With a legacy that carries more than 60 years of prestige to its name, the Los Angeles Lakers are truly one of the most storied franchises in professional sports. Many of the game's all-time greats have had the honor and the privilege to don the colors of the Lakers, whether it's the trademark purple and gold, or the more nostalgic blue and white or even the blue and yellow representing their time in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Diehard fans, regardless of team association, have always debated as to who is worthy enough to join an all-time roster for their beloved squad. But now, the question arises: who would make the Lakers' all-time dream team? If the basketball time machine was suddenly invented in order to bring together 12 of the greatest Laker players in their prime, who is worthy?
Like many all-time lists, this one is meant to start arguments, not end them; this list will place only a few names that would form the greatest Laker team ever assembled.
During the Lakers' "Showtime" era, a time which can be described as one of the most exhilarating in professional sports, one name defined that era: Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
With five NBA championships and countless individual accolades under his belt, Magic was surely one of the most entertaining and exciting-to-watch players of his time.
From 1979-1991, Magic gave us a style of playing that was truly deserving of his trademarked nickname. The former Michigan State Spartan introduced us to a new brand of basketball, one that gave us the perfect combination of both flash and substance.
Magic brought a unique charisma to the game that translated extremely well onto the court, displaying the ideal chemistry with every teammate that ever had the opportunity to play with him, which included Hall-of-Famers James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
OK, let's get the most obvious choice out of the way, people. Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest Laker of all time not only would make this LA dream team, but he would captain it with the precision and athleticism that has defined him for over a decade. His resume speaks for itself: five NBA championships, 15 All-Star appearances and MVP awards galore.
Entering the league in 1996, the Black Mamba took a team that was experiencing mediocre-at-best success and shortly returned it to its proper greatness. Since his rookie season, he's accumulated more than 30,000 points over 1,200 games. Bryant has rightfully earned the title of "Mr. Laker," easily landing a spot in anyone's top five all-time Lakers players list.
Every game that Bryant has played has been nothing short of spectacular; it's almost as if the man is the proverbial human highlight reel. Despite being one of the more aged players in the NBA, to this day, the Mamba can prove that he can still teach the youngsters that grace the NBA's elite a thing or two.
And what makes Bryant worthy enough to be the first entry in this dream team? Out of everything he's accomplished, the scary thing is, he's not even done yet.
The latest player to have his number retired by the Lakers has also earned his place in to this incarnation of an all-time dream team. Jamaal Wilkes was part of the "Showtime" squad of the 1980s, always being consistent in scoring and all-around offense.
"Smooth as Silk" Wilkes was known for his seamless execution of every play, scoring and driving into the lane with absolute ease.
Earning three All-Star appearances and two NBA all-defensive team honors in his career, Wilkes' performance was good enough to earn him an induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, truly cementing his place as one of the greats in Laker history.
Best known for the moniker "Big Game James," James Worthy was always the x-factor during the later years of the "Showtime" era. Once Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career began to wind down, Worthy helped pick up the slack, contributing mostly on the offensive end.
Displaying a spectacular performance during the 1988 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Worthy surged on offense, becoming the ideal help for Magic and co. during that time. Worthy's career totals were good enough for an induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Speaking of big names during "Showtime," how can one ever forget the greatness that is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
Abdul-Jabbar completely redefined the center position, showing that it was more than just being a big man; he played the position with complete grace and precision, good enough to earn him the accolade of being the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
His athleticism knew no bounds; his style of playing was so unique at the time that he was able to patent a move that he called all his own, the skyhook. Using his immense height and agility to power over the defense, Abdul-Jabbar was a scoring machine, with the defensive prowess to boot.
He has been the center of a lot of people's G.O.A.T arguments, and with good reason. Needless to say, he's good enough to make this list.
Quite possibly the hardest decision to make was the decision of who to start at center. Despite going with Kareem, Shaq Diesel himself was a very close second. Arguably the most dominant center to play the game, nobody knew how to rock games defensively better than Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaqzilla's very presence was the most intimidating factor on every team he played on, and this proved no different during his time in purple and gold.
O'Neal played a pivotal role during the 2000s revival of "Showtime," helping lead the Lakers to three straight NBA titles from 2000-2002, earning finals MVP honors in each of those years.
Defensively, he was the most powerful to grace the hardwood, dominating in blocks and rebounds for the majority of his career.
While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar re-defined the center position with his athleticism, O'Neal gave it new meaning by re-establishing the power and strength that comes with the position.
Take Jerry West's penchant for being the ultimate clutch player, and fast-forward it about 40 years. Robert Horry was the biggest unsung hero when referring to the Lakers' championship three-peat in the early 2000s.
While he wasn't really known for being an All-Star caliber player, Horry was truly effective as a shooter and knew when his team needed him to be the game-winner.
Horry was a catalyst for the Lakers' success in the 2000s; he brought structure to those championship teams and should be a perfect fit on anyone's dream team.
The Robin to Kobe Bryant's Batman for the better part of a decade, Derek Fisher was always the perfect complement to Bryant, giving that support in scoring that the Lakers would urgently need from game to game and being the ideal leader that the team could look up to.
While he may not have been the best statistically, Fisher's consistency and reliability was a genuine trait that was absolutely imperative to the Lakers' success during his time in LA. The one word that could describe Fisher in his prime is, "clutch." Fisher was always known to be the one guy the Lakers could count on to score that game-winning shot and be the savior of the game.
Fisher's iconic 0.4 second shot in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs was a piece of basketball greatness. Former teammate Shaquille O'Neal described it best when he said, "One lucky shot deserves another."
Fisher was more useful to the team than most fans give him credit for. The simple fact that he was the Lakers' iron man for so long is more than enough to justify his being on this list.
Alongside Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, one of the biggest contributing factors to the Lakers' success is Gail Goodrich.
Goodrich's scoring efforts helped lead the Lakers to 33 consecutive wins during the 1971-72 season, a feat good enough to give the team enough momentum to win the NBA title that year as well.
The UCLA alumnus led the Lakers in scoring from 1971-75, and had an all-time scoring average of 18.6 PPG.
Known for his more methodical style of playing, Jerry West played in such a classical way, the NBA even decided to use his likeness for its insignia, properly earning him the nickname of "The Logo." Always the humble one, West was very modest in his talent, while at the same time establishing himself as the face of the Lakers during the 60s and 70s.
West was the quintessential go-to guy; his ability to close out games in such an assertive way was what gave him his most memorable nickname: "Mr. Clutch." West's talents in innovating the clutch mindset paved the way for many athletes after him to close out just like him.
When you think of players who got it done in all aspects of the game, you've got to think of Elgin Baylor. Shooting, rebounding, passing; Baylor got it done all around.
Baylor was the master of the jump shot; he took something so basic and made it into something that he is still renowned for to this day.
During his playing days, Baylor accounted for 11 All-Star appearances, a rookie of the year award, and an induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame. Baylor was the true example of what the ideal athlete should be.
Earning the most honorable of mentions, Wilt Chamberlain was the most imposing and powerful centers of his time. Chamberlain was a behemoth on both sides of the court, and could possibly be the one responsible for putting the center position on the map.
When he came to the Lakers from Philadelphia, it began an ongoing trend for LA in obtaining powerful centers from other teams, which included the acquisitions of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and most recently, Dwight Howard. Despite joining the Lakers late in his career, Wilt the Stilt still performed well enough to be part of the Lakers' big three in the 70s, accompanying West and Baylor.
Creating the ultimate trademark for being a towering example of greatness on the court, Chamberlain will always be known as the ideal center in basketball.