The Greatest Laker?

Last Wednesday night in New Orleans, Kobe Bryant become the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000. He is the fifth player to reach the milestone as he joins Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and the all-time leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you take a closer look at that list, four of those five have worn a Laker uniform. So, as usual, this always brings up the question, who is the greatest Laker of all-time?

Elgin Baylor
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images

The one that gets forgotten among the many Laker legends. Elgin Baylor was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers as the number one overall pick in the 1958 Draft. He played in the era just after the great George Mikan and retired at the beginning of the 1971-72 season, the season the Lakers won the championship. It can be safely said that Elgin is the greatest Laker to not win a championship.

Wilt Chamberlainla_lal50chamberlain_800
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The most dominant big man in his era. Wilt “The Stilt” was traded to the Lakers from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968. He led the Lakers to the NBA Finals in four of the five seasons that he played in L.A., winning only one. One of the greatest big men in the game, and one of the great big men in the Laker legacy.

Shaquille O’Neal
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The most dominant big man in this era. After being traded by the Orlando Magic in 1996, Shaq, along with Kobe Bryant, led the Lakers to three straight championships and the Laker dynasty was back on top. He was traded to the Miami Heat after the 2004 season after much turmoil. He would play for 3 more different teams after winning his fourth championship with the Heat, eventually ending his career in Boston. Shaq is undoubtedly the last great big man of the game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Malcolm Emmons/US Presswire

The greatest scorer in NBA history. He did it often and with so much ease. Kareem was traded to the Lakers from the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975. Already considered a great, winning a championship with the Bucks, he became a legend with the Lakers, winning five more during the Showtime era of the 80s. He holds the NBA career records for most points (38,387 points), most minutes played (57,446 minutes), most field goals made (15,837 FGs made) and attempted (28,307 FGs attempted), and most All-Star selections (19 selections) and games played (18 played). Kareem, whose likeness can be seen in the recently unveiled statue outside of the Staples Center, is definitely one of the greatest players in Laker and NBA history.

Jerry West
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Personally, the “Logo” is in my top 3 of greatest Lakers of all-time. Jerry was taken second overall in the 1960 NBA Draft by the Minneapolis Lakers just before they moved to Los Angeles. Alongside Elgin Baylor, Jerry was denied championship after championship until 1971, which was his lone ring as a player. After he retired in 1974, he found more success as the Laker’s general manager, where the Showtime Lakers won 5 championships in the 1980s. On and off the court, Jerry made the Lakers the dynasty that they are today.

Kobe Bryant
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Was considered the greatest player in the game a few years ago (personally, I think he still is, but I must move on!). Kobe was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac in 1996. In the beginning of the 2000’s, alongside Shaq, Kobe won three rings, and at the end of the decade, with Pau Gasol, won two more. As he continues to be on top of his game, his comparisons to Michael Jordan, and adding to his legacy, Kobe will automatically be mentioned in the never ending argument of who is the greatest Laker ever.

Magic Johnson
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Not only one of the greatest Lakers, but one of the most important figures in the NBA. Magic was drafted first overall by the Lakers in 1980 and became the face of the Showtime Lakers, and with Larry Bird, the face of the NBA. He helped lead the Lakers to their five championships in the 1980s. No one can doubt that Magic is always on the top of their list of greatest Lakers ever.

As a Laker fan and growing up in the 80s, it was always Magic, and honestly, it still is. I still remember my first great Laker memory which was Magic’s baby hook down the lane against the Celtics in 1987. Kobe is the man now, and is always compared to Michael, but to me, it’s always Magic. The greatest Laker ever.


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