To be named the greatest player of all-time for a particular franchise is a tough accomplishment, but to be named the greatest player of one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, with so great players to have blessed their uniforms, almost seems impossible to name. However, when looked at through a microscopic lens, one player may actually make a lot of sense.
To weed out players, especially great ones, certain criteria had to be established. For one, the player had to have spent all or most of his career with that franchise, especially the years of his major accomplishments. With this criteria being established, that would eliminate the great Wilt Chamberlain, who spent his first six years with the Warrior franchise (originally from Philadelphia, then moved to San Francisco), the next three with the Sixers in Philadelphia and his last five in Los Angeles. Wilt undoubtedly is one of the greatest players in NBA history, but for this reason alone, he is eliminated from this debate.
We can also eliminate Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, former known as Lew Alcindor (actual name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor), although just barely. He spent the first six of his illustrious 20 year career in Milwaukee, where along with Oscar Robertson, he won an NBA title and garnered two of his unprecedented six league MVP's. Kareem was a part of five Laker championships in the 80s, but in his twilight years, those championship teams were lead by another greatest Laker of All-Time nominee. Kareem would most aptly be named to the greatest player to ever be a Laker, since this debate involves those who have played their entire career as a Laker.
That narrows the choices to about four players. The first of these four, or our fourth greatest Laker of all-time, is Elgin Baylor. Elgin spent his entire 13 year career as a Laker, being drafted in 1958 by the Minneapolis Lakers and moved to Los Angeles with the franchise. Throughout his career, Elgin racked up monstrous stats and accolades. He was named Rookie of the year, averaging 24.9 pts a game and 15 rebounds. The year before his arrival the Lakers finished in last. In his rookie campaign, he lead them to a first place finish. They made their way to the finals to face the Celtics, but unfortunately was on the losing end of the first 4-0 sweep in Finals history.
Baylor lead the Lakers to seven more NBA Finals appearances, but never once coming away with the title. He was best known for some of his individual accomplishments, like in a game 5 win over the Celtics in the NBA finals, he scored 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds, which is still a standing record.
Unfortunately, nine games into the 70-71' season, Baylor retired because of knee problems. Ironically, the game after his retirement is when that Laker team embarked on their record 33 game winning streak and went on to win the title.
Although Elgin Baylor never brought a title to Los Angeles, his number is still retired and is considered the fourth greatest Laker of all-time. (The finale due in Part 3)
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