Los Angeles Lakers All Time Roster

STARTING LINEUP :

C. Shaquille O’Neal

P.F. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

S.F. Elgin Baylor

S.G. Kobe Bryant

P.G. Earvin “Magic” Johnson

BENCH :

C. Wilt Chamberlain

P.F. George Mikan

S.F. James Worthy

S.G. Gail Goodrich

P.G. Jerry West

P.F. Pau Gasol

S.G. Michael Cooper

CENTERS :

At center I picked Shaquille O’Neal. He is in my opinion the greatest center that the Lakers ever had. Although a good case could be made for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I still think that overall O’Neal was a bit more impressive in his Lakers days. But as I chose to pick Kareem as the starting PF, I explain why later, the two players are so in the starting lineup.

Anyway Shaq was not only the best Lakers center of All Time IMO, but a good case could be made for him as the best center of All Time, even best player. I think that many people underrate Shaq, many do not realize how outstanding he was in his Lakers days. No one dominated the league the way Shaq did, he was literally unstoppable. His performances in the Finals during the Three Peat are the most impressive, no one had better Finals performances than Shaq. The skyhook is considered by many as the most efficient move ever but it is actually wrong ; the most efficient move ever was : “give the ball to Shaq”.

 

I picked Wilt Chamberlain as his back up. Chamberlain was not as impressive in his Lakers days as he was with the Warriors and Sixers which is why many people believe that no case can be made for him as the best Lakers center ever. Even though I did not put Wilt in the starting lineup I disagree with this. I think that a case could be made for Wilt as the best Lakers center.

It is true that Wilt started to get out of his prime in his Lakers days but that is not the reason why his stats were not as good. The first reason why his stats were not as impressive was because Wilt changed his style of play and played more like Bill Russell. Thanks of the influence of his coach, Bill Sharman, who was a Bill Russell’s teammate in his Celtics days. Wilt already had changed his game a bit during his Sixers days but he really started to play like Bill in LA, he decided to play for the team and not for him, to focus less about his stats and more about making his team win.

He became the perfect teammate and a great point center, just like Bill Russell. I think that Shaq and Kareem still both deserve more to be starters than him in that roster but Wilt was nonetheless fantastic as a Lakers. There’s no surprise that he won Finals MVP in 1972.

POWER FORWARDS :

At PF I picked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes I know that many can be surprised about that as Kareem started at C during all his career, not only he was a pure center but he can even be considered as the best center ever. Well I chose to use Jabbar at PF because first there never was any great PF in the Lakers franchise. The best pure PF that this team ever had is Pau Gasol. Aside of him the best names we seen at this position are AC Green or Happy Hairston. Both were very good players but not good enough to be in an All Time roster IMO. And Karl Malone only played one year in LA and he was clearly past his prime (although he still played at a great level).

Second, four of the greatest centers of All Time played with the Lakers and I wanted to have them in the first and second lineup of this roster. And both Jabbar and Shaq have to start IMO, it wouldn’t be fair to have one of them on the bench. And Kareem was more likely to play PF than Shaq, as he was a better rebounder and could shoot from a longer range which is why.

Now Jabbar was not as dominant in his Lakers days as he was in Milwaukee in the 70’s but he was still exceptional, how many times did he save the Lakers with his clutch skyhook ? As a Laker, Kareem was All Star 13 times (he became the oldest All Star ever), three times MVP (just like in Milwaukee), and he was Finals MVP in 1985.

As his back up I picked George Mikan. Like Kareem, Mikan was a pure C but I just had to use him as a PF for the reasons I already gave.

George is the first true superstar of the history of the game. The first real dominant player. He was the first one to lead his team to a Three Peat. Mikan was so dominant that once, a game was to be played between the Lakers and the Knicks on Dec.13, 1949 and the marquee over Madison Square Garden read: “Geo. Mikan vs. Knicks.” When Mikan walked into the locker room before the game, he found his teammates sitting around in their street clothes. One of them greeted Mikan by saying, “They’re advertising you’re playing against the Knicks, so go play them. We’ll wait here.”

Mikan revolutionized the game of basketball. The NBA even had to change some rules because of him, in the 1951-52 season the NBA decided to widen the foul lane under the basket from 6 feet to 12 feet. As players could only stay in the lane for three seconds at a time, it forced big men like Mikan to play post from double the distance, and this rule was named the « Mikan rule ».

Mikan also played a role in the introduction of the shot clock. In 1950, Mikan participated in one of the most notorious NBA games ever played. When the Fort Wayne Pistons played against his Lakers, the Pistons took a 19–18 lead. Afraid that Mikan would mount a comeback if he got the ball, the Pistons passed the ball around without any attempt to score a basket. With no shot clock invented yet to force them into offense, the score stayed 19–18 to make it the lowest-scoring NBA game of all time. This game was an important factor in the development of the shot clock, which was introduced four years later. Mikan had scored 15 of the Lakers’ 18 points, thus scoring 83.3% of his team’s points, setting an NBA all-time record which will probably never be broken.

SMALL FORWARDS :

At SF I picked Elgin Baylor. Elgin is one of the most versatile players ever, he was at the same time a great passer, rebounder, shooter and one of the first great dunkers. Baylor’s main position was SF but he also could play PF despite the fact that he was « only » 6’5. As Tommy Hawkins (who was Baylor’s teammates for six seasons) said it : « Elgin Baylor had the greatest variety of shots of anyone. He would take it in and hang and shoot from all these angles. Put spin on the ball. Elgin had incredible strength. He could post up Bill Russell. He could pass like Magic and dribble with the best guards in the league. »

Elgin is one of the greatest scorers of All Time, he was even the first player to score at least 70 points in one game, he set the still-standing NBA record for points in an NBA Finals game with 61, and this 61 points performance was also the record for most points in any playoffs game for 14 years until Jordan broke it with his 63 points performance against the Celtics in 1986.

During the 60’s, Baylor was both All Star and All NBA First Team EVERY year, at the exception of the 1965/66 season (mainly because of a severe knee injury that Baylor had during the 65 playoffs). Overall Baylor was 11 times All Star and 10 times All NBA First Team.

Despite the fact that he was undersized, Baylor is nonetheless one of the greatest rebounders ever. He even averaged 19,8 rebounds per game during the 1960/61 season, and only five players in NBA history did better than that : Jerry Lucas (6’8), Bill Russell (6’9), Bob Pettit (6’9), Nate Thurmond (6’11) and Wilt Chamberlain (7’1). So they were at least 6’8. Sadly for him Elgin retired after playing only nine games during the 19/71/72 season, the same season that the Lakers won their first ring in Los Angeles, their first ring since 1954, and so Elgin never won a ring. He is nevertheless arguably one of the 10 greatest players of All Time.

 

As his back up I picked James Worthy. James is one of the quickest players ever (he could cross the court in three steps) and he was a part of the Showtime Lakers Big Three which is at the same time one of the most spectacular ones ever and one of the best (arguably THE best) ever.

Worthy was always less considered than the two other members of that Big Three, Jabbar and Johnson, rightfully might I add as he was not of the same caliber of Magic and Kareem, who after all are both arguably in the top 5 players of All Time. But Big Game James was a very important part of the team nonetheless, a huge part of the three rings that the Big Three won together. Especially that while James asserted himself as one of the best forwards in the league, Jabbar started to decrease and James had to contribute more and more.

Worthy was even Finals MVP in the 1988 Finals against Detroit, the last ring that the Lakers won in the 80’s, he had two particularly huge performances in the games 6 and 7 of those Finals, as a matter of fact he had 28 points and 9 rebounds in game 6 and 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in game 7.

 

SHOOTING GUARDS :

At SG I picked Kobe Bryant. The current Lakers superstar. Kobe started his career as Shaq’s Pippen or sidekick and the least we can say is that he did a terrific job. Shaquille could not have dreamed of a better lieutenant. At least ON the court… Cause despite their differences off the court, the two players formed a perfect duo on the court. And thanks to this unbelievable duo the Lakers became the fourth team to at least win three rings in a row.

Only the Lakers (when they were in Minneapolis), Celtics (who even won 8 rings in a row during the 60’s, only team to ever win more than 3 rings in a row) and Bulls (twice) had a three peat too. After Shaq’s departure many people thought that Kobe would never manage to win another ring, that he couldn’t lead a team to the championship.

But Kobe proved them wrong and with the help of a great lieutenant, Pau Gasol, he managed to lead the Lakers to two more rings (and he still can make them win more), won his first Finals MVP (twice) and showed the world that he was more than just a second option, but a true leader. Kobe is also arguably a top 10 players of All Time.

 

I picked Gail Goodrich as his backup. Gail was a very important part of the team during the late 60’s and the first part of the 70’s (he played in Phoenix for two years between 68 and 70 cause the Suns picked in their expension draft but traded him back two years later). Especially during the 70’s might I add cause Gail started to become REALLY good in his two years in Phoenix (became a starter and an All Star for the first time there) and kept on that way when he came back in LA.

In fact while many people are rather focused on West and Chamberlain it’s important to know that Goodrich was the scoring leader of that 72 Lakers team which is the first one to win a ring in LA and one of the greatest teams ever. Gail was actually the Lakers scoring leader for four years in a row, which is definitely a great performance especially when we consider the fact that he played with the fantastic scorers that were Wilt, Jerry and Connie Hawkins (The Hawk joined the team in 1973), even though they were all past their primes they were still playing at a huge level. Gail was All Star four times during his nine years in LA and All NBA First team once.

Gail was, like Jerry West, a pure combo guard who could, and did, play both PG and SG as efficiently.

 

POINT GUARDS :

At PG I picked Earvin « Magic » Johnson. Easy choice as most people consider him to be the best PG of All Time (I am definitely one of them). There are only two players who averaged more than 10 assists per game in career and they are Magic Johnson and John Stockton. Magic is clearly ahead with 11,19 APG in career, only player to ever average more than 11 APG in career (Stock averaged 10,51).

And Magic holds a lot of assists records, he shares the single-game playoff record for assists (24), holds the Finals record for assists in a game (21), and has the most playoff assists (2,346). He holds the All-Star Game single-game record for assists (22), and the All-Star Game record for career assists (127). He also holds the record for most career APG in the playoffs with 12,35 APG, the only player to ever average more than 12 APG in the playoffs. Magic is the king of assists. He is the king of PGs.

Magic was also certainly the most spectacular passer of All Time, he was the king of no look passes and he was the instigator of the team that is most certainly the most spectacular one of All Time, the Showtime Lakers. Johnson was the king of triple doubles, he had 138 triple doubles in his career, only Oscar Robertson did better than that.

Magic led the Lakers to five rings, he was twice MVP (one of the only two PGs to ever win that trophy, the other is Steve Nash) and three times Finals MVP (he won that trophy for the first time during his rookie season thanks to an unbelievable performance during game 6, game in which he started at C because Jabbar was injured and he played every position throughout the game).

Magic is one of the most versatile players ever (some even consider him as the most versatile one) and a case could even be made for him as the greatest player of All Time.

 

As his back up I picked Jerry West. The first thing I wanna say here is that a case could definitely be made for Jerry as the starting SG (not PG cause it’s totally impossible to put anyone over Magic, who is the greatest Laker of All Time IMO), as he is one of the greatest players to ever play this game and arguably a top 10 players of All Time too. I hesitated and finally picked Bryant over him at SG but it definitely can go the other way around, even if I personally think that Kobe deserves it a bit more.

But I think that West would be more hepful from the bench on that All Time team anyhow, cause Mr Clutch was a combo guard, he could play SG and PG as efficiently and so could be a terrific back up for both Magic and Kobe.

West was a fantastic player. Mr Clutch was the first Finals MVP ever and the only one to ever win that trophy despite being a member of the losing team, he was All Star 14 years, so every year during his career, he was a member of the first four All NBA defensive team despite the fact that he was already 32 when the All NBA defensive teams were introduced, he holds the NBA records for the highest points per game average in a playoffs series with 46.3, he led the Lakers in scoring during 7 seasons, he has the fourth best career PPG average with 27 (only Jordan, Chamberlain and Baylor had a better PPG career average), and only Jordan has a better PPG career average during the playoffs (33,5 for Jordan, 29,1 PPG for West).

When we add to that all the success that he had as the coach, scout then GM of that franchise (especially during the 80’s and 2000’s) it is just impossible to deny that he has to be mentioned in that roster.

 

11th & 12th SPOTS :

For the last two spots I picked Pau Gasol and Michael Cooper.

I hesitated at first to put Pau Gasol in that roster because he’s only been a Lakers three years and a half so far but considering the immediate impact that he had on LA and that he should remain a Laker for several other years it seems impossible not to mention him.

As a matter of fact Pau’s arrival definitely changed the Lakers. The year he was traded to LA, the Lakers were Kobe’s team for several years and Kobe was never able to have the same success as a leader that he had as a second option. Of course the main reason for that was his lack of help. Yet the Lakers were having their best season since Kobe became the leader that 2007/08 year, especially thanks to Andrew Bynum’s emergence. The Lakers were even first in the West for the first part of the season but sadly for them Andrew got badly hurt and was out for the season.

After that the Lakers were just not the same. And a few weeks after they traded the rights to Marc Gasol along with some other draft picks, Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie and Javaris Crittenton for Pau and a 2nd round draft pick. This deal was considered as one of the biggest steal ever (for the Lakers of course) at the time, a bit less now that Marc has shown what he could do..

Anyway Pau’s arrival immediately got the Lakers back on track. Pau, who’s been a leader since his arrival in Memphis, acclimated perfectly to his new role as Kobe’s lieutenant and without this trade there is no doubt that the Lakers would not have made it to the Finals that year. It was not enough to win a ring that same year but they did it in 2009 and 2010.

And Pau was absolutely fantastic during those two seasons, many even think that he should have been Finals MVP in 2010 (I disagree as I think that Kobe deserved it more than Pau but I think that Pau would have deserved to be Co Finals MVP with Bryant). Many even considered him to be the best big man in the world.

Until the 2010/2011 season in which Pau was nowhere near the level at which he played the preceeding years. Gasol received a lot of hate for that, something I certainly do not understand because first everybody can have a bad year and second the Lakers would have never won two more rings without the addition of Pau Gasol. And I am sure that Pau will be back to his best very soon.

 

I am sure that the choice of Michael Cooper for this last spot will surprise a lot of people. Because it is true that Coop was a role player. He never was All Star or All NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd team or anything like that, and when thinking about the Showtime Lakers people rather focus on Magic, Kareem or Worthy.

BUT Coop was VERY important for that team nonetheless and there is no doubt in my mind that the Lakers would not have been that successful in the 80’s wihtout Coop. Because Coop brought something essential to that team : defense. As a matter of fact Coop was the best defender on that team, he is actually one of the very best defenders ever and, as we all know, we just cannot win without defense. Larry Bird even said that Coop was the best defensive player that he ever played against.

Michael was also one of the most spectacular players and he could do absolutely everything on the court, he was very versatile and could play PG, SG and SF. And let’s not forget that he is one of the first good 3 pts shooters of the game (the 3 pts line was introduced one year after his arrival in the league). No doubt that Coop was essential for that team.

 

Other players like Byron Scott, Happy Hairston, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, or Jamaal Wilkes could have been mentioned as well but none of them deserves to be mentioned over the 12 players I picked IMHO.

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