Pau Gasol, and The 10 Best Los Angeles Lakers Big Men Of All Time

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IDecember 5, 2010

Pau Gasol, and The 10 Best Los Angeles Lakers Big Men Of All Time

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    Pau Gasol
    Pau GasolHarry How/Getty Images

    Pau Gasol is having an MVP-caliber season and he is quickly climbing up the rankings of the best Los Angeles Lakers big men of all-time.

    Lakers fans have been privileged to witness some of the most dominant players to ever play basketball, including Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal.

    The center position is the most important in basketball and the Lakers having so many great big men over the years is one of the most important reasons for their 16 NBA titles.

    Every decade, the Lakers have had a big man who is among the NBA greats.

    Now let's look at the 10 best Lakers big men of all-time. Is Gasol in the top three?

10.) Lamar Odom

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    LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 21:  Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Lamar Odom is not a typical power forward or center because of his amazing athleticism. Odom can dribble the basketball and lead the break better than most forwards in the NBA, and he is nearly seven-feet tall.

    Odom is one of the most versatile players ever. His ballhandling skills allow him to run the offense when he sees a mismatch or when Derek Fisher is on the bench. 

    But at 6'10", he sees plenty of time in the paint, and he has averaged 13.5 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game in his six seasons as a Laker.

    Odom is the ultimate sixth man, who gives coach Phil Jackson a little bit of everything. By the time he retires, he might be higher on this list.

9.) Sam Perkins

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    1990-1991:  Forward Sam Perkins of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for two during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Sam Perkins only spent two-and-a-half seasons as a Laker, but he was an important part of L.A.'s 1991 NBA Finals team.

    Sam was a very good outside shooter, something the franchise had never seen before from the center position.

    Perkins averaged 14.6 points and eight rebounds per game in his brief career in Los Angeles, and was traded to Seattle in 1993 for Benoit Benjamin and Doug Christie. Looking back, this was one of the worst trades by the Lakers in recent memory.

8.) Mychal Thompson

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    1988-1989:  Mychal Thompson of the Los Angeles Lakers sinks the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Mychal Thompson is an under-appreciated part of the Lakers' title teams from 1987 and 1988. 

    Thompson was acquired in a trade with San Antonio in 1987, after the Lakers realized they needed a solid backup center to help them when the aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar needed a rest. 

    Thompson gave the Lakers a very good center to go against the twin towers of the Houston Rockets, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, as well as Mark Eaton of the Utah Jazz.

    Thompson could have started on many teams, but he accepted his role coming off the bench and made a crucial impact in the Lakers' championship teams.

7.) A.C. Green

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    27 Apr 2000: A.C. Green #45 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to the action during the NBA Western Conference Playoffs Round One Game against the Sacramento Kings at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Kings 113-89.
    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    A.C. Green is a guy every championship team has, someone who does the dirty work and provides defense and hustle.

    Green became very important to the Lakers in his rookie season and, by 1987, coach Pat Riley felt he needed to start.

    Green was an NBA All-Star in 1990 and he was a crucial member of multiple Lakers title teams. Green was very athletic and his speed was a perfect fit for Magic Johnson's Showtime, fast-break style offense.

    Green is also known as the NBA's version of Cal Ripken. From 1986 to 2001, Green played in 1,192 consecutive games.

6.) Elden Campbell

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    7 Feb 1999:  Elden Campbell #41 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles during the game against the Utah Jazz at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The Jazz defeated the Lakers 100-91Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Elden Campbell lived the dream of every kid born in Los Angeles: to play for the purple and gold. The L.A. native was the Lakers' leading scorer in the 1990s. 

    In addition to being a consistent scorer, Campbell was an excellent shot blocker. He is third all-time in the Lakers' record books with 1,022 blocked shots. 

    As a rookie during the 1991 NBA Finals, Campbell showed no signs of being afraid of the bright lights. In his playoff career, he averaged 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. 

    Most of his playoff appearances, however, came later in his Lakers career when he was not the starting center (he was Shaq's backup).

    Campbell was a solid all-around center for the Lakers, and one of their most underrated players ever.

5.) Pau Gasol

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on November 28, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Pau Gasol is the most skilled big man the Los Angeles Lakers have ever had. His passing abilities are rarely found in guys his size, and he runs the floor better than most centers too.

    His ability to play both power forward and center well has been crucial with Andrew Bynum often injured.

    Gasol also has a great offensive post game and he is a great rebounder. His outside shooting makes him very valuable as well, and he can easily post up defenders in the paint or shoot the 18-foot jumper.

    He has been the perfect compliment to fellow Lakers star Kobe Bryant and the two of them have been responsible for the Lakers' championship teams in 2009 and 2010.

    Gasol, once labeled a "soft" player, has transformed his game into a tougher, meaner, and more determined style of play.

    So far this season, Gasol, not Kobe Bryant, is the Lakers MVP.

4.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Mar 1988:  Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers in action during a game against the New Jersey Nets at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    One of the most recognizable players in the history of basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played the last 14 seasons of his storied career in Los Angeles.

    During his first season with the Lakers, Kareem averaged 27.7 points and 16.9 rebounds per game, earning his fourth NBA MVP award.

    With the Lakers in the 1980s, Kareem played in eight NBA Finals, winning five of them. He was never the primary option on offense, but his consistent scoring and famed sky-hook made him a very tough player to defend. 

    Kareem's durability could never be questioned. Until the end of his career, he played in at least 76 games per season, often having to defend younger and quicker players. 

    Kareem is one of the best NBA players ever and his ability to be productive for over two decades during two different NBA eras is a stunning achievement.

3.) Wilt Chamberlain

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    Wilt Chamberlain (far right)
    Wilt Chamberlain (far right)Ken Levine/Getty Images

    Wilt Chamberlain is a top-three player in NBA history. He was the Shaquille O'Neal of the 1960s and 70s. He was completely unstoppable both offensively and defensively. 

    Wilt was traded to the Lakers from Philadelphia prior to the 1969 NBA season, and he was an important part of the Lakers' 1972 championship team, one of the best teams ever.

    Wilt averaged over 18 rebounds per game in each of his five seasons with the purple and gold, and he played on four NBA Finals teams. His poor performances in the 1969 and 1970 NBA Finals hurts his position on this list, but these came at the end of his career.

    He played in four All-Star games as a member of the Lakers, and he will always be known as one of the best players ever.

2.) George Mikan

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    George Mikan was one of the NBA's first superstars. A truly dominant center, Mikan was the man responsible for the Minneapolis Lakers' championship winning teams.

    Mikan's achievements are hard to put into a historical perspective because MVP awards, All-Star games, and many statistical categories were not part of the NBA yet.

    His impact on the game is unlike few others, however, and his dominance was the reason the NBA enacted monumental changes like the 24-second shot clock, the 12-foot lane and the defensive goaltending rule. 

    Mikan averaged 23.1 points and 13.4 rebounds per game during his career with the Lakers, and he is one of the best players ever. Few players have impacted the game like Mikan and his career is unfortunately lost among the Lakers legends.

1.) Shaquille O'Neal

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    AUBURN HILLS, MI - JUNE 10:  Shaquille O'Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a foul during the second quarter of game three of the 2004 NBA Finals June 10, 2004 against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michiga
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Shaquille O'Neal is the most dominant player of the last 25 years. Shaq, not Kobe, was responsible for the Lakers' championship winning teams from 2000-02.

    In 15 NBA Finals games from the 2000, 2001, and 2002 NBA Finals, Shaq averaged 35.9 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. He won two NBA MVP awards (2000 and 2004), but to be honest, from 1998-2004, the NBA MVP award was really the "best player other than Shaq award," because he deserved it every year.

    Shaq's strength changed the NBA and he is one of the hardest players to defend ever. He was a seven-time All-Star with the Lakers and he scored at least 26 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds per game in his first seven seasons with the Lakers.

    Few players have dominated the NBA like Shaquille O'Neal, and he is the best Lakers big man of all-time. 

Recap, Agree Or Disagree

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    CHICAGO - 1989:  NBA Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to the crowd after receiving an award during a ceremony at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois in 1989. (Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers have been blessed with many of the best big men to ever play professional basketball. This talent at the center and power forward positions is a major reason they have 16 NBA championships, second only to the 17 won by the Boston Celtics.

    Two of the most dominating players ever, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal were Los Angeles icons and had great seasons for title winning Lakers teams.

    The effect George Mikan had on the NBA cannot be undervalued and he was truly a great NBA player.

    The current Lakers on this list still have a lot of years to prove they deserve a higher place. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are still pretty young and have a great opportunity to win more titles.

    Did I miss someone, or is a player way too low or high? Either way, there's no doubting the talent of the Lakers big men throughout the history of their franchise.

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