basketball Association of America back in 1948 when they were still in Minneapolis. In seven short professional seasons Mikan amassed over 10,000 points as he led the Lakers to five championships. Rebounds were not recorded in the NBA until the 1973-74 season but rest assure that Mikan grabbed plenty.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: At 7’2, Kareem was by far one of the most dominant players of his time. Before joining the Lakers in the 1975-76 season, Jabbar spent six years with the Milwaukee Bucks. Known for his unstoppable “skyhook” and trademark goggles, Kareem would spend 14 years with the Lakers before retiring in 1989. He won three league MVP honors with L.A. while helping them win five NBA championships. When it was all said and done, Abdul-Jabbar had amassed an NBA record 38,386 points in 20 seasons. That’s one record that just may never be broken.
5. Kobe Bryant: Of all the players that have entered the NBA directly out of high school, Kobe Bryant is without a doubt the most successful. Originally drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, Kobe was subsequently traded to the Lakers. In 15 NBA seasons, Kobe has accumulated over 28,000 points averaging just over 25 points a game. With Shaquille O’Neal at his side, Kobe helped the Lakers win three consecutive championships in the early 2000’s. He would go on to lead the Lakers to two more without O’Neal later in the decade. Bryant has been named the NBA MVP once, in the 2007-08 season and NBA Finals MVP twice. Although his career still hangs in the balance, it is doubtful that he will ever be higher than the 5th greatest Laker of all-time.
Noticeably absent from this list are Laker greats Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Despite West being the NBA logo and Wilt’s profound dominance during his era, these three only combined for one title with the Lakers in 1972.
Aaron Moon is the CEO and a Featured Journalist for Shatter The Backboard. An active duty Navy Chief and avid writer, Aaron is a longtime Bulls’ fan who enjoys the history of the NBA. You can contact Aaron on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @DA_Bear_Truth.