Outside of the Boston Celtics, is there a more storied franchise in the NBA than the Los Angeles Lakers? The Celtics lead all organizations with 17 championships, but the Lakers are in second place with 16. Outside of the dominant Bill Russell years, the Celtics have been quiet in championship wins, having won just one title in recent memory (2008). Meanwhile, the Lakers have won six championships since 2000.
The likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James all have their place in Laker history. LeBron is still trying to add to that history, but one believed that he has done enough already in his three seasons to get a jersey hung in the rafters. If that happens, LeBron will join a long list of Laker greats. These players were championships caliber players, which is exactly why Los Angeles is a championship city.
Kobe Bryant - No. 8
Bryant wore the jersey No. 8 from the 1996-1997 season to 2005-2006. When wearing No. 8, Bryant played 707 games, made eight All-Star appearances, scored 16,866 points, led the league in scoring one time, and won three championships. The three rings came during his 2000-2002 run where he teamed up with Shaquille O'Neal to win a three-peat.
In November 1996, Bryant scored his first career points. Just about a year later, he won the Slam Dunk Contest. Of course, that was followed by three championships, but some of the individual awards were impressive too.
In January 2003, Bryant made the most three-point shots in a game with 12. In 2005, Bryant scored 62 points by himself, while the Mavericks scored 61 points over the final third and fourth quarters as a team. To cap off the number, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points, which ranks second all-time for points in a game.
Whole numbers don’t always make for the reason for success, Bryant certainly had a Hall of Fame career with the No. 8. Bryant eventually changed his number because he wanted a “clean slate.” He used the number change as motivation to prove that he was the best in the league.
Wilt Chamberlain - No. 13
When you think of some of the best offensive players in history, you think of Wilt Chamberlain. In his successful career, Chamberlain enjoyed some highs with the Warriors and 76ers. Then, Chamberlain won a championship in his final five seasons in the league, all with the Lakers.
Chamberlain had his jersey retired in November 1983. A member of the 1971-1972 championship team that won an NBA record 33 consecutive games and then NBA record 69 contests overall, Chamberlain was the Finals MVP and averaged 14.8 points and 19.2 rebounds. Known for his great rebounding abilities, Chamberlain led the league in rebounds 11 times in his career, including four of the five seasons he played in L.A.
In the 1968-1969 campaign, Chamberlain averaged a franchise record 21.1 rebounds per game and averaged over 18.0 rebounds four times with the Lakers. In his final season with the Lakers, he shot 72.7% from the field. When will you ever see that kind of efficiency again?
While Chamberlain did play in a different period, there is no denying his greatness. He once scored 100 points in a game. His career rebounding average is a record that will likely never be broken. Even For his brief stint in L.A., he did things that we haven’t seen over 50 years later.
Pau Gasol - No. 16
The trade for Pau Gasol remains one of the most lopsided trades in history over Laker deals. In 2008, Gasol was acquired at the trade deadline for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie, and two future first-round picks. While the fruits of this deal didn’t pay off for Memphis until 2013, it helped produce two championships and three NBA Finals appearances for the Lakers in the short term.
Even though Gasol didn’t finish the full season with the Lakers, he had a great overall season with 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. These are pretty impressive stats considering that Gasol played a “sidekick” role to Bryant, who averaged 20.9 shots per game.
The Lakers made the NBA Finals in 2008 before losing to the Celtics. Then, the team won two championships to cement his legacy with the team. Outside of winning two rings, Gasol was a very productive player. Gasol spent 6.5 years with the Lakers, earning three All-Star nods, and three All-NBA teams.
Gasol probably deserved one more All-Star berth in 2012 but was snubbed. Gasol averaged 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds as a Laker. He was a consistent double-double presence, who was potentially mishandled in his later years with Mike D’Antoni coaching the team. If you look even deeper, his scoring is right around some of the Lakers greats in James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, and Jamaal Wilkes. His rebounding is only better than Wilt Chamberlain, while his assists are just as good as some of the great guards in franchise history.
Elgin Baylor - No. 22
The Minneapolis Lakers selected Baylor with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA Draft. Baylor played his entire career with the Lakers. Over 13 seasons, Baylor led the Lakers to eight NBA Finals appearances. His greatest record to date is scoring an NBA Finals record 61 points in a 126-121 Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics in the 1958 Finals.
Baylor had his jersey retired in 1983 and he deserved every minute of the ceremony. Baylor ranks first all-time in rebounds, third in points, and sixth in assists. Before Bryant’s scoring outburst in 2006, Baylor owned the franchise record for points in a game with 71 in 1960 against the Knicks.
Other notable reasons for this honor include his 11 All-Star appearances, All-Star Game MVP, and 1959 Rookie of the Year Award. Baylor once led the Lakers in rebounding a club-record seven straight seasons from 1959-1965 and averaged a franchise record 38.3 points per game in 1961-1962. Overall, he led the Lakers in scoring six times.
Over his career, Baylor averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds in 846 games. He was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history during the league’s 50th anniversary season in 1996-1997. When it comes to No. 1 overall picks, does it get much better than this?
Kobe Bryant - No. 24
Bryant wanted a clean slate at the start of the 2006-2007 season. The offseason of 2007 was nearly such a clean slate that he was traded out of Los Angeles. Instead, Bryant wrote the chapter of his legacy that featured him as the Finals MVP. It was Bryant, not Shaq, that led the Lakers to new heights. It almost matched perfectly what Bryant was trying to accomplish.
While wearing the No. 24, Bryant played 639 games, made 10 All-Star appearances, scored 16,777 points, led the league in scoring one time, and won two Finals MVPs in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010.
After nearly being traded to the Bulls in 2007, Bryant won the league MVP in 2007-2008. The following year, Bryant broke the record for most points at Madison Square Garden with 61 points. In 2009 and 2010, Bryant teamed up with Pau Gasol to win two titles after making three straight appearances to the NBA Finals.
Bryant upped the ante in 2011 by winning his fourth All-Star Game MVP. Three years later, Bryant became the first member of the 30k/6k/6k club and became third on the all-time scoring list, where he ranks fourth after LeBron James passed him in 2020. In his final game in the league, Bryant put on one last show by scoring 60 points.
Gail Goodrich - No. 25
One of the best free-throw shooters in NBA history, Goodrich did more than capitalize at the line. By the end of his career, Goodrich ranked among the top players in franchise history in several categories. Goodrich ranks sixth in points (13,044), seventh in assists (2,863), seventh in free throws made (2,830), and ninth in games played (687).
Goodrich holds the franchise record for consecutive free throws made, which includes 40 straight on two separate occasions. He was a member of the 1971-1972 NBA championship team that won an all-time professional sports record of 33 straight games.
From 1972-1975, Goodrich led the Lakers in scoring, joining Jerry West as the only player to lead the Lakers in scoring four straight seasons at the time. Over that time, Goodrich made the All-Star team each year, as well as one All-NBA finish.
For those who want a modern-day connection, Goodrich was today’s, Klay Thompson. The two are very similar in style of play, their abilities, and future promise. Thompson is going to eventually get his jersey retired in Golden State, so it’s no surprise that we see Goodrich on this list.
Magic Johnson - No. 32
Johnson ranks second on the all-time assists chart, trailing only John Stockton, so that goes to tell you how elite he was. That also includes his career being cut short to a medical HIV diagnosis. Johnson once led the league in assists five consecutive seasons from 1983-1987. He remains the single-season record holder for assists in a season with 13.1 during 1983-1984.
Once, Johnson dished out 24 assists in a game, which is also a single-game record. He accomplished this three times, once performing this in the NBA playoffs, which remains a record. The 1979 No. 1 overall pick never seemed to disappoint while on the court, which is why the team won five championships in his career with the team.
In his career, Johnson recorded 138 career triple-doubles, won the regular season MVP three times, earned All-Star nods 12 times, and made All-NBA nine times. Outside of his playmaking abilities, Johnson led the league in steals two times and a free throw percentage (91.1% in 1988-1889) once.
When you think of the greatest point guard in league history, who heads the top of your list? Is it Johnson? When media members provide their Mount Rushmore of players, Johnson is a contender to make the top-4 for that list. Until someone has a career like his, Johnson will remain one of the best, if not the best, point guards in NBA history.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - No. 33
The all-time leading scorer just happened to lead the Lakers in scoring a club-record 11 consecutive seasons from 1976-1986. He averaged over 20 points in each of his first 17 seasons in the NBA. Kareem scored in double figures in an NBA record 787 consecutive games, which ranged from December 4, 1977, to December 2, 1987.
While Kareem was the greatest scorer of all time, he ranks among the top in other all-time NBA categories as well. Kareem is fourth all-time in rebounds (17,440) and second in blocked shots (3,189). He was a member of six championship teams, including five championships with Magic Johnson during the “Showtime Lakers” phase. He was a six-time regular-season MVP, which ranks the most in NBA history.
Kareem won the Finals MVP award in 1985 in his 14-year career with the Lakers. When you look at legendary players to ever wear the purple and gold, there’s a valid argument that Kareem was the best to ever do it. After all, he wanted out of Milwaukee because he wanted a little bit more stardom.
When at Milwaukee, Kareem led the Bucks to the championship in 1971. It took 50 years for the team to win again. Had he never left, it might have been a different story. Back then, Kareem wanted to make a name for himself in California. By the end of his career, you can say he accomplished that.
Shaquille O’Neal - No. 34
Shaq was the perfect combination of basketball and entertainment. When Shaq left Orlando, you knew big things were coming for the franchise. Shaq won three straight Finals MVPs when the Lakers won a three-peat from 2000 to 2002. That included an MVP season in 2000, which was one of the best overall seasons from a center we had seen since the days of Wilt Chamberlain.
Shaq ranks among the all-time best in the NBA in multiple categories. Shaq ranks sixth all-time in points (28,596), eighth in blocks (2,732), and 14th in rebounding (13,099). His all-time field goal percentage of 58.2% is his greatest feat statistically, which ranks third all-time. Shaq led the Lakers in scoring five straight seasons, including a career-best 29.7 points per game in 1999-2000 when he won the scoring title. To this day, Shaq is the last center to win an NBA scoring title.
Among players just playing for the Lakers, Shaq ranks seventh in points, sixth in rebounds, second in blocks, and second in field-goal percentage. Shaq is also just one of six Lakers to score 60 or more points in a game, joining Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and George Mikan.
Off the court, Shaq was must-listen-to television when he gave a press conference. When the breakup between Kobe and Shaq went down, it was great entertainment. From the rapping to the quick one-liners, Shaq is a basketball treasure. On the court, he was one of the most terrifying players to guard.
James Worthy - No. 42
The 1988 NBA Finals MVP was nicknamed “Big Game James” for a reason. In that Finals, Worth averaged 22.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. In Game 7 of the 1988 Finals, Worthy registered a triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists to lead the Lakers to the championship. The 1982 No. 1 overall pick had a knack for making a name for himself.
Worthy was a member of three championship teams with the Lakers. That included being a seven-time All-Star, a 20-plus point scorer on four occasions, including the team’s leading scorer in 1991 and 1992.
Among the franchise leaders, Worth ranks fifth in scoring (16,320), second in steals (1,041), and sixth in field-goal percentage (52.1%). The playoffs are where Worthy shined the most. In 143 career playoff games, Worth shot 54.4% from the field and averaged 21.1 points per game. Worthy played all 12 seasons with the Lakers.
When looking back on history, Worthy had some great teammates in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Both players are often considered for top-5 best players in league history. With that said, Worthy was a contributing factor on three of those title teams. For Worthy to achieve what he did, including winning Finals MVP once, says a lot about how great he was.
Jerry West - No. 44
Given that West’s career-scoring average of 27.0 points per game ranks fourth all-time, no wonder he was the logo of the league for so long. In the playoffs, his numbers were even better as West averaged 29.1 points per game, second to the great Michael Jordan all-time.
West was the longtime leader in all-time points with 25,192, but that was eventually broken by Kobe Bryant. West led the Lakers in scoring seven times, highlighted by a 31.3 effort in 1965-1966. In the NBA Finals, West established an NBA record for scoring 20-plus points in 25 consecutive games, which has since been broken by Jordan. He holds the all-time scoring average in a playoff series with 46.3 points per game in a 1965 six-game series against Baltimore.
Outside of scoring, West holds other accolades. He holds the NBA record for most free throws made in a single season (840 in 1955-1956). He once led the league in assists in 1972. He spent all 14 years with the Lakers and was the first-ever draft selection in Lakers’ history.
If you deep dive into history, the legendary battles between West and Bill Russell set the stage for true rivalries in the league. For years, West and Russell were viewed as icons. After all, they were the leaders of the two more historic franchises in NBA history in the Lakers and the Celtics. West is so good that he is 83 years old today and could probably still pull up from deep if he had to.
Jamaal Wilkes - No. 52
Wilkes won three championships with the Lakers in the 80s. He ranks among the leaders in franchise history in points (10th), field goals (10th), and steals (9th). He was a three-time All-Star in 1976, 1981, and 1983, as well as a two-time All-Defensive Second Team selection. His career began winning the 1975 Rookie of the Year Award.
As a Laker, Wilkes averaged 18.4 points per game in eight seasons. In three straight seasons from 1980 to 1982, he averaged over 20 points per game. In 2012, he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Wilkes was once nicknamed “Silk” for his smooth play on the court. Late Lakers play-by-play caller Chick Hearn called his jump shot a “20-foot layup.” One of those smooth performances was in the 1980 NBA Finals when Wilkes scored 37 points and recorded 10 rebounds in a Game 6 series-clinching win.
There are multiple former teammates of Wilkes such as Magic Johnson and James Worthy, who praised his impact during their run in the 80s. Wilkes was drafted out of UCLA, where he was coached by the legendary John Wooden. That college experience transpired over to the pros, where he was the fourth-best player on the Lakers at times. However, winning meant more to him as he was a key contributor for three rings.