After the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the NBA championship—their 10th in Los Angeles—and as I was watching the fans celebrate on TV in front of Staples Center and at the Coliseum, I started thinking about who would be on the all-time Laker team.
In answering this, I've put together the men who in my opinion are the twelve best players in the history of this elite franchise, beginning with the starting five:
Point Guard: Earvin "Magic" Johnson
How could I possibly not choose this man, arguably the greatest all-around point guard ever? He ran "Showtime" in the 1980s to the tune of five titles.
And he's a tremendous civic leader to boot, owning a theater chain and a part of the team he once led on the court. If Magic ran for mayor of Los Angeles, he would win with at least 80 percent of the vote.
Guard: Jerry West
One of the quintessential players of the 1960s and early 70s. His silhouette is on the NBA logo—he had that much of an impact on the league at a time when impact players were needed.
On top of that, his tenure as the Lakers' general manager during the team's Showtime heyday will never be forgotten.
Forward: Elgin Baylor
Partnered with West to lead the Lakers to 10 Finals appearances, a championship in 1972, and an all-time professional sports record of 33 straight wins that year. Along with West, this longtime Clippers general manager helped to define that era.
Forward: James Worthy
One of the key Lakers during the Showtime 80s.
Magic may have gotten more of the headlines and the glory, but I honestly feel that without "Big Game" James and his hard-nosed steady play, those five championships would not have been won.
Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
"The Captain". The all-time leading scorer in the history of basketball, with a devastating and indefensible sky hook. This legend was a six-time NBA champ, including five with Los Angeles.
I'm fairly sure that people will agree with me on this starting lineup. Let's list the rest of this all-time Lakers squad:
Kobe Bryant, Guard
What can I say about the man that hasn't already been said? If Kobe is not voted player of this decade, then the world makes no sense whatsoever.
I know people are probably upset over the fact that I didn't put this future legend in the all-time starting five. If it were not for Magic and West, he would be a starter here; it was a tough decision.
As such, he's my sixth man on this roster.
Shaquille O'Neal, Center
Also known as "The Diesel" and "Superman." He was an overpowering big man and part of perhaps the most dominating hoops duo of the last 20 years.
If he had been better at making his free throws, which was definitely his Kryptonite, Shaq would have been the perfect center.
Michael Cooper, Guard
Cooop! With his high-knee socks and lock-down defense in the age of Showtime, this hard-nosed cager was the ultimate sixth man during that time.
And he's been a very good coach with the WNBA's L.A. Sparks, winnning two titles with them.
A.C. Green, Forward
Another key man during the Showtime years, he was the NBA's answer to Lou Gehrig, as he went roughly fifteen years without missing a game.
No one else in sports had more character or better morals.
Jamaal Wilkes, Forward
Better known as "Silk," he helped to start the Showtime dominance in the early 80s and had an extremely smooth jump shot, hence the nickname.
Wilt Chamberlain, Center
It would be a crime not to include this man, the key factor in the Lakers' 1972 title run.
Chamberlain was probably the greatest player ever in the pre-1970 era. He once scored 100 points in a game, for Pete's sake!
Wilt was the kind of player who was so dominant, he made most games pointless—except when he went up against Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics, of course.
George Mikan, Center
The Lakers' best player from their Minneapolis days, he was one of the first NBA stars and definitely the first Lakers star.
He dominated the 1950s the way Michael Jordan dominated the 1990s, and the way Kobe has dominated this decade. That's why he needs to be included on this team.
And as far as co-coaches, I'm going to go with Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Riley headed Showtime in the 80s and the Zen Master engineered the Laker success of this decade after his decade of dominance with the Chicago Bulls and Air Jordan during the 90s.
Not to mention breaking Red Auerbach's record of nine NBA championships with this latest triumph.
* * *
Those are fairly obvious picks, don't you think?
Well, there you have it—my picks for the all-time Laker team.
Hopefully you'll agree with them and concur with me on these great men of the hardwood.
If you somehow don't agree with who I have chosen, however, then the debating can begin now.