L.A. Lakers' All-Decade Starting Fives: 1960-2010

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IAugust 31, 2012

L.A. Lakers' All-Decade Starting Fives: 1960-2010

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    The Los Angeles Lakers did not win 16 World Championships (11 of them in Los Angeles, five in Minneapolis) with smoke and mirrors. They won with great players, many of whom now reside in the NBA Hall of Fame.

    The Lakers are truly one of the most iconic professional teams in American sports history. Their drive to win a 17th world championship starts this fall with four future Hall of Fame players among their starting lineup; Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

    So, who would you pick as your starting five for each decade the Lakers have been in L.A., starting with the 1960's? Some of my picks may surprise you. 

    Do you pick the five best players from each decade or should the list be by position, even if there were a couple of dominant centers who both played within that same span of time?

    Take a look at five starting fives and let me know what you think. These are Laker lineups only an NBA coach in search of work could love.

The 1960s: New City, Dynamic Stars, Heartbreaking Losses

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    Starting lineup:

    Center: Wilt Chamberlain

    Forward: Elgin Baylor

    Guard: Jerry West

    Guard: Dick Barnett

    Forward: Happy Hairston

    From 1961 through 1970, the Lakers franchise became one of the most consistent in the NBA. The team went to the Finals six times in a row. And they lost all six times to the Boston Celtics. It would be another decade before they finally won a title in L.A.

    Dick Barnett deserves to start on this team—in his three seasons as shooting guard for the Lakers, the 6'4" left handed jump shooter averaged 18, 18.4 and 13.8 points and was consistent on about 47 percent of his attempts.

    Wilt Chamberlain came into his own in the '60s. He joined L.A. for the '68 season and promptly put up monster numbers of 21.1 rebounds and 20.5 points per game on 58 percent shooting.

    West owned the '60s as the acknowledged leader of the Lakers. Some pundits call him the best guard to ever play the game—he certainly is top five. His scoring averages during that time: 30, 27, 28, 31, 31. 29, 26, 26 and 31 points per game over nine seasons.

    Happy Hairston was a terrific power forward who played in the NBA for 11 seasons, including his last six with the Lakers. He could score and reboundTraded early in the 1969 season from Detroit to L.A., Hairston went on to average 12.5 rebounds and 20.5 points on 49 percent shooting for the Lakers.

    Elgin Baylor needs no introduction—he was a human highlight film before they had human highlight films. West and Baylor carried the scoring load for L.A. during the '60s with the latter averaging 38 and 34 points per game in the 1961 and '62 seasons.

    Baylor averaged well over 20 points per game for 11 of his 14 seasons, all with the Lakers.  During the '61 season when he averaged 38.3 points, Baylor also pulled down 18.6 rebounds. He was 6'5" but could leap like Michael Jordan (maybe that should be the other way around).

The 1970s: Breaking Records, Dry Spell and a Little Magic

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    Starting five:

    Center - Kareem Abdul Jabbar

    Forward - Jamaal Wilkes

    Guard - Gail Goodrich

    Guard - Jerry West

    Guard - Earvin "Magic" Johnson

    Yes, I know I have picked three guards and just one forward.

    In our fantasy five, we can pick and choose who we want and I refuse to put any of these megawatt superstars on the bench in favor of someone like Happy Hairston or Jim McMillan.

    Magic came into the league at the start of the 1979 season so he qualifies for this decade.  Johnson had one of the most incredible rookie seasons ever. It started with a big hug of Jabbar after the team won its first game of the regular season against the Clippers and ended with the 6'9" Magic playing center in the NBA Finals against the Sixers, where he scored 42 points as a replacement for the injured Jabbar. 

    In between, the magic man averaged 18 points, 7 assists, 7.7 rebounds and 36 minutes per game in the regular season. His assist total went to 9.4 during the playoffs.

    Goodrich became an All Star in the '70s with L.A. From 1971-75, he averaged between 23 and 26 points per game and between 4.4-5.6 assists.

    Jabbar came to L.A. in a trade with Milwaukee and promptly turned the center position into that of a scoring machine. Though it took the arrival of Johnson to win a title, Jabbar still dominated offensively, averaging around 24-28 point per game.

    West and Wilkes both thrived during the 1970s. West was part of the record setting Lakers team that won 33 games in a row in the 1971-72 season, averaging 25.8 points and nearly 10 assists per game.

    Wilkes, known as Silk for his ultra smooth shooting touch, was a consistent 18-20 points per game scoring forward for L.A. in the latter part of the decade.

The 1980s: Showtime and World Championships

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    Starting five:

    Center - Kareem Abdul Jabbar

    Forward - James Worthy

    Forward - Jamaal Wilkes

    Guard - Magic Johnson

    Guard - Norm Nixon

    The 1980's were perhaps the greatest in Lakers history and this starting five is as good as any to play the game. Under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley, the Lakers played an up tempo game that brought Laker fans to their feet and championship banners to their home court at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. They regularly scored between 112 and 118 points per game.

    Norm Nixon was the perfect complement to Johnson at the point. Though Magic orchestrated the offense, his height allowed him to roam for rebounds while Nixon stood on the perimeter to knock down jumpers or pass off to Jamaal Wilkes or Jabbar. Nixon generally averaged about 16-17 points and between 7-8 assists during the time he played for the Lakers.

    Wilkes continued to perform at a high level for the Lakers during the early part of the '80s, averaging 20-23 points for several seasons before starting to fade a bit in 1983 and eventually handing over the forward reigns to James Worthy.

    James Worthy, at 6'9" with lightning speed, was one of the best athletes to ever play for the Lakers. The former North Carolina All American was on the receiving end of countless Magic Johnson outlet passes that turned into fast breaks and slam dunks. He was a consistent scorer in the 17-19 points per game in the regular season and was a 21.1 point scorer over the course of nine playoff campaigns, which included a 1985 Finals defeat of the Celtics in which he averaged 23.7 ppg.

The 1990s: Lost Years End with Arrival of Shaq and Kobe

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    The starting five:

    Center - Shaquille O'Neal

    Guard - Kobe Bryant

    Forward - Cedric Ceballos

    Forward - James Worthy

    Guard - Nick Van Exel

    The 1990's was sort of a lost decade for the Lakers, but by its end, the team was on the verge of greatness once again, only now with an entirely new cast of characters.

    Let's start with the easy pick: Shaq will have his number 34 jersey retired this coming season by the Lakers because this is the team where he made his mark and had his most dominating seasons. The 7'1", 325 pound 'Big Diesel' was a big deal when the Lakers traded for him in 1996. He paid huge dividends and was a scoring powerhouse, averaging 26.2, 28.3, 26.3 and 29.7 points in his first four seasons with the Lakers.

    Kobe Bryant was 18 when the Lakers got his draft rights in a 1996 trade that sent center Vlade Divac to Charlotte. It took the Mamba a couple of years to mature, but by 1998 he was averaging 19.9 points on 47 percent shooting. The following year Kobe upped that average to 22.5 points and added 6.3 rebounds and 5 assists per game to his resume.

    Ceballos had a couple of nice seasons (the best of his career) with L.A., averaging 22.4 and 22.7 points over the course of the 1994 and '95 seasons. Point guard Nick Van Exel was an excellent floor general for L.A. over the course of his five campaigns with the team—twice averaging over 8 assists and always scoring between 14-16 ppg.

The 2000s: A Three and a Two Peat Make This Decade One of the Best

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    The starting five:

    Center - Shaquille O'Neal

    Forward - Lamar Odom

    Forward - Pau Gasol

    Guard - Kobe Bryant

    Guard - Derek Fisher

    It's been a few years since Derek Fisher was in his prime, but during the last decade he was a key component in the Lakers' run to five championships. He's known for some of the great, last second, game winning shots in pressure situations. The most famous being the 04 game winner against the Spurs in Game five of the 2004 playoffs.

    Leadership doesn't always show up in the stat sheet and Fisher was certainly the leader of those teams that won titles in 2000, 01 and 02. And again when L.A. won back to back championships in 2009 and 2010, it was Fisher who was captain and led the team on and off the court.

    The other four on this squad—Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant—are some of the most gifted players to ever put on a Lakers uniform. The team won five titles in this decade. That in itself is a pretty tremendous percentage. In the first three, it was mainly Kobe and Shaq who dominated, combining to average close to 60 points a game.

    In the second wave, when the Lakers knocked off Orlando and Boston, it was Kobe, L.O., and Gasol averaging about 60, with Fisher being the stabilizing force through all of it.

This Decade: Too Early to Tell, but the Franchise Is in Great Shape

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    Forbes magazine estimates the Lakers franchise to be worth $900 million.

    Even with salary caps and draconian luxury taxes that are just around the corner, the Lakers are in tremendous shape and have a roster that will compete for a title in 2012-13.

    It's hard to say who will be the stars and starting five for the Lakers of this decade because there are eight years still remaining. But, you have to think some of the names may include: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

    This is a franchise that prides itself on winning championships and going after the best players year after year. With a new Time Warner Cable television package set to kick in this season at about $4 billion over 20 years, the Lakers will most definitely be in the hunt for both.

    Winning never gets old.