(Disclaimer: Being the best Laker does not necessarily equate to being a better all time player in a historical sense. A combination of talent, longevity with the team, and impact on organization are what helped me compile this list.)
The Los Angeles Lakers, more so than any other NBA franchise, have employed the greatest collection of top talent in the league. There have been so many great players that have played for the Lakers, that by naming the top 5, means I will be leaving out many great names. So, with all due respect to James Worthy, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Paul Gasol, and many others, here are my top 5.
Coming in at number five, is the “Big Aristotle”, Shaquille O’Neal. While O’Neal’s exit was acrimonious, his eight years in the purple and gold were legendarily dominant. During much of his time in L.A., he was the best player in the league and the main cog on the three-peat Lakers. There have only been a handful of players in the history of the game, that have been as good as O’Neal was at his peak, fortunately for the Lakers, that coincided with his time in L.A.
Jerry West, “The Logo”, is probably underrated as a player at this point. His unbelievable accomplishments as General Manager of the Lakers from the 1980′s to early 2000′s are extraordinary. He helped supplement the the Showtime Lakers with more and more talent after he took over, and then acquired both O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant in the same summer. As a player he went to nine NBA championships, only winning one, because unfortunately, most of them were against the Bill Russell-led Celtics. However, he was a vital part of that first championship team the Lakers won in Los Angeles, and is the only player from the losing team to have won a NBA Finals MVP, which he won in 1969.
Kobe Bryant comes in 3rd on this prestigious list. Trust me, I know this is ludicrous to many Bryant fans, but that is how great this franchise has been in regards of talent. He’s been with the team since they chose him out of high school, the summer O’Neal was signed to the team. Truly one of the elite scorers in the history of the game, a tenacious defender in his prime, a remarkable playmaker when the mood struck, and 5 time NBA champion. He will surely be getting a statue in front of the Staples Center very soon.
The most prolific scorer in the history of the game, with the ultimate offensive weapon, the legendary “Sky” hookshot, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the anchor for the Lakers throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s. Without the “Captain”, “Showtime” wouldn’t happen, at least not to the glorious heights they would accomplish during the 80′s. Due to his aloof, surly personality, he is somehow underrated at times as far as his impact on the NBA and the Lakers are concerned, but no doubt about it, he is one of the four or five greatest players ever. Even better than our number 1 Laker….
Earvin “Magic” Johnson became synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers due to his breathtaking style of play, and his effervescent personality, and contagious smile. He played his entire career in Los Angeles, and helped lift the NBA into the stratosphere. The best point guard, and passer of all time, he could also score just about as well as anybody when he needed to. While his defense was nothing spectacular, his team defense was strong enough. He was the engineer of “Showtime”, one of the most successful and appealing brands of NBA basketball of all time. Johnson is without a doubt the best Laker ever.