One of the most storied franchises in the NBA, the LA Lakers, have naturally seen some of the greatest basketball players of all time. Several legends have donned the purple and gold jersey. The latest of their great signings is future Hall of Famer and arguably the best player of this generation, LeBron James. Nevertheless, the superstar forward has only been with the franchise for two years and certainly doesn't make the list of Hall of Famers associated with the team.
5 Greatest LA Lakers players of All-Time
The LA Lakers franchise is so old and illustrious that several names are always left out while drafting any list of the franchise's greatest players. Laker icons like Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes are underappreciated and deserve recognition.
The LA Lakers' owner and president, Jeanie Buss, recently appeared on "All The Smoke" with former NBA players Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. During the podcast, she gave a list of the top 5 LA Lakers icons.
Fans met Jeanie Buss' list with mixed responses. She faced criticism for leaving certain players out. On the other hand, she received appreciation for the respect she showed to the legendary coach, Phil Jackson. On that note, we look at the top 5 players that have worn an LA Lakers jersey and laced up for the storied franchise over the years.
#5 Jerry West
"The Logo" Jerry West is one of the all-time greats in not just franchise but NBA history. He was known as "Mr. Clutch" because of his ability to excel in high-pressure situations. He is the second-highest scoring leader in LA Lakers history, behind Kobe Bryant. West's playoff finals performances were so unbelievably good that in 1969, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA Finals MVP despite being on the losing team.
Jerry West brought a title to LA in 1972. He holds the record for the most 20+ point games in NBA Finals history, the most 30-point games, and the most 40-point games.
Remarkably, he was an All-Star for every season he played; ending his career with 14 All-Star selections, 12 All-NBA team selections and 5 All-Defensive team selections. He won one scoring title in 1970 and was the assist leader in 1972.
Jerry West spent his entire career with the LA Lakers between 1960 and 1974. The team retired his no. 44 jersey in 1983.
#4 Shaquille O'Neal
Also known as "Big Diesel," Shaquille O'Neal is universally regarded as one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. He shattered backboards, postered hundreds of players and swatted multiple shots. He led the LA Lakers to four NBA finals, accomplishing a three-peat between 2000 and 2002. He was honored with the Finals MVP in all three series and became the only player other than Michael Jordan to win the award three consecutive times.
Shaquille O'Neal was famous for ferocious dunks and extreme physicality. A statue of him dunking was commemorated outside Staples Center in 2017. His accolades include winning the scoring title twice, MVP in 2000, 15 All-Star selections, 14 All-NBA team selections, and 3 All-Defensive Team selections. He ranks second in franchise history in points, rebounds and blocks per game.
Although he didn't spend his entire career with the LA Lakers, the team retired O'Neal's no. 34 jersey in 2013.
#3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is regarded as one of the greatest centers of all time. He used his patented "skyhook" to lead the LA Lakers to eight NBA finals, and won five of them. One of his most outstanding achievements is winning the Finals MVP award twice, 14 years apart. Abdul-Jabbar has 19 All-Star selections, the most of any player in NBA history. He is also the NBA leader in points scored with 38,387 points. Abdul-Jabbar also has the most MVPs in NBA history with 6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's list of accolades is never-ending, as he was a top 5 player almost every season in his illustrious 20-year career.
He has 19 All-Star selections, 6 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 15 All-NBA team and 11 All-Defensive team selections. He was also the rebounding champion in 1976, a two-time scoring champion and a four-time blocks leader. Kareem is regarded as the greatest player in US collegiate sports history as well. His famous 'skyhook' was considered unguardable, and to this day, no big man has replicated it.
In 2012, the LA Lakers commemorated his statue outside Staples Center. The LA Lakers retired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's no. 33 jersey in 1990.
#2 Magic Johnson
The quintessential floor general, Magic Johnson, is often regarded as the greatest point guard of all time. He propelled the LA Lakers franchise to stardom in the 1980s and led the team to nine NBA Finals, winning five of them. One of his greatest moments was when, as a rookie, he played as a center in the NBA Finals. He won the title for the LA Lakers and earned a Finals MVP in the process. He is the only rookie in NBA history to win the coveted Finals MVP award.
Johnson's greatness is immeasurable. He has several accolades and NBA records to his name. Across his career, he has held 12 All-Star selections, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, five titles and 10 All-NBA team selections. Johnson also led the league in assists four times.
His no. 32 jersey was retired by the LA Lakers in 1992 and his statue also sits outside Staples center. Johnson spent his entire career with the LA Lakers and is considered by many fans to be the greatest LA Lakers player of all time.
#1 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is the greatest player to have ever donned an LA Lakers jersey. Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Jerry West acknowledged him as the greatest LA Laker of all time. The late Kobe Bean Bryant is arguably one of the greatest players to have blessed an NBA court. During his illustrious 20-year career, Bryant's game spoke volumes. From future Hall of Famers like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry to young players like Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum, he has inspired an entire generation of athletes.
The "Black Mamba" was one of the most hardworking and influential icons the league has ever seen. He took the LA Lakers to 7 NBA Finals, winning five rings in the process and earning 2 Finals MVPs. He won the league MVP title in 2008, although several believe he was robbed of the award several times.
He made 18 All-Star appearances, 15 All-NBA team selections, and 12 All-Defensive team selections. He holds the record for the most points scored in LA Lakers history and has two scoring titles.
Both of Bryant's jerseys, no. 8 and no. 24, were retired by the LA Lakers. He is the only player to have both his jersey numbers retired by a franchise.
After signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, LeBron James has made a strong case to be considered one of the greatest Lakers of all time. He revitalized the dying Lakers franchise, brought a winning culture with him, and took the Lakers to their first playoffs since the 2012-13 NBA season. Not only that, he led the Lakers to a championship banner in the 2019-2020 NBA season in honor of the late great Kobe Bean Bryant. LeBron also passed Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the All-Time Points leader, making his time as a LA Laker bear historical significance.
With 6 seasons under his belt as a LA Laker, LeBron has averaged 27.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.9 assists on 50.8% shooting over 283 games. Adding to these insane stats, an NBA title, Finals MVP, and multiple All-NBA selections are the perfect ingredients for a Hall Of Fame career with the Lakers alone.