It’s tough to look back historically at a franchise that has been around since before my parents were even born, but it’s time to do just that as we glance back at the top 25 Lakers of all-time.
And in a list of players donning Lakers jerseys from as early as the 1950s to as late as the 2000s, let’s quickly count down the best 25 Lakers in the history of one of the NBA’s most dominant franchises (beginning with a handful of honorable mentions).
When I first began this list, I had well over 30 names written down before narrowing it down to 25; however, I’ll refer to the last five players to make the cut as my honorable mentions.
Those Lakers players are as follows: Derek Fisher (30) - Fisher would likely be much higher on my list if not for his excessive dirty plays since becoming a member of LA’s team; Pau Gasol (29) and Lamar Odom (28) - as good as both Gasol and Odom are, no one would know who in the world they are if not for Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant (they are great role players, but not top-25 worthy); Vlade Divac (27) - Divac may have had a pretty remarkable career while in LA, but I truly believe the other 25 guys mentioned are better all-around players; Rick Fox (26) - Fox just barely missed the list, and it’s tough to leave him off (but I believe Elden Campbell is more deserving of the spot).
Campbell was selected as the 27th pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, and during his nine-year career with LA Campbell is the leading scorer for that decade for the Lakers.
That in and of itself should make Campbell top-25 worthy, but he was also a very good defender and was known for blocking shots -- swatting away 1,602 shots in his career.
During his six-year career, Hundley averaged 8.4 points per game while garnering over 1,400 assists.
Due to bad knees, his career ended at a young age of 28.
Hundley’s best season came during the 1959-1960 season when he averaged 12.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game.
The Lakers would not have made it to the title stand in 2009 if not for Ariza, and that in and of itself makes him worthy of being in the top-25 of all-time.
In addition, Ariza averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 50-percent from 3-point range in the playoffs for LA.
Rice may have been with LA for a little over a year (and he’s the only one-year wonder on the list), but accorhttp://bleacherreport.com/slideshows/359574-top-25-lakers-of-all-time-covering-everything-from-elden-to-kareem/editding to Wikipedia Rice averaged 18 points per game during the 1999 playoffs when LA was swept by San Antonio.
The following year, Rice would play a pivotal role in the Lakers 2000 NBA Championship run over the Indiana Pacers.
Plus, can anyone truly shoot three-pointers like Rice did? He ranks fifth in NBA history with 1,559 three-point field goals made through his 15-year career.
Van Exel was selected by the Lakers in the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft and was taken 37th overall.
During his time in LA, Van Exel (a.k.a. “Nick the Quick”) averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 assists per game, finishing in the top 10 in the assists category twice.
Van Exel also had a very deadly jump shot, which he used to his advantage throughout his career in LA.
McMillian was drafted by LA as a first-round pick in 1970 and was selected 13th overall.
In 1972, he averaged 19.1 points per game in the playoffs in helping the Lakers to an NBA Championship.
Jones was selected 10th overall in the 1994 NBA Draft by LA and in his rookie season he averaged 14.0 points per game and 2.05 steals per game.
During his five years with the Lakers, he spent two of those years as a member of the All-Star team.
LA selected Green as the 23rd overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, and he quickly fit into the Lakers flow.
Green led the Lakers in rebounding for six of his eight-plus years with the team and was part of capturing back-to-back championships in 1987 and 1988.
Perhaps the thing that sticks out the most about Green was his defense, where he constantly stunned opposing players with his skills.
How can anyone have a top 25 list without including a guy named Happy?
Hairston was a member of the 1971-72 NBA Championship that won 33 games in a row; in addition, he pulled down 1,045 rebounds while teammate Wilt Chamberlain grabbed 1,572 boards (the only time two NBA teammates have grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds in a season).
LaRusso, a Dartmouth College product, was taken by the Lakers in the second round of the 1959 NBA Draft.
His best season with LA came during the 1961-62 season, when he averaged 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game.
Nixon was taken in the first round of the 1977 NBA Draft by the Lakers and was selected 22nd overall.
He also helped LA win two championships (1980 and 1982) while leading the team in scoring in the 1982 playoffs.
Although Wilkes was originally drafted by the Golden State Warriors, he spent a majority of his career in a LA Lakers jersey.
During his time in LA, Wilkes played in two All-Star games (1981 and 1983) and won three championships with the Lakers (1980, 1982, and 1985).
Cooper was selected by LA as a third-round pick (number 60 overall) in the 1978 NBA Draft.
While donning a Lakers jersey, Cooper was a five-time NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988) and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1987).
Originally drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the 1983 NBA Draft, Scott was traded to LA in exchange for Norm Nixon.
Scott was a key part of three NBA Championships with the Lakers (1985, 1987, and 1988) and was the team’s starting point guard from 1984 until 1993.
He returned to LA for his final season in 1996-97, helping to become a mentor to young guys such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
McAdoo was the LA Lakers sixth-man during their title runs in 1982 and 1985.
The big man was also known historically as a player that wasn’t afraid to take shots from the perimeter, making him nearly unstoppable offensively for the Lakers.
You know it’s getting good when we get to the final 10 spots on an All-Time greatest list, and Goodrich fits into this pinnacle of the list with ease.
Selected by the LA Lakers in the 1965 NBA Draft, Goodrich was a five-time NBA All-Star, although only four of those years were spent in LA (one of which he was with the Phoenix Suns, 1969), and led the Lakers in scoring during the 1974-75 season while averaging 22.6 points per game.
Horry was Mr. Clutch for LA on numerous occasions and I believe he is often overlooked in top-player lists for the team, winning three consecutive rings with the Lakers (2000-2002).
According to Wikipedia, Horry made a game-clinching three-pointer in at least one game in four straight playoff series (starting with the 2001 NBA Finals), but perhaps the most important came in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings.
Worthy is absolutely worthy of getting this position in the list of best Lakers of all-time, spending his entire 12-year career with LA.
In addition to being a three-time NBA Champion, Worthy was also a seven-time All-Star and was named the 1988 NBA Finals MVP.
Before the hate email begins pouring in, give me a chance to finish up my slideshow first in explaining why I believe there are six better Lakers in the history of the franchise.
Bryant absolutely deserves top-10 attention when talking about the greatest LA players ever, as no one can argue that the Lakers star guard is a phenomenal player.
During his 14 years and counting with LA, Bryant has won four championships, is a 12-time NBA All-Star, and was twice the NBA scoring champion (2006-2007).
Baylor was selected as the number one pick by the Lakers in the 1958 NBA Draft, and boy did they make a wise decision.
Baylor spent his entire 13-year career with LA, was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, and was an 11-time NBA All-Star.
According to Wikipedia, from the 1960-61 season to the 1962-63 season, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3 and 34.0 points per game, respectively (his 38.3 points per game is second only to Wilt Chamberlain).
Once again, I know many out there may believe Kobe deserves this spot over Shaq; but O’Neal (at least in my opinion) brings more to the table for a team than Bryant.
Shaq won three consecutive rings with LA from 2000-2002 and was also a three-time NBA Finals MVP during that stretch.
O’Neal also spent eight years in LA as an All-Star and was the NBA Scoring Champion in 2000.
Selected as the number two overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft, West spent his entire career as a member of the LA Lakers.
In addition to being a 14-time NBA All-Star, West was also the 1969 NBA Finals MVP, an NBA Champion in 1972, and was named the NBA All-Star MVP that season as well.
West, the first draft pick ever of the newly relocated Lakers franchise in LA, averaged a career-high 31.0 points per game during the 1964-65 NBA season (surpassed by only Wilt Chamberlain).
The top three spots had to be one of the most difficult choices in terms of ranking the best Lakers ever, but I feel these final three players absolutely deserve the recognition.
Chamberlain holds numerous NBA records, but today we’re going to focus on what he did in LA, including bringing a title to the Lakers franchise in 1972.
In the 1970-71 NBA season, Chamberlain averaged 20.7 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
Drafted as the number one pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, Johnson spent his entire playing career in LA.
A five-time NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and three-time NBA MVP (1987, 1989, 1990), Johnson was also a 12-time All-Star and a three-time NBA Finals MVP (1980, 1982, 1987).
If those numbers alone don’t make you believe Magic is worthy of a number two position, I really don’t know what else to say…
When talking about the best of the bests in Lakers history, I believe this one goes to none other than Abdul-Jabbar.
During his remarkable career in LA, Abdul-Jabbar won five NBA Championships with the Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and was the NBA Finals MVP in 1985.
In his first season in LA, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 27.7 points per game while leading the league in rebounding, blocked shots, and minutes played.
From there, things only got better for the Lakers and their superstar, and with the signing of Magic Johnson in 1979, a dynasty was quickly being built…
[References: Bill Simmons’ “The Book of Basketball” and ESPNLosAngeles.com; majority of images found using Google Image Search.]
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org