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The Los Angeles Lakers, arguably one of the most successful franchises in the National Basketball Association (NBA), has been home to numerous commendable athletes; some of which have been instrumental in shaping the course of professional basketball.
This article aims to put the spotlight on five of the greatest Lakers players ever, providing a comprehensive breakdown of who they are, and why they are unsurpassed in the annals of Lakers’ history.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
At the very top of the list is Magic Johnson. Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s impact on the Lakers, and by extension, NBA is unparalleled.
Drafted first overall by the Lakers in 1979, Magic, with his extraordinary vision and passing skills, redefined the point guard position, leading the Lakers to five NBA championships, while earning three MVP honors (NBA.com).
He was a showdown of versatility, playing, and excelling in all five positions during his career, a feat hardly matched in modern NBA (Crowe, 2021). According to Zeigler (2021), Magic’s charismatic personality and leadership were as instrumental to the Lakers’ success as his on-court exploits.
Secondly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s exceptional talent cannot be overlooked. Abdul-Jabbar spent 14 of his 20 professional years with the Lakers, leading them to five championship titles (Scott & Zeigler, 2021).
He is acclaimed for his iconic ‘Skyhook,’ deemed one of the most effective shots.
Kareem was up until recently the all-time leading scorer in the NBA, an accolade that attests to his outstanding scoring abilities. Moreover, his six MVP honors substantiate his contribution to the sport and the team (NBA.com).
The third icon on our list, Kobe Bryant, was legendary in his contribution to the Lakers and basketball.
Bryant’s tenure with the Lakers spanned two decades, during which he bagged five NBA championships. He is recognized as one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, ranking fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (NBA.com).
Plaschke (2020) noted Bryant’s relentless work ethic, his tenacity, and his fiercely competitive nature, cementing him as a Lakers’ great.
Often overlooked due to his modest nature, Jerry West’s prowess on the court was anything but modest. West spent his entire 14-year career with the Lakers, leading them to a championship in 1972 (Scott & Zeigler, 2021).
West’s excellent shooting and scoring ability, coupled with his defensive prowess, earned him fourteen All-Star selections. Moreover, West’s silhouette was used to create the NBA’s logo, symbolizing his influence on the sport (Crowe, 2021).
Lastly, Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance in the paint qualifies him as one of the Lakers’ greatest. During his eight-year stint with the Lakers, O’Neal won three consecutive championships.
His physical dominance and the ability to execute plays under the rim flawlessly made him one of the most feared centers in the league. His performance during the 1999-2000 season earned him the league’s MVP honor, a testament to his brilliance (NBA.com).
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, and Shaquille O’Neal represent the crest of an avalanche of talent that has graced the Lakers. Their remarkable skill, dedication, and resilience undeniably qualify them as the greatest Lakers players ever.