Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Greatest Lakers of All Time

The 50 greatest Lakers of all time: I take a crack at it

December, 21, 2009
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
This morning, our own Dave McMenamin revealed his list of the 50 Greatest Lakers of All Time. More specifically, the 50 Greatest Los Angeles Lakers of All Time. His #1? Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Hard to argue. Beyond the obvious statistical achievements and five championship rings, he holds a place in the city's consciousness that goes well beyond his contributions to the team. I'm willing to bet that for most Lakers fans, when it's time to play the word association game, after "Lakers" comes "Magic."

The rest of McMenamin's Top 10 (in order, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Byron Scott) seems pretty reasonable, even if some guys could be slotted in different spots. Of course, I'm not here simply to pass along the list, but to put something together myself. Because it's more interesting, and opens me up to public ridicule (call it my gift to you this holiday season). A few notes on my list, before I break out that bad boy:
  • I totally missed the memo about limiting it to Lakers of LA. It makes sense, what with the 50 years celebration and all, but when I got the note from my editor ("Be thinking about a list of the 50 greatest Lakers") I didn't make the connection. My hope is management comes to find this lack of intuition endearing at some point, like a they might an eager-but-dim Labrador puppy. Second, like your average university, I give serious weight to tenure, and it comes at the expense of championships. If a player wins a ring in two seasons, I don't necessarily think that makes him a "better Laker" than a guy who contributed for six or seven years at a solid level but without a title.
  • To me, ranking players within a franchise isn't quite the same as ranking guys by their career as a whole. Some of what makes a player "greatest" to a local market is the connection that's created, often aided by time, even if it oustrips skill level. Kurt Rambis is a great example. In seven seasons wearing purple and gold, Rambis never averaged more than 7.5 points or 7.0 rebounds a night. But earlier in the month when I was walking through Nordstrom to do a little holiday shopping, I saw his face on a designer t-shirt. It cost, like, sixty bucks if memory serves. Magic may have movie theaters, Friday's, and a bunch of Starbucks, but I've never seen his face on a designer t-shirt. That should count for something. (By the way, less expensive Rambis t-shirt homages are available.)
  • At all times it should be understood I'm a 34-year old former Midwesterner. "The Package" didn't exist when I was younger. Cable, if I remember correctly, was mostly HBO running "Victory" over and over again. There are holes in my Lakers knowledge, despite efforts to brush up on the team's history during my time covering them (one great place to start is here). I think my top choices are in a pretty good order, but as it goes along, I fully cop to a little bit of Basketball Reference-aided dart tossing. While the goal is to create some fairly vigorous debate, if in the comments below you take me to task for saying _____________ should be 42 instead of 47, I'll probably just agree with you. So be nice.

And without further ado... Brian Kamenetzky's Top 50 Lakers (Minny, LA, or Tims) of All Time:

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Kobe Bryant
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2