The Los Angeles Lakers might be the most respected and famous franchise in sports. They have built a foundation of success, dominance, and consistency that is truly unprecedented. After all, the Lakers are tied for the most NBA championships won with 17 alongside the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers have had some key figures that are directly responsible for the amount of success of the franchise. These figures include both Hall of Fame players and also legendary coaches, as their impact cannot be ignored. By ranking the top 10 Lakers in NBA history, it is time to decide which figure was most important for the Purple and Gold.
The Best Owner: Jerry Buss
Widely regarded as the greatest owner in sports history, Jerry Buss was the businessman and philanthropist who guided the Los Angeles Lakers to 16 NBA Finals in 33 years and won 10 NBA championships. It is only fitting we start our ranking with a mention of the late and great Jerry Buss.
With Buss owning the team from 1979 to 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers only missed the NBA playoffs twice. No other owner has this kind of track record and the amount of success the franchise sustained under him is due to the love, loyalty, and competitiveness he instilled in Lakers fans and players.
10. James Worthy
17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
"Big Game" James Worthy was known to turn it on in the biggest moments. A 7-time All-Star forward who played on both ends, Worthy was part of a dominant Lakers dynasty that won 3 NBA titles. The former No.1 overall pick most famously won the NBA Finals MVP in 1988 after averaging 22.0 PPG and 7.4 RPG.
It was only fitting that his number 42 was retired by the team in the 1995 season because a player of his qualities and caliber don't come around often. Worthy is 4th all-time in Lakers games played, 5th in field goal makes, and 6th in points scored.
9. Elgin Baylor
27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
In terms of on-court dominance, Baylor would have ranked much higher. The superstar scoring phenom is one of the best players ever, and the fact that he is 9th on this list is mainly because he could never quite deliver an NBA championship to the Lakers. But Baylor did manage to make a whopping 8 NBA Finals appearances for the team.
Baylor still made 11 All-Star Teams, made 10 All-NBA Teams, and won the 1959 Rookie of the Year. Among all-time Lakers, Baylor is 1st in rebounds and 4th in scoring. Even though he was a scorer by nature, Baylor ranks 7th in total assists indicating he was truly an all-around star.
8. Jerry West
27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
The logo himself, Jerry West was one of the best guards to have ever played the game. West made 14 All-Star Team selections, 12 All-NBA Team selections, and was arguably the best pure shooter to have ever played for the Lakers. West made an unbelievable 12 Finals appearances with the Lakers, but it wasn't until 1972 that he earned his first NBA title.
West was so dominant, he even won the 1969 Finals MVP by averaging 37.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 7.4 APG in a losing effort to the Boston Celtics. But Jerry West was also a legendary general manager, guiding the Lakers to 6 NBA titles since his reign starting in 1983. It was West who believed Kobe Bryant would become the star he became, and he was the one who acquired superstar Shaquille O'Neal from Orlando.
Without Jerry West as GM, Los Angeles would have never paired O'Neal and Bryant for the achievement of a legendary 3-peat. As both a Hall of Fame player and general manager, West will forever be a top-10 Laker.
7. LeBron James
26.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 9.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG
It may seem surprising to see LeBron James on this list, but The King deserves credit for making the Los Angeles Lakers relevant again after years of mediocrity. Before LeBron and company did it last year, the last time the Lakers made the NBA Finals was in 2010 thanks to Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and Pau Gasol. Since Bryant retired, the Lakers were a mess.
With LeBron on the roster, and later Anthony Davis, the Lakers won the NBA title last year and have a chance to win more together. LeBron already ranks 2nd all-time in Laker triple-doubles and 4th in PPG. With one title already under his belt, LeBron had a chance to be recognized even higher as one of the best Lakers ever.
6. Pat Riley
Pat Riley is one of the best coaches in NBA history, and he was one of the best coaches for the Lakers. Riley won 4 NBA titles during the Magic Johnson "Showtime" era and even captured one title as a player for the Lakers in 1972. As a 6'4" guard, Riley managed to average 6.7 PPG during his championship season as a role player.
But his impact as a head coach was truly significant when looking at Lakers history. By leading Magic Johnson and the Lakers out every night, Riley was as tough as a coach as there ever was. Riley also won the Coach of the Year Award in 1990, leading the Lakers to 63 wins but 4 NBA titles is how he made his name as a Hall of Fame head coach.
5. Phil Jackson
The greatest coach to have ever coached the Lakers, Phil Jackson was a special breed. He already had 6 NBA titles under his belt as a coach for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, but he won another 5 with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Phil was extremely lucky to have coached the 2 best shooting guards ever, but Jackson's basketball philosophy in the form of The Triangle offense made his teams nearly unbeatable.
Phil coached the Lakers 3-peat under Shaquille O'Neal's dominance and later won another 2 titles with Kobe Bryant in 2009 and 2010. Jackson knew how to push every player's buttons to make them better and in terms of delivering NBA titles, no head coach did it better than the Zen Master.
4. Shaquille O’Neal
27.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.5 BPG
The most dominant physical specimen in the modern era was Shaquille O'Neal. The Diesel was simply unstoppable as a Laker, making 7 All-Star Teams during his 8 seasons with the franchise. Of course, Shaq delivered 3 NBA titles to Los Angeles and won 3 Finals MVP in a row alongside Kobe Bryant. In terms of physical dominance, O'Neal was one of a kind.
If only O'Neal would have stayed with Kobe and the Lakers longer, we might be looking at the best center ever. O'Neal was unstoppable in Los Angeles and had he won a few more rings, he could have been #1 on this list. Still, O'Neal has a statue outside Staples Arena and he deserves it without a doubt.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
22.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.5 BPG
Quite possibly the best center to have ever played in terms of individual accolades, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a top-3 Laker without a doubt. His stats, achievements, and impact were easily ahead of the pack at his position and he is still the only player to have an unstoppable offensive move in his repertoire. As a Laker, Kareem won 5 NBA titles and made 13 All-Star Team selections.
Among all-time Lakers, Kareem ranks 2nd in games played and 2nd in total minutes. He ranks 2nd in total rebounds, 6th in assists, and 1st in blocks. He is also the 3rd highest scorer in Lakers history and trails only two other men for the crown as the best Laker ever.
2. Magic Johnson
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Arguably the greatest point guard to have ever played, Magic Johnson is also one of the top-two Lakers of all time. Magic was the best leader on the court that we have ever seen, and his ability to lead his team as a playmaker was his greatest attribute. Magic spent his entire career with the Lakers, making 12 All-Star Teams and winning 5 NBA championships.
Magic also won the MVP 3 times and the Finals MVP Award 3 times during his illustrious career. Unsurprisingly, Magic ranks 1st all-time in assists, 1st in triple-doubles, 2nd in steals, and 4th in rebounds. Despite playing with other Hall of Famers such as James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it was Johnson who was the best player and leader of the Lakers for years. As great as Magic was, only one man stands in front of him as the greatest to have ever worn a Lakers jersey.
1. Kobe Bryant
25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Ahead of the pack is the great Kobe Bryant. We lost the legend last year to an unfortunate disaster, but his legacy lives forever. The Black Mamba meant more to the Lakers fan base than any other player, because he put his heart and soul into every game he played. Kobe is a 5-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, and 18-time All-Star.
Bryant was simply sensational as a Laker, leading the franchise in scoring and games played. The second most games played was by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had 253 fewer games played. Bryant also leads the Lakers in 3's made, field goals made, and steals. Even as a scorer, he ranked 2nd in total assists and 3rd in rebounds. Bryant was the best Laker because his longevity, accolades, and impact were simply the best.