Ranking the greatest Lakers of all time

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

Danny Howard

September 14th, 2020

They say that the stars shine brighter in Los Angeles, and that's especially true of the Lakers, who have employed some of the greatest players in basketball history since the franchise's inception. 26 former Lakers are currently enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and that number is certain to grow when LeBron James and Anthony Davis finish their spectacular careers. 

With Los Angeles on the verge of its first NBA Finals appearance since 2010, now is the perfect time to rank the five greatest Lakers of all time.

5. Jerry West

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 14x All-Star, NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP

The man who would become the NBA logo was one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in the team’s history. West was the only player in NBA history to win the NBA Finals MVP as a member of the losing team, and the second player in league history to score 25,000 points.

West remained a Laker for the entirety of his glorious 14-year career.

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Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

4. Shaquille O’Neal

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 15x All-Star, NBA MVP, 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP

Shaq’s arrival in Los Angeles came during the prime of his career, and after Michael Jordan stepped away from the game, it was Shaq’s turn to establish a dynasty with the help of the recently drafted Kobe Bryant.

In O’Neal’s eight seasons with the team, the Lakers went to the finals four times and won three titles. Shaq won NBA Finals MVP honors each time out.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Photo by Christophe Elise/DPPI/Icon Sportswire)

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 19x All-Star, 6x NBA MVP, 6x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought five titles to the Los Angeles Lakers, and became the franchise's third-leading scorer in the process. There is no questioning his accomplishments. Even today, he is the all-time leader in career wins, field goals made and points scored, He's also near the top in several other key categories.

Though Abdul-Jabbar spent his first six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, it was his time as a Laker that truly made him a legend.

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Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson is awarded the NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy. (Photo by Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

2. Magic Johnson

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA MVP, 5x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP

As good as Abdul-Jabbar was, there would have been no "Showtime" without Magic. In perhaps the greatest era of the league’s history, Johnson was the face of a franchise that won five titles, all while making 12 All-Star Game appearances and winning three regular season MVP trophies.

Magic was one of the most versatile and intelligent players that ever played the game, but even so, he falls just short of being recognized as the best Laker ever.

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Guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media with his daughters Gianna and Natalia. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

1. Kobe Bryant

Accolades: Hall of Fame, 18x All-Star, NBA MVP, 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP

The late Kobe Bryant should be remembered as the greatest Laker ever. The 18-time All-Star and Hall of Famer won five titles with the Lakers, picked up two NBA Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP, and he became the team’s all-time scoring leader.

Most importantly, Bryant stayed with the Lakers through thick and thin, all while constantly transcending the game itself and being recognized as one of the greatest players to ever set foot on the hardwood.

Honorable mentions: Wilt Chamberlain, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Pau Gasol