NBA Team Top Tens: 10 of the Best Lakers of All Time
Gail Goodrich was diminutive in stature but was big in talent. His teammate Elgin Baylor even nicknamed him "Stumpy" because of his size.
Stumpy had excellent ball handling, passing and shooting skills. He helped power the 1971-72 Lakers to a 69-13 record which was the best record in history until it was broken by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls more than two decades later.
That Lakers team had a 33-win streak in a single season which has not yet been broken. The next closest is the 2012-13 Miami Heat with 27 straight victories.
Goodrich would average 25.9 points and 4.5 assists during that magical season.
"Big Game James" was actually Michael Jordan's teammate in the University of North Carolina when they won the championship in 1982. Together with Sam Perkins, the trio vanquished Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas.
The Lakers drafted James first overall in the 1982 NBA Draft. They were the defending champions and yet owned such a lofty pick because of the trade they made involving Don Ford a couple of years prior.
Worth was a perfect compliment to the Showtime Lakers. He was an excellent finisher and was the frequent recipient of Magic Johnson's no-look passes. Worthy would be often seen finishing fastbreaks with a Statue of Liberty dunk or a swooping finger roll.
Worthy could also post you up and victimize you with his turnaround jumpshot.
Aside from scoring nearly 20 points per game in his prime, James also contributed with a block, a steal and half a dozen rebounds and a few assists per game.
George Mikan was the dominant big man during the early days of the league. Nobody could stop Mikan and his hookshot and this lead to many rules changes such as the invention of the shot clock and widening of the lane.
Mikan had a very productive stint with the Minneapolis Lakers where he won five championships in seven years.
He led the league in scoring thrice and in rebounding twice.
He paved the way for big man. He as the first of many great Lakers centers which include Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O' Neil.
The Lakers drafting Elgin Baylor could not have come at a better time. The franchise was struggling and the games were unwatchable.
Elgin made the Lakers exciting to watch again and helped turn the Lakers' fortunes around.The Lakers went from being a bottom feeder to the NBA Finals in Baylor's rookie year. In his maiden season Baylor was already a star and averaged 24.9 points, 15 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Baylor was a showman and dunked with flair. He was style and substance combined.
Despite his numerous trips to the finals it seems that the Boston Celtics were always there to derail Elgin and his championship aspirations.
A few games into the 1971-72 season, Elgin decided to retire after surgeries on his knees made him a shell of what he was before. Elgin's retirement fueled the Lakers into a 33-win streak and eventually the championship.
Though Elgin was not part of the roster anymore, the Lakers graciously still gave him a ring to thank him for all his contributions to the franchise.
Wilt Chamberlain was the human video game. His stats were so ridiculous, it is as if you made a character in NBA 2K.
Wilt had this season when he absolutely went ballistic. He shot 61.3% from the filed and average an astounding 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds.
Very few centers could stand up to the mighty wilt Chamberlain. Among his rivals were Bill Russell and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.
Wilt played the last five seasons as a Laker. He no longer focused on scoring a gaudy amount of points but focused more on rebounding. Wilt's sacrifice was rewarded with a championship in 1972.
The NBA logo was based on Jerry West's dribbling form. Though he is often called "The Logo," he is more than a mascot to the NBA.
He is best known as a superstar player and one of the greatest general managers in the league's history. He helped the Lakers win the 1972 NBA championship and achieve a record 69-13 regular season record and a 33-game win streak. West was also the architect of the Showtime Lakers and the Shaq and Kobe Lakers.
West has a keen eye for talent and a very smooth negotiator for trades and free agents looking to don the purple and gold.
The Lakers have yet to duplicate the success of the franchise since Jerry West left them in 2002.
Shaquille O' Neil
Lakers Shaq was very much different from Orlando Shaq. Orlando Shaq was much quicker and leaner and could do a fastbreak from coast to coast. Lakers Shaq was an immovable object who would simply ragdoll any center you pit him against.
Prime Shaq easily averaged close to 30 points, grabbed about a dozen boards and swatted more than two shots a game. He was an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor.
Shaq was like a Mack Truck. There was no way to stop him when he was barreling towards the ring.
Shaq and Kobe formed a dynamic duo and dominated the league. They were able to three-peat - a feat not even Magic and Kareem could achieve.
The skyhook is one of the most iconic moves in basketball and Kareem was the master of that shot. The list of people to block that shot is a short one - Ralph Sampson, Poodle Willoughby, Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore, Manute Bol, Hakeem Olajuwon and Nate Thurmond. That is very impressive for someone with a 20-year career.
Unlike many big men at that time who were stiff, Kareem was very flexible due to the fact that he practiced yoga. You can see his flexibility and stability when he launches his skyhook.
Kareem is also a martial arts practitioner. He studied Jeet Kune Do under the guidance of Bruce Lee. He even appeared in Bruce Lee's movie "Game of Death."
Kareem is the all-time leader in points scored with 38,387. Karl Malone comes a distant second with 36,928.
Kareem together with Magic Johnson lead the Showtime Lakers of the 1980's and helped them become a dominant team. The duo captured 5 titles in their time together.
Magic never won another ring once Kareem retired.
The Lakers always had generational talent. However, they missed on getting Michael Jordan.They got the closest thing though in Kobe Bryant.
Bryant idolized Michael down to his mannerisms, dunks and fadeaway shot. Jerry West knew Kobe was special so he traded starting center Vlade Divac for him.
While Bryant did not provide eye-popping stats in his rookie season, he still wowed crowds with his dunks during All-Star weekend.
When the Lakers traded Eddie Jones to the Charlotte Hornets, this gave Kobe Bryant the room to grow. Bryant soon became one of the elite shooting guards in the league and in just his fourth season, he already won an NBA Championship.
Bryant would win three straight championships with Shaq. There was a rift between them as each wanted to be the alpha male. The Lakers would deal Shaq to Miami and Kobe would not be in championship contention for a while.
The Lakers were able to acquire Pau Gasol and Kobe was able to parlay this into two more rings for himself.
Kobe would continue to be productive until injuries started to creep up. Kobe would play limited games in his last three seasons due to various injuries.
Kobe would however have a storybook ending to his career when he scored 60 points in his final game as a Laker.
When you look at Webster's dictionary for the word "winner," you'll find a picture of Magic Johnson. Johnson has won at all levels whether it be in high school, in college, in the NBA or even in the Olympics.
Johnson was the catalyst of the Showtime Lakers and had won 5 championships for the franchise. His no-look passes and showmanship were always a sight to behold. Johnson was very charismatic and it was hard to hate the man.
Even as a rookie, Magic was phenomenal. He led the Lakers to the championship in just his rookie season. Magic was even more amazing when team captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went down with an injury. He played all five positions and scored a near triple-double with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals.
Johnson had a very fruitful career but it was cut short when he announced his retirement on November 7, 1991 after learning he contracted the HIV virus.
Johnson would later return to the Lakers as a player and as a coach. After these short stints, he would become part owner of the club.
Magic returned to the Lakers in 2017 and was named as the president of the franchise. He promised to bring back the glory days of the Los Angeles Lakers.
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© 2019 Jan Michael Ong