Greatest All-Time Starting 5: Los Angeles Lakers
Here at Off the Glass we’re taking on the arduous task of going through every NBA teams’ greatest possible starting five, using players that have played for that franchise. A player at each position (Point Guard through Center) will be selected, along with a 6th man who can be any position.
This is how it works:
Players selected must have played at least two full seasons for the franchise
The selection will be based on a combination of statistics, accomplishments/accolades and their significance to the franchise in question
Players had to have predominantly played at that particular position for at least one season to be eligible
Let’s get started.
Los Angeles Lakers
*Photo via Getty Images
Point Guard – Magic Johnson: He was so good on the court that people have forgotten his name, and simply call him MAGIC. In the eyes of many (and I agree), Magic Johnson is the greatest Laker of all-time and, in my own opinion, one of the 3 greatest players to grace an NBA court. The ultimate teammate and locker-room guy, Magic may be the greatest leader in Lakers history also. He could do everything on the court, which highlighted by his 138 career triple doubles and career averages of 20 PPG, 7 RPG, 11 APG and 2 SPG. The man could literally play every position on the floor. A natural point guard, Magic played center during the 1980 NBA Finals, his rookie season. Not only did the Lakers win the championship, but Magic was named Final MVP. Although his career was cut short due to very unfortunate circumstances, Magic still managed to win 5 NBA Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 Regular Season MVPs, and was named to every All-NBA 1st team from 1983 to 1991.
Shooting Guard – Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant may be the most polarizing player in NBA history. Those who love him, really love him, and those who hate him really hate him. But at this point his greatness is irrefutable. The man is not only the greatest 2-guard in Lakers history; he is the greatest 2-guard of all time, not named Michael Jordan. 5 NBA Championships, 2 Finals MVP, 1 Regular Season MVP, and an 18 time all-star, Kobe is one of the 10 greatest players of all-time. He averaged 25-5-5 during his 20 year career and had the greatest scoring performance of all-time (sorry Wilt) when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Hate him or love him, his legacy is undeniable.
Small Forward – James Worthy: If it wasn’t for the man discussed directly below him on this list, I would have considered James Worthy the most under-appreciated Laker of all time. But that is just one of the perks of playing with players as transcendent as Earvin Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Perhaps his career can be summed up perfectly by his greatest individual achievement – in 1988, James Worthy (who was not even named to the All-NBA Third team that season) was named Finals MVP after the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in a seven game slug-fest. He shot greater than 50% from the field in the first 8 seasons of his career, which is incredible for a wing player, and averaged 21.1 PPG during the his post-season career on 55% shooting.
Power Forward – Pau Gasol: Pau Gasol is the most underrated Laker in franchise history. There, I said it. But it all honesty, no one ever gave Gasol credit for what he accomplished as a Laker – everything good that happened was always attributed to Kobe Bryant’s greatness. In the 3 seasons prior to acquiring Pau the Lakers’ seasons looked like this:
2004/2005 – Missed the Playoffs 2005/2006 – Eliminated in the First Round 2006/2007 – Eliminated in the First Round
In Gasol’s first season with the Lakers, the team goes to the finals – in the succeeding 2, they win the NBA Championship. I am not making an argument for Gasol as a greater Laker than Kobe Bryant as that would be absurd – I’m simply highlighting how good Pau really was and still is. Pau has always been an extremely gift offensive player with the ability to finish at the rim, shoot from outside and pass the ball like a point guard. On the defensive end, he is extremely underrated. He plays great post defense and his length has always made him a good rim protector. Although some people feel the urge to fill this spot with another great Lakers center, I say that’s cheating. Instead, let’s finally give Pau Gasol the respect that he has earned.
Center – Shaquille O’Neal: Yes, this could have been Kareem or Wilt. But again, I am not going to punish Shaq for the era in which he played. Shaq was the most physically dominant player during an era that had the most physically dominant players. There is no way anyone can make the argument that a Kareem, Wilt or any other pre-1980s center could even contain Shaq. If Shaq played basketball during the 1970s he would have averaged 50, and that is not a hyperbole. Kobe gets a lot of credit for winning 5 rings, but in all seriousness Shaq did most of the heavy lifting during those playoff runs. During their stretch of 3 straight championships Shaq won Finals MVP on all 3 occasions and posted 36 PPG, 15 RPG, 3.5 APG and 3 BPG. Anyone who puts Kareem or Wilt ahead of this man is thinking with their heart, not their head.
6th Man – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Although there are many names that could go here, I had to choose Kareem. One of the reasons he missed the starting spot is due to the fact that he played his best basketball with the Milwaukee Bucks, while Shaq was most dominant with the Lakers. Regardless, Kareem’s resume is second to none – not even Michael Jordan can boast greater career accomplishments. Kareem was a 6-time NBA Champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 6-time Regular Season MVP and to this day he is still the all-time NBA leader in points scored. He very well could be the greatest center of all time; but I don’t think he’s the greatest in Laker history.
Did I miss any of your favorite Lakers? Let me know if you agree or disagree – @awrxshxx