The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most popular teams in the history of the NBA. As of 2017, Forbes ranked the Purple and Gold as the second most valuable NBA franchise at $3B. With 16 NBA world championships, the Lakers’ trophy case is also the second most filled in the league with just one less hardware than their arch-rival Boston Celtics who have 17.
The success of the Lakers brand can be attributed to the many great players it has produced since the team was born in 1948 after a purchase of the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League in 1947. Since their inception in Minneapolis, the Lakers have produced 23 Hall-of-fame players, 4 MVP winners and countless All-star selections.
Let’s take a look at the top Los Angeles Lakers players of all-time:
Michael Cooper and Byron Scott are two of the members of ‘Showtime’ who have a claim to this list but we picked a less popular but equally important member of Magic’s crew.
Showtime began with Magic Johnson bringing the ball from the backcourt and usually ended with small forward Jamaal Wilkes running down the lanes and finishing the fastbreak. Known as ‘Silk’ for his smooth scoring skills, Wilkes’ most memorable game as a Laker was in the series clinching Game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals where he scored 37 points and 10 rebounds. However, it was overshadowed by Magic Johnson’s 42 points while starting at center.
That victory was the first title in the Showtime era. It was one of three for Wilkes as a Laker ( he had four overall ). While James Worthy would later arrive as the prime finisher of the Showtime fastbreak, Wilkes finished his career as the 10th all-time leading scorer in Lakers’ history. Silk was a three-time All-star a two-time member of the NBA’s Defensive Second Team and the Rookie of the Year in 1975. He is also the Lakers 10th best field goal maker and 9th all-time in steals.
Gail Goodrich was described as too small for college basketball but he helped win UCLA’s first two titles at UCLA and was Player of the Year during his senior season in 1965. In the NBA, critics called him too frail but again he proved them wrong.
Called Stumpy by Elgin Baylor because of his size, Goodrich played in a total of 1,031 games in 14 NBA seasons. He was a five-time NBA All Star, a one-time All-NBA first team selections and a member of the historic 1972 NBA championship team which won a record 33 consecutive regular season games from November 5, 1971 to January 9, 1972. But not only was Gail Goodrich a part of that mythical team, he led that squad in scoring with a career high 25.9 points per game. Goodrich would go on to pace the Lakers in scoring for the next three consecutive seasons, making him the only the third player in franchise history to lead the team in scoring in four straight seasons. He is currently 8th on the Lakers’ all-time scoring list, 8th in assists, 9th in both free throws made and field goals made.
You can find Goodrich’s #25 jersey among the nine numbers hanging over the Staples Center rafters after the Lakers retired it on November 20, 1996. On December 18, 2004, UCLA also retired his #25 jersey number. Goodrich was inducted to Basketball’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
After starring on the North Carolina team that produced Michael Jordan, James Worthy became the Los Angeles Lakers’ #1 overall pick in 1982. Right away, he fit like a glove.
Worthy became Magic Johnson’s favorite target and he often finished the fastbreak on a statue of liberty dunk or a finger roll. But more than entertaining the crowd with his high flying moves, James Worthy was one of the top playoff performers of all-time. Worthy averaged 21.1 points per game in the playoffs, a four point increase from his career regular season average. His playoff exploits, both on offense and defense, earned him the nickname ‘Big Game James’.
Worthy was a vital cog in three Lakers’ title runs, was a 7-time All-Star, the 1988 NBA Finals MVP and a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-time team. Big Game James played all of his 12 seasons with the Purple and Gold. He finished his career as the 6th all-time leading scorer in Lakers’ history. Worthy is also 3rd in the franchise’s all-time steals list and ninth in assists. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Elgin Baylor is the only player in this list not to win an NBA title. But that doesn’t make him any less than the other top Los Angeles Lakers players of all-time.
In 13 seasons in the NBA ( all with the Lakers ), Baylor wowed the NBA crowd with his dazzling acrobatic moves and patented hanging jump shot. He made a total of eight NBA Finals appearances during his career but never won an NBA championship .Actually, he
had a chance to win a title during the 1972 season but he abruptly retired after just nine games due to a nagging knee injury.
He is currently 29th in the NBA’s All-Time scoring leaderboard and 4th in Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise history. Elgin Baylor made 11 All-Star appearances, winning the All-Star Game MVP in 1959. He was selected to the NBA All First team 10 times and was a member of the NBA’s 35th and 50th anniversary teams. Baylor appeared in the “Olympiad” episode of the popular Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series in the 70’s as one of the athletes.
One of the most dominant players the sport of basketball has ever seen, the Lakers were lucky to have him play for them at one point in his career.
We all know Wilt Chamberlain as the only man to score 100 points in a single NBA game. Wilt the Stilt did that when he was still playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962. He was the first ever reigning MVP to be traded to another team. Chamberlain only played five seasons with the Lakers but he made a huge impact. He was Finals MVP in 1972, the season where his Lakers’ team won 33 consecutive games.
Chamberlain is the NBA’s 5th all-time best scorer and the Lakers’ 5th all-time best rebounder. He was a 4-time MVP, 13-time All-Star, 7-time All NBA 1st Team selection and a member of the NBA’s 35th and 50th Anniversary All-time team. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1978. Interestingly, Chamberlain played for the Harlem Globetrotters before strutting his wares in the NBA.
One of the most charismatic and colorful characters in the NBA was also one of its most dominating forces.
Shaquille O’Neal came over from the Orlando Magic as a free agent and he grew his star in Hollywood. Known as the Diesel or the Big Aristotle, O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002. Shaq was Finals MVP in all three title wins and regular season MVP in 2000. But before the he and his Lakers could chase a fourth ring, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat where he won one more NBA title with Dwyane Wade. Despite his short stint with the Lakers, O’Neal became one of its most popular figures.
Shaq was a 15-time All-Star and a three-time All-Star game MVP. He was a member of the All-NBA first team 8 times and led the NBA in scoring in 1995 and 2000. Shaq is 7th in the Lakers’ All-Time scoring list, 6th in rebounds, 2nd in blocks. He also ranks behind Wilt Chamberlain in the team’s all-time FG% leaderboard. Aside from being a basketball player, Shaq was a rapper who released four albums with ‘Shaq Diesel’ going platinum.
If you wonder where they got the NBA logo, well this is the man whose silhouette became the NBA’s logo.
Jerry West was more than just the NBA logo. As ‘Mr. Clutch’, West was one of the NBA’s best clutch performers. His most memorable winning basket was a 60 foot Hail Mary that tied Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. He is also the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP ( 1969 ) despite playing for the losing team.
West played his entire NBA career with the Lakers where he made a total of nine Finals appearances ( one one championship in 1972). He was named as NBA MVP in 1969 and All-Star MVP in 1972. West was a member of the first five NBA All-Defensive team, making the 2nd team on the first year it was introduced and the first team in the next four consecutive seasons. He was inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1980 and was voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in the NBA History in 1996.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Yet another dominant big man in Lakers’ franchise history. The Lakers’ legacy is filled with centers of attraction and certainly, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was one of them.
Magic Johnson personified Showtime but Kareem Abdul Jabbar provided that team with the steady presence inside the paint and underrated defense. Kareem invented and perfected the game’s unblockable shot and called it the skyhook:
Captain Skyhook helped Magic and the Lakers win a total of five NBA titles in the 1980’s, including the ‘guaranteed’ back to back titles of 1987 and 1988. Kareem was named to 19 All-Star game selections, 15 All-NBA teams and 11 All-Defensive Teams. In his 20 years in the league, he led his team to the playoffs 18 times, went past Round 1 14 times and made 10 NBA Finals appearances. Kareem won a total of 6 NBA MVPs , three of them while playing for the Lakers.
In his free time, Abdul Jabbar practiced martial arts and even appeared on Bruce Lee’s 1972 film Enter The Dragon. His birth name was Lew Alcindor but changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1968.
The face of the franchise, the catalyst of Showtime. The man with the million dollar smile and a million moves inside the basketball court.
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson captivated the basketball world with his charm and ability to make passes that no opponent could take away. At 6-9, Johnson was a rarity during his era because he played point guard. With his height, he was able to see the entire floor and make the right plays. And he didn’t just make the right plays, he added style to each of them. Thus, Showtime was born. Johnson’s rivalry with Larry Bird in college graduated to the NBA scene with Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics dominating the 80’s back and forth.
In the height of his magical run and basketball prime, Johnson retired from the sport in 1991 after announcing he had contracted the HIV virus. He made a comeback in the 1992 NBA All-Star game and made a memorable three point shot to end the game and seal the MVP award:
Johnson made a third comeback during the 1996 season but retired for the final time after just 36 games. In his 13 year NBA career, Magic won the title 5 times ( in the 80’s decade ), MVP thrice, Finals MVP thrice. He has been inducted to the Hall of Fame twice: as a player in 2002 and as a member of the original 1992 Dream Team in 2010.
This man doesn't need introduction. Kobe Bryant is arguably the greatest Laker of all-time.
Drafted straight out of high school in 1996, Kobe Bryant metamorphosed from an electrifying, high flying, slam dunking teenager into one of the deadliest scoring machines the NBA has ever seen.
Dubbed as the ‘Black Mamba’ for being dead eye accurate. Bryant scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the 2nd highest individual scoring performance in the history of the NBA. He also led the league in scoring in 2006 and 2007.
In between winning the Slam Dunk title in 1997 and his 11th All-NBA First team selection, Bryant won five NBA titles. Three of those titles were won with Shaquille O’Neal while the other two were won with Spaniard Pau Gasol manning the middle for the Purple and Gold.
Kobe Bryant was MVP in 2008 and Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010. He holds the NBA record for playing the most season with a single team ( 21 with the Lakers ). He became the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer in 2010 and is the NBA’s All-time 3rd best scorer behind Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He retired after scoring 60 points in his final regular season game against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016.
instagram: Kobe Bryant
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