Best Role Player from Each of the L.A. Lakers' Championship Teams
While the efforts of the average NBA role player are overshadowed by the game’s superstars, one is hard-pressed to find a team that can succeed without them during the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers are no different.
For every Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, there was a James Worthy and Byron Scott.
For every Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain, there was a Robert Horry and Happy Hairston.
Since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers have won 11 NBA championships. Which means there were many different role players who contributed to each of those 11 title-winning teams.
But who was the best role player on each of the Lakers' championship winning teams?
Let’s take a look.
With all due respect to the championships the franchise won in Minneapolis, this article will only focus on the championships won in Los Angeles.
1972: Happy Hairston
1972 was a banner year for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team went on a record-setting 33-game win streak, accumulated 69 regular season victories and won their first championship since moving to Los Angeles.
Overshadowed by the efforts of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston averaged a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds), in both the regular season and playoffs.
Photo selected from NBA-SIM.com.
1980: Jamaal Wilkes
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For obvious reasons, it’s tough to declare Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a role player, despite Jamaal Wilkes being the team’s second-leading scorer in both the regular season and playoffs.
During the 1980 postseason, Wilkes averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists, as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers for the team’s first championship since 1972.
1982: Norm Nixon
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On a team loaded with Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon quietly averaged 17 points a game in 1982.
When the playoffs arrived, Nixon raised his game even more. Nixon averaged 20 points and eight assists, as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
1985: James Worthy
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During the Los Angeles Lakers’ run of three championships in four years in the 1980s (1985, 1987-88), James Worthy proved to be a perfect complement to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
During the 1985 postseason, Worthy raised his regular season scoring average by four points, from 17 to 21.
Worthy played a big part in the Los Angeles Lakers beating the Boston Celtics in the 1985 NBA Finals, a year after Boston beat Los Angeles in seven games.
1987: James Worthy
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James Worthy lived up to his nickname “Big Game” again during the team’s 1987 championship season.
During the regular season, Worthy ranked second on the team in scoring and was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, averaging 23 points a contest.
1988: Byron Scott
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At this point, it’s getting harder to consider James Worthy a role player, after leading the team in scoring during the 1987 postseason. In addition, Worthy eventually lead the team in scoring during the 1988 postseason, en route to being named Finals MVP.
In 1988, Byron Scott emerged as the team’s best role player. Scott led the team in scoring during the 87-88 campaign, averaging 21 points a contest.
Scott continued to prove his worth during the playoffs. He averaged 19 points a contest, as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons to claim their second consecutive championship.
2000: Glen Rice
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Glen Rice helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship since 1988, averaging 15 points a game.
Although Rice’s points per game dropped from 15 to 12 during the postseason, his ability to hit three-point shots prevented opposing teams from focusing their attention solely on Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
2001: Derek Fisher
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Derek Fisher missed the first 62 games of the 2000-01 season, due to a foot injury. When he returned, Fisher helped lead the team to 15 wins in their last 20 games.
During the Los Angeles Lakers’ historical 2001 postseason, in which the team only lost one game en route to winning their second consecutive championship, Fisher averaged 13 points a game (a career playoff high) and shot over 50 percent from three-point land.
The Lakers likely would have won their second consecutive championship without Fisher. But without his timely three-point shooting, they may not have finished 15-1 in the process.
2002: Robert Horry
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Not only did Robert Horry have his best postseason as Laker in 2001-2002, averaging nine points, eight rebounds and three assists, but he hit some clutch shots along the way.
In the team’s first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Horry hit a clutch three-pointer in the deciding moments of Game 3, sealing the three-game sweep of the Blazers.
The best was yet to come, however.
In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings, Horry hit one of the most memorable game-winning shots in league history, preventing the Lakers from falling into a 3-1 series hole.
Had it not been for Horry’s shot, it’s very possible the Lakers would not have captured their third consecutive championship.
2009: Lamar Odom
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During the 2008-09 season, Lamar Odom averaged 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists a game.
Odom finished the 2009 postseason averaging 12 points and nine rebounds a game, shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Along with being the team’s best role player, Odom has proved to be the Los Angeles Lakers’ most versatile player. Odom can comfortably play all five positions.
2010: Lamar Odom
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While Lamar Odom’s 2010 postseason numbers weren’t as impressive (nine points, eight rebounds and 46 percent shooting from the field) as they were in 2009, he remained the Los Angeles Lakers’ best role player.
In the conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, Odom averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds, which included a 19-point, 19-rebound effort, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 128-107 victory in Game 1.