Los Angeles Lakers: Top 5 Guards of All Time
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise is littered with prolific basketball players. One could even argue that the Lakers could create their own in-house Hall of Fame.
The following slides contain five of the most prolific guards to ever wear purple and gold.
While the list is easily debatable at its core, it’s a celebration of the five players mentioned, along with all of their success while on the Lakers.
5. Derek Fisher
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Born Derek Lamar Fisher, the consummate professional was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 with the 24th pick of the draft.
The 6'1" guard out of the University of Arkansas spent his first eight seasons as a Laker, where he was the third-leading scorer behind Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil during the Lakers' three-peat championships from 2000 to 2002.
After the 2004 season, Fisher spent time away as a free agent until 2007, before he finally returned to the Lakers.
Though Fisher's return was bittersweet due in part to his daughter's rare form of cancer, Laker fans were glad to have a veteran winner and Kobe favorite back in the starting lineup.
Fisher helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals three years in a row and secured two more championships during the 2008-2010 seasons, making him and Bryant the only active players in the league right now with five championships under their belt.
Fisher spent a total of 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before he was traded away at the deadline. And while his purple and gold days may be far past him, the Lakers locker room and fans alike will always miss his leadership, dedication and heart.
4. Gail Goodrich
Gail Goodrich had the luxury of being coached by the late, great John Wooden, and he was also a key part in helping the Lakers bring home their first championship in Los Angeles during the 1971-1972 season.
Goodrich grew up in and around the Los Angeles area and was once considered too small for the league, even earning the nickname “Stumpy” by teammate Elgin Baylor, derived from Goodrich’s stature.
He spent the 1965-1968 and 1970-1976 seasons with the Lakers, spending a total of 15 seasons in the league before retiring and eventually earning a spot in the Hall of Fame.
He played an integral part on the 1971-72 team, helping it achieve a record of 69-13 as well as securing an NBA-record 33 wins in a row, cementing a record that many believe will never be broken.
Goodrich led the Lakers in scoring from 1971 to 1975. One of the most efficient lefties to ever play the game, Goodrich retired in 1979 a five-time All-Star before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
3. Jerry West
Jerry West is the type of player that comes around once in life.
He played with all heart and pride, and nobody took losses harder than him. West's legacy isn’t just as a player with the Lakers; he was also a head coach for the Lakers and arguably the best GM the Lakers ever had.
West was responsible for the Lakers' success multiple times—the first, when he built a dynasty during the 1980s that went on to win five championship titles, and the second time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he helped the Lakers win three more championships.
While he was part of the Lakers front office, he was revered, loved and listened to by all.
As a Lakers player, West was a 14-time All-Star, scored over 25,000 points in his career and averaged 27.0 PPG.
He led the Lakers in scoring for seven seasons, and after losing in the NBA Finals a record seven times, he finally won his title in 1971-1972.
He is the only player to be named Finals MVP despite his team losing.
While most players hope to play well enough to have one nickname bestowed upon them, West has two: Mr. Clutch, because he was always reliable in timely situations, and The Logo after being the model for the NBA’s logo.
2. Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Magic Johnson is easily the most beloved figure to ever play sports in Los Angeles.
Out of Michigan State and fresh off of an NCAA championship win over Larry Bird, Magic helped guide the Lakers to the NBA Finals in his rookie year in what would be the first of five championships that he would help the Lakers win over the span of his career.
With the biggest smile in the world, Magic helped light up The Great Western Forum and helped to transform the Lakers into the the "Showtime” Lakers.
A three-time MVP, Magic is considered by many Laker fans to be the greatest Laker of all time, and it’s easy to see why.
Before tragically having to cut his career short due to the contraction of HIV, Magic was a 12-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Finals MVP. His legacy includes playing 905 NBA games, resulting in 17,707 points and 10,141 assists.
He still holds the single-game assists record of 24 and the Finals assists record with 21. It’s easy to see why Earvin is considered the best Laker point guard to ever play the game.
While his Laker ownership days are over, and his glory days are long behind him, Magic is still revered in the city of Los Angeles and should be for years to come—especially after becoming part of a group that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in early 2012.
1. Kobe Bryant
Arguably one of the best players of all time, Kobe Bryant was the top high school basketball player in the country prior to the 1996 NBA draft and declared for the draft immediately after graduating from high school.
He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick, and Jerry West might have made one of the best moves a GM could make by trading for Bryant during that draft.
Bryant has redefined the meaning of a franchise star in the world of sports, where free agency often leaves players looking for the team offering the most money.
While Bryant is still active, his trophy case tells the story of a savvy veteran who played and continues the play the game at the highest level. In his 16 years of playing in the NBA, Bryant has won five NBA championship titles, been the Finals MVP twice, was the league’s MVP in 2008 and is a 14-time All-Star.
Bryant, or the “Black Mamba”—a nickname given to him for his ability to deliver the final blow in close games—is one ring shy of tying the great Michael Jordan. While many argue that he is already one of the greatest to ever play the game, the critics still believe that in order to transcend the NBA into immortality, he will need to achieve six championships rings.
While this may seem like a feat to other teams, Bryant’s main focus every season is winning a championship.
His best days may be in the rear, but there is no denying the raw skill and dedication Bryant has displayed. If his work ethic means anything, the sixth ring will come sooner rather than later.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Cooper, Norm Nixon & Byron Scott
Playing basketball and growing up in the shadows of the Great Western Forum, this Laker guard played an integral role for the “Showtime Lakers” and during his days with the team helped win three NBA Championships. While he didn’t make this list, his contributions to the Lakers as whole stretches far beyond the reach of his basketball skills.
In his final season 1996-1997 in the NBA, he returned to the Lakers and became a valuable mentor to a guy named Kobe Bryant.
Norm Nixon played six hard fought seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them win two titles over the course of his stay. Unfortunately Nixon got the raw end of the deal, when the Lakers traded him to the Clippers for Byron Scott, prior to the 1983-1984 season.
Though he would lead the Clippers in assists his first season there, Nixon would never return to the playoffs again.
Hailing from Pasadena, Ca., Michael Cooper was one of the few lucky NBA players to be able to spend his entire career with one franchise. Starting with being the defensive backbone for the “Showtime Lakers,” Cooper enjoyed five championships with the Lakers during his stay with the team. When Cooper finished his career with the Lakers, he was ranked in the top of all time in three-point field foals, games player, total minutes played, steals and assists.
Michael Cooper is the only person to win a championship as a player in the NBA and as a head coach in the WNBA and NBA Development League.