Lakers Draft Day Success: Magic, Kobe, West... and Kareem?

Chirs MossContributor IJune 18, 2009

26 Mar 1996:  Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers works against the Orlando Magic during a game played at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Lakers won the game, 113-91. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA  /Allsport

Historically, the Los Angeles Lakers have been quiet on most draft nights.  However when they make moves, they're usually moves where everyone takes notice; and most importantly, they're usually the right moves. 

In what figures to be another quiet draft day for the Lakers, let's look back at the five draft moves that made the most short-term and long-term noise throughout Laker history.

#1 – Earvin "Magic" Johnson: The Greatest Laker of All (1979)
An easy pick for the top spot for both immediate and long-term impact, Magic stepped right in and immediately made his presence felt on the Lakers. 

As a rookie, he averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for the season as well as being selected as a starter for the NBA All-Star Game.  As stellar of a regular season as he had, Magic's legacy was born during the 1980 NBA Finals when he replaced injured starting center and NBA regular season MVP, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in the deciding Game Six of the NBA Finals and led the Lakers to victory. 

During his playing career, he picked up four more championships for the Lakers, three MVP awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards, and two All-Star Game MVP awards.  After his playing career ended, he later became minority owner of the Lakers and an active member of the Los Angeles community.  If one were to select the "Greatest Laker," the only other man who could have a respectable argument would be…

#2 – Jerry West: “Zeke from Cabin Creek” to “Mr. Clutch” (1960)
The Logo is the only man to ever win an NBA Finals MVP award while being on the losing team.  Jerry West was drafted in 1960 and had been with the Lakers organization for over 40 years.  On top of what he accomplished on the court, he did a lot more for the Lakers off of it.  While he only helped the Lakers win one title as a player, he was the driving force behind seven championships as the Lakers General Manager.  He was also responsible for…

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#3 – Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher: Dynasty Building through the Draft (1996)
The reigning Finals MVP’s and the reigning Laker hero’s careers are so intertwined that it’s hard not to put them together, especially since they were both in the draft class of 1996.  Jerry West fell in love with Kobe Bryant’s skills as a 17-year-old coming out of high school and traded a proven center and fan favorite, Vlade Divac, to get his draft rights from the then-Charlotte Hornets.

Fisher was taken 24th in the same draft.  Enough has been said in recent days about the Black Mamba’s individual merits and Derek Fisher’s clutch shooting, tenacity, and leadership that it doesn’t need to be repeated again.  They’ve been a part of four NBA championship teams together with the potential for more.  They’re the Lakers’ version of the Draft Dynamic Duo, narrowly beating out…

#4 – David Meyers and Junior Bridgeman: Creating the “Showtime” Era’s First Building Block (1975)
If you don’t recognize those names, you’re not alone.  They were drafted as picks two and eight, respectively, in the 1975 draft, then were subsequently traded in a blink of an eye along with Brian Winters and Elmore Smith to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

The former Lew Alcindor won three of his six MVP trophies while in the purple and gold and went on to win five NBA Titles with the Lakers.  He currently serves as an assistant coach with the Lakers.  Abdul-Jabbar anchored the late-80’s “Showtime” era along with Magic and…

#5 – James Worthy: The Most Overlooked Laker (1982)
“Big Game James” was selected first overall in the 1982 Draft after the Lakers won the NBA title the previous season.  The Lakers’ front office made a number of moves to get this pick and the lottery was instituted soon thereafter, ensuring something like this would not happen again. 

Worthy was a Hall of Fame player, an NBA Finals MVP, named one of the 50 Greatest Players during the NBA’s 50th Anniversary season in 1996, and a seven time All-Star.  He’s not given nearly enough credit for the success of the Lakers in the 80’s or for his overall game.

The Lakers are in the two-team conversation (the other team being the Boston Celtics, for the record) for most successful franchise in NBA history.  A lot of the success has been built through the players the Lakers have drafted and the moves they made on draft day. 

Even though most observers expect this to be a relatively uneventful draft for the NBA Champions, the Lakers may make some unexpected noise.  No matter what moves they make this season or forthcoming seasons, it’d be difficult to break into this top five draft moves in Laker history.