In the 68-year history of the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers (the nickname makes more sense now, doesn’t it?) there have been a laundry list of excellent players. These great names have been instrumental in the franchise’s success.
With Kobe Bryant announcing that he will retire at the end of this season, now seems like as good a time as ever to list the top 5 players in franchise history.
Now this is only this writer’s personal list and there are arguments that can be made for a number of individuals.
A few things to note before the listing begins.
This will only encompass the respective players on-court careers. So as important as some people have been behind the scenes and in the front office, those achievements will not be considered.
As this is a list of all-time Lakers, the years and statistics listed will only be for those years that the players were part of the franchise.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C, (1975-1989) 22.1 Pts, 9.4 Reb, 2.5 Blks
How can you go wrong with the NBA’s leading scorer? While he was originally drafted 1st overall in the 1969 Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem spent 14 of his 20 season in Los Angeles. A major part of the 1980s “Showtime” teams, he was league MVP three times and an NBA Champion five times while playing in southern California.
2. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, PG, (1979-1991, 1996) 19.5 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 11.2 Ast
Another 1st overall pick, this time in 1979, “Magic” was a 6’9″ point guard and the distributor for the aforementioned “Showtime” teams. By the time his career ended, he was a five-time NBA Champion and a three-time MVP. One of the best play-makers of his size, Magic paved the ways for modern players like LeBron James and James Harden to be their teams’ primary ball-handlers.
3. Kobe Bryant, SG, (1996-2016) 25.2 Pts, 5.3 Reb, 4.8 Ast (as of this writing)
The “Black Mamba”, he is and has been the face of the Lakers for the majority of his 20-year career. Though he was only MVP on one occasion, he was a part of five championship teams. Bryant also holds the Lakers record for points with 32,785 as of this writing.
4. Jerry West, PG, (1960-1974) 27 Pts, 5.8 Reb, 6.7 Ast
The 2nd overall pick in 1960 (right behind fellow Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson), West does not have the accolades of others on this list. He was never league MVP and he only won one championship, though he was an All-Star selection every year he played. However, his pure play-making ability earned him nicknames such as “Mr. Clutch” and “Mr. Outside”. Nowadays, he is also known as the inspiration for the silhouette that makes up the NBA logo today.
5. George Mikan, C, (1947-1954, 1956) 23.1 Pts, 13.4 Reb (only BBA/NBA stats available)
Mikan was the first superstar of professional basketball. He arrived with the Lakers in his second professional season when they were part of the National Basketball League. The franchise jumped the next year to the Basketball Association of America, which the following year became the NBA. He led the Lakers to five BBA/NBA championships, while leading the league in scoring three times and rebounds twice.
Cover Photo Credit: jpellgen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)