Along with the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Los Angeles is tied with the Celtics for the most NBA titles with 17 and, like their rivals out East, they have produced plenty of Hall of Famers and NBA champions.
The iconic franchise we know today didn’t start in Los Angeles. The Lakers originated in Minnesota (named for all those lakes) and then eventually they moved to California. Like the current Lakers, the Minneapolis Lakers also produced their share of greats before they moved out West.
It might be tough to rank them but let’s list our ten-best Los Angeles Lakers of all time.
10. George Mikan, center
Known as “Mr. Basketball,” George Mikan played for the Minneapolis Lakers and is considered one of the pioneers of the modern NBA. At the time, he redefined the role of a “big man” in the sport. Mikan was a five-time BAA/NBA champion, two-time NBL champion, four-time NBA All-Star, NBL three-time NBA scoring champion, and is often considered the greatest basketball player of the first half of the 20th century. Mikan is often forgotten when it comes to naming the greatest Lakers of all time because he didn’t play in LA, but the franchise’s tradition of great players begins with him.
9. Elgin Baylor, small forward
Another Minneapolis/LA Lakers great, Baylor played with the organization for 13 years. After winning the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, he embarked on a Hall of Fame career in which he was an 11-time All-Star, an NBA Champion, and appeared on ten All-NBA First Teams. Baylor averaged over 30.0 points and 14.0 rebounds three times during his career and led the Lakers in rebounding a club-record seven consecutive seasons. Not too many modern NBA stars put up those types of numbers. The franchise’s first star in Los Angeles, his impact continues to be felt today. Along with having his number retired and being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
8. Shaquille O’Neal, center
There are so many great Lakers to choose from, it’s a testament to how Shaq is so low on the list. Along with Kobe Bryant, Shaq played an important part in bringing the franchise back into relevance in the 2000s. The two became the new Jordan and Pippen of the 2000s, dominating the NBA and winning three NBA championship trophies. O’Neal averaged 27 points per game with the Lakers, was named NBA MVP, and won the NBA Finals MVP three times with them. He played for a few other teams in his pro career, but Shaq will always go down as one of the best to ever wear the purple and gold.
7. James Worthy, forward
James Worthy played a huge part in the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. Drafted out of North Carolina, he was just the exact piece they needed to compliment Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to make their championship run. Worthy was part of three NBA Title teams, winning the NBA Finals MVP in 1988. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and also led the Lakers in scoring for two consecutive seasons. Worthy remains a franchise leader in several categories, including scoring, steals, and field goal percentage. However, Worthy always saved his best for the playoffs when he averaged 21 points per game. A member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, his No. 42 was retired by the Lakers.
6. Jerry West, point guard
Jerry West is literally the face of the NBA as the league logo is his figure holding a basketball. West not only won championships as a player with the Lakers but as an executive as well. A 14-time All-Star in his playing days, he won an NBA title with the Lakers in 1972. He was also named NBA Finals MVP in 1969 despite playing for the losing team. After his playing career, West became the architect of the Showtime Lakers and beyond, overseeing the franchise for eight more NBA titles between 1980 and 2017. The Lakers retired his No. 44 jersey in 1983.
5. Wilt Chamberlin, center
Wilt Chamberlin may not have won a lot of championships with the Lakers but he still was a dominant force in the middle. Chamberlin played the first two-thirds of his career with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers before getting traded to the Lakers in 1968. Wilt would win a championship with the Lakers in 1972 and was named Finals MVP. While he wasn’t the all-powerful scorer he was earlier in his career, Chamberlain still put up strong numbers. In his final season in the league, he shot an amazing 72.7 percent from the field while playing all 82 games and averaging over 43 minutes per game. The Lakers retired his jersey in 1983.
4.LeBron James. power forward
LeBron James came to the Lakers late in his career but has certainly made enough of an impact to cement his place in franchise history. King James, along with Anthony Davis, led the Lakers to the 2020 NBA title, which tied the Boston Celtics for the most titles by an NBA franchise with 17. It was the first time the franchised had won a title since 2010. Despite being almost 40 years old, James still plays at times like he is a rookie and almost led the Lakers back to the NBA Championship in 2023. Still averaging well over 25 points per game in most seasons with LA, James broke his personal record with a 10.2 assists/game average in 2019-2020. If he wins another title for this franchise before he retires, he will most likely move up this list.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, center
Magic Johnson and James Worthy might have been the most exciting players on those 1980s Lakers squads, but the captain was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar played for the franchise for almost 13 years and was a very important part of those Lakers teams, not only as a scorer but also as a calming force when needed. In his 19-year career in the NBA, Kareem averaged almost 25 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists per game. The six-time NBA champion still averaged double figures in scoring during his final NBA season. Although he and Magic Johnson struggled at the beginning of their relationship, they learned to work together and become multi-time champions. He also invented one of the greatest basketball moves ever: The undefendable skyhook.
2. Kobe Bryant, shooting guard/small forward
When Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter accident in 2020, it devastated the entire NBA world. Bryant had retired just a few years earlier and had begun a promising career beyond basketball. He left behind a Lakers legacy that few could ever match.
In 20 seasons with the Lakers, Kobe led the team to five NBA championships, three of which with alongside Shaquille O’Neal. When O’Neal left the Lakers, many thought Kobe would never win another, but he proved them wrong. The organization rebuilt around Bryant with players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to keep the dynasty moving.
A real showman, many felt that Kobe was the Michael Jordan of his time. In the last game of his NBA career, Bryant scored 60 points in front of the home crowd. Kobe ended his career averaging 25 points and five rebounds per game and is a member of the Hall of Fame.
1. Magic Johnson, shooting guard/point guard
How could we not put Magic Johnson first? The No. 1 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, all Magic did in his rookie season was lead the Lakers to an NBA Championship. The 6’9″ point guard would go on to redefine the role, leading Los Angeles to nine overall NBA Finals appearances and four more NBA Championships while battling against Boston’s Larry Bird for league supremacy. Across his storied career, Johnson garnered three NBA MVP Awards, three NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards, 12 All-Star games, and nine All-NBA First Team selections. Not only did he lead the league in regular-season assists four times but he holds the record for most career playoff assists.
Named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, he was also included in the NBA 75th Anniversary Team and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame twice, once for his career and once as a member of the “Dream Team.”