The Los Angeles Lakers franchise is arguably the most renowned in NBA history because they have captured 17 NBA championships which is tied with the Boston Celtics. The Purple and Gold have a long history of attracting top-tier superstars, and that has been the case since the beginning of professional basketball. The first superstar was George Mikan, and the names have piled up since then with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and James Worthy all winning chips with the franchise.
But the most recent superstars have been Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. All three players have been dominant in the league over their careers, and each of them has had some incredible teammates over their careers with the Lakers and otherwise. Since each superstar is linked to the Lakers, it is time to compare the talent that each player has played with over their careers.
Obviously, Shaquille O’Neal started his career with the Orlando Magic before joining the Lakers and eventually a few other teams. Kobe played his entire career with Los Angeles, winning 5 championships and playing with other Hall of Fame teammates. Finally, LeBron James started his career in Cleveland, before joining the Miami Heat to win his first championships before returning to Cleveland. Recently, James is the cornerstone of the Lakers after joining the franchise in free agency. It is time to delve into each superstar’s career and deduce the best teammates they have played with.
Career Stats: 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.3 BPG
Awards And Achievements: 4x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 1999-2000 MVP, 15x All-Star, 14x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, 1992-1993 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant NBA superstars of all time, and his name is mainly linked with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers since he was the “bus driver” when he played on both of those franchises. Of course, O’Neal was a sidekick in Miami when the Heat won the championship in 2006 and would have a successful stint with the Phoenix Suns alongside former MVP Steve Nash. Finally, Diesel played the last impactful months with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are the best teammates that O’Neal played with during his Hall of Fame career.
Penny Hardaway (1994-96)
Statistics: 19.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Penny was Shaq’s co-star during their 1995 Finals run, but he was also the big man’s first go-to star one season later. Thanks to his 6’7” frame and elite handles, Penny was an offensive star for the Magic and was otherwise an excellent playmaker and clutch performer. Unfortunately for Penny and Shaq, the point guard would start suffering with injuries and the 1996 season would be his best season alongside O’Neal as the Magic finished 2nd in the East behind the 72-10 Chicago Bulls.
Kobe Bryant (1997-04)
Statistics: 21.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Obviously, Shaq’s greatest teammate of all time has to be Kobe Bryant. Together, the dynamic Lakers duo won 3 straight NBA championships in 4 Finals appearances and dominated the court better than any other little-big man duo. Despite their never-ending beef on and off the court, the duo was incredibly successful as two alpha stars for the Lakers. Kobe’s best season alongside Shaq came in 2003 when the shooting guard dropped 30.0 PPG on 45.1% shooting from the field. Together, they led the Lakers to the 5th seed and would have to wait one more year to make the Finals.
Dwyane Wade (2005-08)
Statistics: 25.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Dwyane Wade in 2006 was a different beast. The shooting guard was simply unstoppable and carried Miami on his back all the way to the Finals and eventually won the chip. While Wade was the undisputed main reason Miami won the chip, Shaquille O’Neal’s presence in the paint was arguably just as important. The big man averaged 20.0 PPG and 9.2 RPG during the season, and he was clearly the sidekick to Wade, who put up an incredible 34.7 PPG in the Finals and 27.2 PPG in the regular season.
Steve Nash (2008-09)
Statistics: 16.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 10.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Shaquille O’Neal would end up having a resurgence with the Phoenix Suns, making his final All-Star Team at age 36. The center benefited greatly from the excellence of the Suns’ medical staff and was effective during the 2009 season by averaging 17.8 PPG and 8.4 RPG. But Shaq had the most help in 2008 when he joined the Suns after getting traded mid-way through the season. Nash made his 6th All-Star Team and put up a monster double-double with Shaq inside the paint.
LeBron James - 2010
Statistics: 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Shaquille O’Neal began his ring-chasing after his stint with the Phoenix Suns ended, and his first stop was in Cleveland with “The Chosen One”, LeBron James. LeBron was at his absolute peak and was tearing defenses apart with his ability around the rim and all-around versatility. Shaq was decent, averaging 12.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG, but LeBron was the undisputed leader of the team after The King put up 29.7 PPG and 8.6 APG during the season. A 37-year-old Shaq was certainly lucky to play with a player of LeBron’s status in 2010.
Paul Pierce (2011)
Statistics: 18.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Shaq played his final season in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, and he knew he had a shot at being successful when playing alongside three Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. The Diesel appeared in 20.3 MPG and averaged a decent 9.2 PPG through 36 starts in his last year. Pierce was still an All-Star, averaging 18.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG at age 33 while appearing in 80 games for Boston. Still an effective shooter and mid-range scorer, Pierce was one of the best scorers that Shaq ever played with.
Kevin Garnett (2011)
Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Alongside Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett was the star of the Boston Celtics. The power forward was 34 years old in 2011, but still made his 14th All-Star Team by posting solid numbers across the board and continuing his reign as one of the best defensive players in the league. Still a capable mid-range shooter and a tough competitor, KG and Shaq formed an intimidating frontcourt, even if both players were past their primes. Shaq only wished he had a prime KG by his side, but even a 34-year-old “Big Ticket” was a force on the court.
Ray Allen (2011)
Statistics: 16.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Finally, Shaq had the luxury of playing alongside one of the greatest shooters ever in Ray Allen in his final season in Boston. Allen was also past his prime at age 35, but he also made his 10th All-Star Team selection by posting solid scoring numbers and remaining one of the best shooters in the game. Thanks to his off-ball movement and accurate shooting stroke, Ray has to be the best pure shooter that Shaq ever played with.
Career Stats: 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Awards And Achievements: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2007-2008 MVP, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 12x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
Arguably the greatest Laker ever and a top-two shooting guard of all time, Kobe Bryant is one of the most popular players of all time. Bryant was incredibly dominant on the court, winning 5 championships with one franchise and competing with and against some of the top stars that ever played the game. As great as Kobe Bryant was as an individual scorer and perimeter defender, he benefitted from the presence of some elite superstars over his career, starting with the big man Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaquille O’Neal (1997-04)
Statistics: 27.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.5 BPG
Kobe Bryant was extremely fortunate to start his career with a Los Angeles Lakers franchise that featured the most dominant big man in the game in Shaquille O’Neal. The superstar center was incredibly dominant throughout Kobe’s reign in LA, and his best season came in 2000 when he led the league in scoring and also led the Lakers to their first of three straight NBA championships. Kobe also began coming into his own at age 21, averaging 22.5 PPG and making his 2nd All-Star Team.
Pau Gasol (2008-14)
Statistics: 17.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Pau Gasol could be the player that saved Kobe Bryant’s legacy. For years, after Shaq left, Kobe Bryant was left alone on a very poor Lakers team that had zero chances of making the NBA Finals. The Lakers pulled off one of the biggest heists in NBA history when they acquired All-Star big man Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Together, Kobe and Pau made the Finals in 2008 in a losing effort to the Celtics. The following season, Gasol averaged his best numbers and Kobe had the help he needed to lead the Lakers to the first of two straight titles.
Lamar Odom (2005-11)
Statistics: 13.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Lamar Odom was a steady contributor for Kobe’s Lakers, whether he started games or came off the bench. A versatile forward that could score, rebound, and pass, Odom was one of the top-5 players on the Lakers every season the team was in contention. Odom’s best season alongside Kobe Bryant came in 2011 when he won Sixth Man of the Year and put up solid scoring numbers as a backup. Unfortunately, Odom could not help the Lakers return to the Finals again.
Andrew Bynum (2006-12)
Statistics: 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG
Andrew Bynum was crucial to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Finals runs between 2008 and 2010, because he helped form a twin-towers pairing in the paint with Pau Gasol. Bynum was a 7-footer with a solid post-game, and by the 2012 season, he was one of the best centers in the game. Bynum made his only All-Star Team in 2012 alongside Kobe, acting as the shooting guard’s best teammate by posting a monster double-double and guiding the Lakers to a 41-25 record which was good for third in the Western Conference.
Dwight Howard (2013)
Statistics: 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Dwight Howard was a very high-profile acquisition by the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer because the franchise managed to acquire the undisputed best big man in the game to give Kobe Bryant some help in the paint. The Lakers were faltering the past two seasons with an older Pau Gasol and an inconsistent Bynum, and Howard was supposed to be the answer. Dwight put up solid numbers by leading all players in rebounds and making his 7th All-Star Team, but it was clear the big man was no longer in his prime as back injuries held him back enough for the Lakers to falter in the first round of the playoffs.
Steve Nash (2013-14)
Statistics: 11.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Kobe Bryant never had a superstar point guard in his prime over his career, as a 38- and 39-year-old Steve Nash does not count. The Canadian, a former two-time MVP, was a shell of himself with the Lakers, appearing in a combined 65 games in two seasons. Injuries greatly derailed Nash’s career, and he would soon retire after 15 games in the 2014 season. But when on the court, Steve was still a solid passer who nailed an impressive 42.2% of his three-point shots.
Career Stats: 27.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Awards And Achievements: 4x NBA Champion, 4x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 18x All-Star, 17x All-NBA Team Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2007-2008 Scoring Champion, 2019-2020 Assist Champion, 2003-2004 Rookie of the Year
LeBron James is the greatest small forward ever because he has managed to win 4 NBA titles with 3 different franchises and also capture 4 Finals MVPs and 4 MVP awards. As an all-time great playmaker and all-around threat, King James has exceeded expectations for a young player who came into the league at age 19. Currently, the franchise superstar for the Los Angeles Lakers, James has had a long career that includes some elite teammates. Interestingly, it is impressive how many pure scorers The King has played with during his stints with three franchises.
Shaquille O’Neal (2009-10)
Statistics: 12.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Shaquille O’Neal was past his prime when he played in Cleveland during the 2010 season, because he was injury-prone and older at age 37. Still, Shaq was a massive figure in the paint and still put up decent numbers considering he played 23.4 PPG in 53 games played. One year removed from his last All-Star appearance, O’Neal could not quite repeat the form that he showed with the Phoenix Suns.
Dwyane Wade (2011-14)
Statistics: 22.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG
LeBron James’ most important teammate ever has to be Dwyane Wade. The superstar shooting guard who helped The King win his first championship. For years, the narrative was that James did not know how to win yet and he needed a player of Wade’s talents to show him how. While some may argue that idea isn’t fully true, there is no doubt James benefitted from Wade’s greatness. The shooting guard has his best season alongside LeBron in 2011 when he dropped 25.5 PPG and led the Heat to the Finals.
Chris Bosh (2011-14)
Statistics: 17.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG
James also played with All-Star power forward Chris Bosh in his first season in Miami, and the big man helped The King and Dwyane Wade make the Finals. Thanks to his floor-spacing, consistent defense, and high basketball IQ, Bosh is one of the best power forwards of his generation. The talented All-Star had his best season alongside James in 2011, posting 18.7 PPG and helping the Heat make the first of four straight Finals appearances. Even if Bosh was considered a scapegoat during Miami’s runs, he was extremely important to the dynasty.
Ray Allen (2013-14)
Statistics: 10.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
One of the greatest shooters ever and one of the most important players in LeBron’s career, Ray Allen was slightly older and was mainly a role player for the Miami Heat. But he made one of the biggest shots in NBA history when he drained the game-tying shot in Game 6 of the NBA 2013 Finals. A consistent marksman and ultimate professional, Allen fit perfectly alongside James on the court.
Kyrie Irving (2015-17)
Statistics: 22.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
While Kyrie Irving’s impact was most important in 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title, his best individual season came in 2017, which marked the final season the point guard would team up with LeBron James. Irving averaged his then career-high in 2017, posting 25.2 PPG on 47.3% shooting from the field and 40.1% from three. Together, Irving and James made the Finals in a losing effort to the Warriors. Kyrie and James formed one of the best big brother-little brother duos in recent memory, although an ugly split in 2018 would leave a little stain.
Kevin Love (2015-18)
Statistics: 17.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Kevin Love is one of the best sharpshooting power forwards in NBA history, and his impact with the Cavaliers was exceptional. Despite being a third option on the Cavaliers squad, his defense, shooting, and rebounding ability proved to be meaningful during the 2016 championship season. Love’s best individual season alongside James came in 2017 when he posted a solid double-double and made his first All-Star Team with the Cavaliers.
Anthony Davis (2020-22)
Statistics: 24.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.1 BPG
Anthony Davis was exceptional during the 2020 season, posting a team-high 26.1 PPG and playing elite-level defense in the paint. An extremely talented big man who can score and defend, the Lakers took advantage of the COVID-shortened season to give LeBron James plenty of rest while Davis carried the team during the regular season. Davis’ presence gave James the leeway to dominate in the postseason, resulting in the Lakers’ 17th championship. Hopefully, Davis can return to the form that helped James win a championship with the Purple and Gold.
Russell Westbrook (2021-22)
Statistics: 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Russell Westbrook was not the best fit with LeBron James on the court for the Lakers, but he was still an exceptional talent at attacking the basket and pushing the break with the ball in his hands. Russ played better when James was off the court for the majority of the season, and he was relegated to a jump-shooting role which wasn’t his best fit when The King played alongside him. But Westbrook is a bona fide Hall of Famer and he is yet another elite talent that LeBron James has played with during his career, which included stints with 3 different franchises.
Which Superstar Played With The Best Teammates?
The answer has to be LeBron James, a superstar small forward who is known for moving teams often and finding the best possible teammates to join him on the quest to win NBA championships. The King had to endure multiple losing seasons in Cleveland to start his career, before taking matters into his own hands and joining the Miami Heat in free agency before the 2011 season. The King organized a superteam team-up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and together they made 4 straight Finals appearances and won 2 championships. Wade and Bosh each had their best seasons in 2011, although the trio would lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals. After James had enough of the Heat, he decided to go back to Cleveland to form another superteam with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
The trio managed to win one of the most impressive championships in 2016, knocking off the 73-9 Golden State Warriors dynasty. Of course, James moved again to join the Los Angeles Lakers and the franchise eventually traded for a transcendent big man, Anthony Davis, who helped James win the title in 2020. Even if it did not quite work out on the court, James had the luxury of playing with another Hall of Fame point guard in Russell Westbrook, a player who is on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Next up has to be Shaquille O’Neal, a center who played with two of the top three shooting guards of all time. Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are players who are capable of being the men on championship teams, and Shaq benefitted greatly by playing with both. While Shaq’s teammates in their prime were better than LeBron’s teammates, the rest of the teammates were not on the level of James’ other teammates.
Penny Hardaway was an exceptional point guard, but his prime was short-lived due to injury issues. Finally, Shaq got to play with talented stars Steve Nash and LeBron James, although O’Neal was past his prime when he played with both stars. Nash was also out of his prime during the time, and LeBron was not able to find success with the Cavaliers roster at the time Shaq was on the team. With the hopes of possibly capturing one more NBA championship before he retired (and equal Kobe’s tally of 5), Shaq joined the Boston Celtics superteam that consisted of three All-Stars: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
Out of the three, Kobe Bryant did not have the best teammates. While he played with the most dominant center in the modern era in Shaquille O’Neal, he only had Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in their primes who could be considered Hall of Famers. Gasol is an all-time great European star, but LeBron managed to play with both Bosh and Love who are similar to Gasol in impact.
Dwight Howard was past his prime with the Lakers, as injury issues held his game back tremendously when he teamed up with Bryant. Not to mention, the former 3-time Defensive Player of the Year winner only lasted a single season in Los Angeles because he could not handle the expectations of being a Lakers center and did not co-exist with Bryant on or off the court. Steve Nash was also on the squad in 2013 and 2014, but he was past his best and injuries led the point guard to appear in only 65 games over two years.
Overall, King James has played with the most superstars in his career out of the three players taken into consideration. In fact, James might have played with the greatest teammates ever (outside of Kevin Durant). LeBron has a knack for attracting other stars to play with him, and also moving to teams where he feels he can win. Shaq comes in second because he played with two all-time greats in Bryant and Wade, while Bryant finishes third after getting help from all-time great big man Shaquille O’Neal.