The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the greatest franchises in all of sports.
Twenty-one Hall of Famers have donned the purple and gold, and that is a number that will continue to grow for years to come. In addition to hosting some of the game’s greatest legends, L.A. has won 16 championships.
The following list includes some of those Hall of Fame players, as well as others who are sure to be accepted into basketball immortality when they hang up the kicks.
I didn’t rank these players as the best ones who have ever played in Los Angeles. I chose this list based on what they brought to the Lakers.
Each player was required to have played at least three seasons in L.A. in order to be eligible. In addition, all stats used, via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted, were from the time that the particular player was on the Lakers.
(Side note: players who were on the Minneapolis Lakers were included, as well.)
For example, Steve Nash is an all-time great point guard. He ranks fourth in NBA history for assists, has two MVP awards and eight All-Star appearances. However, he is heading into just his second season in L.A., so he is not eligible for this list.
The ranking puts emphasis on championships (and the player’s role in achieving those rings), MVPs and other individual awards, franchise records, personal statistics while on the Lakers and special talents that they brought to L.A.
Who is the greatest of them all? Well, that depends on how you define it. There is no statistic that makes one of these legends far superior to the next—they all deserve recognition for their tremendous achievements in purple and gold.
But based on my analysis, one Laker stands slightly taller than the rest.
This is a list that ranks those who have played for the Lakers, but Phil Jackson deserves recognition.
Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He accounted for 118 playoff wins and five championships with L.A., achieving an overall record of 1,155-485 over the course of his career.
The "Zen Master" will be the only non-player recognized from this point on.
Let the Laker games begin.
Robert Horry spent seven years as a Laker, winning three straight titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Horry’s clutch shooting—he hit big shot after big shot in each of those championship runs (watch one of his biggest from the 2002 season here at 1:55)—and reliable production off the bench was a key factor in those championship runs.
During his time in L.A., "Big-Shot Bob" put up about seven points and five rebounds a game.
Clyde Lovellette spent four seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers.
In that time, he was a part of the 1954 champioship team and posted 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. Lovellette was one of the first big, smooth centers who have come to be synonymous with Lakers basketball.
Bob McAdoo was a monster. In his best of four seasons in Los Angeles, he posted about 25 points and eight rebounds a night (per 36 minutes).
He was the ideal role player for a team that included Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Although a former star on the New York Knicks and Buffalo Braves, McAdoo fit perfectly with the "Showtime" Lakers.
McAdoo helped anchor two championship teams, one in 1982 and the other in 1985.
Besides spelling his name in a cooler way than most, Mychal Thompson brought a lot to the Lakers.
He won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988 and put up about nine points per game. In addition to his on-court contributions, Thompson is also the father of one of the NBA’s best young guards, Klay Thompson.
Rick Fox spent the second half of his career as a Laker (he spent the first as a Boston Celtic).
During his seven years in purple and gold, Fox averaged 12 points and was a key part of Kobe and Shaq's three-peat title run.
Fox's most famous highlight was probably the on-court scuffle with Doug Christie that carried into the tunnel (watch it here), but he was an invaluable role player for L.A. and should be remembered for his contributions on the floor.
Vern Mikkelsen was a member of the Minneapolis Lakers for 10 seasons.
He was a fiery big guy, and still holds the league record for most ejections with 127. His intensity and passion for the game carried into the way he played defense, as well.
During his time as a Laker, the power forward averaged 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. Mikkelsen was also a key factor in four title runs, three of them in succession.
Pau Gasol changed the course of Lakers history.
The team stole him in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and saw their investment pay off immediately. Gasol helped pull the team out of a state of mediocrity and won two championships alongside Kobe Bryant 2009 and 2010.
Gasol has put up about 17 points and 10 rebounds per game as a Laker and will look to win another title with the "Black Mamba" before the end of his career.
Norm Nixon was a key part of two championship runs as a Laker.
The dime-dishing guard ranks fourth in L.A. history for the assists category and second behind Magic Johnson in assists per game.
Despite not being a member of the Hall of Fame, a strong case could be made for Nixon to earn that right. He never averaged less than six assists per game throughout his career, despite playing on a team dominated by Johnson.
Kobe Bryant never won a title without Derek Fisher.
One of the most clutch, cold-blooded shooters of all-time (see the video above), Fisher has come up big througohut his career.
The fiery point guard ranks second in franchise history—behind the Mamba—for made three-pointers and fifth in games played. He spent 12 years as a Laker and won five titles at the helm of the offense.
Gail Goodrich ranks eighth in assists, ninth in free throws and eighth in points in franchise history.
Goodrich was a silky southpaw who would've fit in with Magic Johnson's Lakers—every fast break turned into a highlight—but helped set the standard for today's modern, flashier game.
The guard, known as "Stumpy," won a title with the Lakers in 1972.
The ultimate role player, Lamar Odom, won two titles with L.A. in 2009 and 2010.
In addition to ranking in the top 10 of the franchise’s offensive and defensive rebounding categories, Odom won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011.
He put up about 15 points per game during his time in L.A.
Jamaal Wilkes put up 16 points and five rebounds in nine seasons with the Lakers.
Wilkes was long, athletic and smooth with the ball. He thrived playing alongside Magic Johnson, running the floor like a gazelle and finishing with finesse at the rim.
The power forward, nicknamed "Silk," won two titles with L.A. and is the franchise’s 10th-leading scorer.
Harold "Happy" Hairston was many things for the Lakers.
For starters, he had a fantastic nickname. Secondly, he was a part of what many consider to be one of the greatest teams of all time—the 1972 Lakers—who set the NBA record for consecutive games won. For his career, Hairston posted 16 points per game in six seasons with L.A.
A high-flying big man, Hairston owns the NBA record for most defensive rebounds grabbed in a quarter (13).
A.C. Green was a machine on the boards, and led the L.A. in rebounding for six for his eight years with the team.
The big man won three titles as a Laker and is in the top-10 rankings for offensive, defensive and total rebounds in franchise history.
In his prime, Green put up solid numbers—he averaged about 15 points and nine boards in 1994.
During 10 seasons in L.A., Byron Scott put up about 15 points per game and won three titles as part of Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” Lakers.
Scott ranks eighth with 5,126 field goals in Lakers history and fourth in steals.
Scott has now been a coach for 13 years in the NBA, but what he brought to Los Angeles as a player can’t be overlooked.
During 12 years in Los Angeles, Michael Cooper won five titles with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Cooper was a lockdown defender—he was named first-team All-Defense five times—and efficient shooter (47 percent from the field in his career). He was also named Defensive Player of the Year in 1987.
George Mikan was a member of the Minneapolis Lakers for his entire career. He averaged 23.1 points and 13.4 rebounds, winning five championships over the course of his time in the NBA.
Mikan used the hook-shot before it was famous, and did it as well as anyone in the history of the game. Perhaps his most important, and impressive, career accolade is being one of the first players ever inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Mikan ranks third in franchise history for rebounds per game behind Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.
James Worthy played a huge part in three title runs for Los Angeles.
The first pick of the 1982 draft ranks third in franchise history for steals, sixth in points and seventh in field goal percentage.
"Big Game James" averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 boards and three assists throughout his career in purple and gold.
Elgin Baylor spent his entire career as a Laker, accumulating the most rebounds and fourth-most points in franchise history.
Baylor was extremely athletic (watch him dunk on Bill Russell here) and was an efficient scorer around the rim.
He never won a championship, but put up 27.4 points per game, which is the best average in Lakers history, and 13.5 boards in 14 seasons.
Jerry West is a Lakers icon.
According to NBA.com, West was the third player in league history to reach 25,000 points. West won his lone title in 1972 and finished his 14-year career in Los Angeles with 27 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.
West ranks just behind Kobe Bryant as the leading scorer in Lakers history.
Shaquille O’Neal was unstoppable.
The "Big Diesel" won three championships in L.A. with Kobe Bryant and was named MVP in all three of those title runs. In addition, O’Neal ranks second in franchise history in points (27), rebounds (11.8) and blocks (2.5) per game.
He spent eight seasons in Los Angeles, dominating the league in a way that has yet to be paralleled by another big man since he left the Lakers.
"Wilt the Stilt" Chamberlain won just a single championship in L.A., but is the franchise leader in rebounds per game (19.2) and field-goal percentage (60.5 percent).
Chamberlain won four MVP awards and was the NBA Finals MVP in 1971, though none of the regular-season MVPs came with the Lakers. Nonetheless, the "Big Dipper" averaged 30.1 points over the course of his professional career.
There is no question he’s one of the greatest players ever. And even though it wasn't with the Lakers, Chamberlain's 100-point game needs to be shown some love here.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was unreal.
During his 14 seasons in Los Angeles, he put up about 22 points and won five titles alongside Magic Johnson. He ranks first in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and blocks and ranks second in games and minutes played. Abdul-Jabbar is also the franchise's third-leading scorer.
He helped pave the way for the Lakers to become the dynasty that they are, revolutionizing the game in terms of post play.
Magic Johnson is the second-greatest Laker of all time.
He’s been in 12 All-Star games, has three MVP trophies, three NBA Finals MVP awards and five titles. His 11.2 assists per game over the course of his 13-year career is the greatest in the history of the NBA.
He holds the franchise record for total assists and assists per game and is fifth in points scored.
As Kenny Smith of TNT pointed out, Johnson was the most dynamic Laker ever. He brought such a diverse set of skills and made every one of his teammates better.
But despite Magic's greatness and all of his accolades, he isn't No. 1.
Kobe Bryant is the greatest Laker of all time.
The Mamba has won five championships in Los Angeles and accumulated some serious hardware along the ride. He was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, won NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010, made 15 All-Star appearances and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Bryant holds the franchise record in field goals, three-point field goals, points, games and minutes played, steals and free throws.