All Time – Top 10 Los Angeles Lakers

mini-bugEver since agreeing to take part in these lists, I’ve been waiting for this, and now the moment I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived… when it did, I discovered that I didn’t have a clear top ten Lakers in my mind. At least not one I could put down and say with certainty that “this is it”.
And this was easily the most difficult ranking of all – and I can’t imagine that any of the teams that remain will come any where near being as difficult.
There’ll be the odd pick that others don’t agree with… and that’s ok – it’s the very nature of these lists.
In creating this list, it was a bit of a learning process for me too – finding out where I put my favourite basketball players of all time.
But onward, ever onward: the All Time Top Ten Los Angeles Lakers…
10. Pau Gasol – This pick could well cop some flack, I know… and I’m ready for it. The acquisition of Pau Gasol rocketed the Lakers to the top of the NBA, and since acquiring him the LA starting 5 haven’t lost a single playoff series (eat that Doc).
Gasol’s already probably the best Power Forward to wear purple and gold. And being the best ever player at your position for the best franchise ever? Definitely deserves inclusion.

9. Gail Charles Goodrich Jr. – “Stumpy” was simply one of the best offensive players that the Lakers have ever had. And for this franchise, that’s saying something.
If he had played on another team, I suspect that we’d speak of his name with the other superstar guards of his time – even Jerry West. Despite playing alongside West and Wilt, the best guy at getting the ball to go through the hoop was Goodrich.

8. James Ager Worthy – Big Game James. The anti-thesis of another well-known current small forward, Worthy managed to find a little bit more playing the big games – a well-rounded player… a complete player, his defining moment probably came during the 88 Finals – when in game 7 Worthy amassed a massive 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists (the ONLY triple double of his career!) – and took the Lakers past the Pistons… winning the Finals MVP.

7. Wilton Norman ChamberlainWe’ve discussed Wilt already. LA moved heaven and earth to get him, and it eventually paid dividends: in the ’71/72 season, where he out-played Kareem Abdul Jabbar (10 years his junior) and completely dominated the Knicks in the Finals with what was thought to be a sprained hand. It was broken. Guy was a beast before he played in LA, and was certainly the same whilst he wore the purple and gold.

6. Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal – Shaq fills out the #6 slot like no other could. In his prime – and at the Lakers, Diesel was in his P-R-I-M-E – Shaq was a hard-hittin’, lane-fillin’, slam-dunkin’ BEAST of a man.
Backboards beware.
Shaq lays claim to “Most Dominant Ever”, and wherever your opinion lands on that, there’s no doubting that from the mid ’90s, to the mid ’00s – he presented a match-up problem like no player before him, and no player after.

5. Elgin Gay Baylor
– It’s been said that Baylor could do it all. Dribble like a demon, pass like Magic, score in oh-so-many ways whenever he wanted.
One of the best players to ever don a Lakers uniform, Baylor’s one smear on a stellar career is never having won a title. If he had a few rings? Who knows where we’d place him…
Baylor retired 9 games into a season that would see them winning an amazing 33 consecutive games, and win a title. If only he’d lasted a little longer…

4. Jerry Alan West – The Logo. Mr Clutch. West was a phenomenal shooter who was also considered one of the best defenders to ever step on a court, and possessed a quality that many of the Laker greats shared: his pursuit of perfection.
The ’72 season was a study in guts and determination. Playing through enough problems to sideline an entire team, West had even considered retirement before the season began. But he put up 25.8ppg and a league-leading 9.7 apg… and finished the season with 69 wins (only surpassed by Jordan’s ’96 Bulls) – and went on to beat the Knicks in the Finals, winning his sole NBA title. Whilst I rank three ahead of him as a player, if this were simply “The Greatest Laker Ever” – then West probably tops the list…

3. Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Kareem Abdul Jabbar has long been my favourite Laker (check my blog header – he appears twice), and he deserves to be at the very top of the Lakers’ Pantheon, his face forever carved into their figurative Mt Rushmore.
There’s definitely an argument to be made for Kareem to be considered the greatest Laker of all time. All time scoring leader for the entire NBA. Six rings. Six MVPs. Possessing the most recognizable shot in the game. Fighting Bruce Lee to a standstill. And Roger Murdock.
Hell, read his achievements list – it’s like no other player in the game, before or since.
Definitely a giant of the game. Both literally and figuratively.
2. Kobe Bean Bryant – Goddamn… but this was hard.  
When all is said and done, I feel that Kobe will probably retire as the greatest Laker of all time. And in basketball, it’s a pretty big thing to be considered the GLOAT. But now? Sheesh… it’s a near thing already. But I give the nod to Magic by the slimmest of margins. You have to remember tho’ – Kobe’s career isn’t done yet.
And what a career. Kobe goes from challenge to challenge, and bends all to his will with a single-minded focus not seen since… well, you know who. Thing is, each year Kobe seems to be getting better. Is there a person in the game that’s better in the post-season than LA’s #24?
Do the myriad of achievements all need to be listed? Hardly have the space as it is!
And when he is recognized as the Greatest Laker of All Time (and it’s a “when” question, not “if”), then he’s in “The Conversation” too.
And you know what I’m talking about.

1. Earvin Johnson, Jr. – No other player could play the game quite like Magic. No one. I don’t need to go into what he did, and how he did it – because if you don’t know, you have no godly reason being here reading a basketball post on the Lakers.
Capable of playing all five positions at an elite level, Magic’s career was quite literally like something out of Hollywood. A storybook ending, with a tragic end to his playing career… and phoenix-like return. All with a morality tale thrown in the mix. Perhaps not a completely happy ending, but at least somewhat triumphant.
There really are only 2 players other than Jordan talked about as the Greatest of All Time, and in all honesty, I don’t think Wilt quite belongs in that conversation.
Not quite.
But Magic does.

Next on the menu, the Memphis Grizzlies…