Advertisement
Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson
Left: JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images, Right: Stephen Dunn /Allsport via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most historic franchises in NBA history. One could argue the most historic with 17 championships, and one could argue counting the five titles won as the Minneapolis Lakers is ludicrous. No matter which side of the argument you’re on we can all agree the city of Los Angeles has seen 12 NBA titles, the latest ring brought in by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

But even winning 12 (not 17) titles is an amazing accomplishment and one that required having legendary players. Over the years the Los Angeles Lakers have rostered some of the best to ever play in the NBA. Constructing a starting five and a sixth man of all-time Laker greats was a challenge, but we tried it regardless.

The Los Angeles Lakers All-Time Starting Lineup

Center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar celebrates the 1988 NBA Championship in LA
Photo by Bud Symes/Allsport/Getty Images
  • 14 seasons as a Laker
  • 22 points per game / 9 rebounds per game / 3 assists per game
  • 13x All-Star
  • 3 MVP Awards
  • 5x NBA Champion
  • 1985 Finals MVP
  • 6x All-NBA First Team
  • 3x All-Defense First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Los Angeles was almost too lucky to get to watch Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) in college, and then again in the NBA. Abdul-Jabbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft. In 1975, Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade to the Knicks or Lakers and the Bucks acquiesced and sent the superstar to Los Angeles in a trade.

Abdul-Jabbar was outstanding for Los Angeles and one of the Lakers’ best players ever with five titles and three league MVP trophies. He is also likely the second best center of all-time after Bill Russell. Having Kareem as your center is a great start for any lineup, but the Lakers have some other equally impressive talents.

Power Forward: Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson during Player introductions before his return after a knee injury.
Photo by Andy Hayt /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Related: Magic Johnson’s Wife Cookie Has Been His Rock Through His Ups & Downs

Advertisement
  • 13 Seasons as a Laker
  • 20 points per game / 7 rebounds per game / 11 assists per game
  • 13 seasons
  • 12x All-Star
  • 3 MVP Awards
  • 5x NBA Champion
  • 3x Finals MVP
  • 9x All-NBA First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Yes, Magic is more known as a point guard, but his basketball reference page also lists him as a power forward so just be cool.

Magic became a Laker when he was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. He has never stopped being a Laker since then. He was a player for 13 seasons, a head coach for 16 games and the President of Basketball Operations for two years.

During his playing career there were very few players as good as Johnson. The Showtime Lakers saw Magic bring them five titles, winning the Finals MVP during three of their NBA championship runs. On top of those championship runs, Magic Johnson gave NBA fans one of the best rivalries, as he squared off against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics on multiple occasions.

Small Forward: Elgin Baylor 

Elgin Baylor after scoring 71 points for the Lakers
Photo from the Bettmann Collection via Getty Images.

Related: Elgin Baylor’s 61-Point NBA Finals Game is Still the Most Ever 60 Years Later

Advertisement
  • 12 Seasons as a Laker
  • 27 points per game / 13 rebounds per game / 4 assists per game
  • 9x All-Star
  • 8x All-NBA First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Baylor was drafted by and played two seasons for the Minneapolis Lakers, but as we discussed we are not counting that. Baylor’s Laker tenure in Los Angeles was still very impressive as he made the All-Star team in 75 percent of his seasons.

In the 1961-62 season Baylor averaged a 38/19/5 while also making nearly 10 free throws a game. In a further example of how shocking old school NBA stat lines are, Baylor didn’t even win the MVP that season as he was FOURTH behind:

  • 3rd — Oscar Robertson — 31/13/11
  • 2nd — Wilt Chamberlain — 50/26/2
  • 1st — Bill Russell — 19/24/5

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant adjusts his jersey during a Lakers game.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Related: Kobe Bryant’s Final Game Was The Perfect Farewell

  • 20 Seasons as a Laker
  • 25 points per game / 5 rebounds per game / 5 assist per game
  • 18x All-Star
  • 2008 MVP Winner
  • 5x NBA Champion
  • 2x Finals MVP
  • 11x All-NBA First Team
  • 9x All-Defense First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Kobe was drafted No. 13 overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Lakers, where he was projected to become the next Michael Jordan. Bryant is THE Laker for anyone born after 1985. Kobe was even the winner of his grudge match with Shaquille O’Neal over who the Lakers wanted to keep more and played for TWENTY seasons in Los Angeles.

Advertisement

He was an All-Star nearly every season of his career and won five championships. Kobe was also a fantastic defensive player and was named to the All-Defense First team nine times.

Point Guard: Jerry West

Jerry West takes a breather on the Lakers bench.
Photo by George Long/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Related: Why the NBA Chose Jerry West to Be the Logo

  • 14 Seasons as a Laker
  • 27 points per game / 6 rebounds per game / 7 assist per game
  • 14x All-Star
  • 1 Championship
  • 1969 NBA Finals MVP (lost)
  • 10x All-NBA First Team
  • 4x All-Defense First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

The Lakers drafted West with the second overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft. West would play for the Lakers for 14 seasons and his likeness is used as the logo for the NBA. The Lakers would win one championship with West in 1972. However, West also won the 1969 Finals MVP despite being on the losing side of the series.

West’s past with the Lakers has recently been a hot topic, but his playing resume ensures that he belongs in this lineup.

Sixth Man: Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal holds the MVP trophy (R) and the Larry O'Brian Championship trophy
STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images
  • 8 Seasons as a Laker
  • 27 point per game / 12 rebound per game / 3 assist per game
  • 7x All-Star
  • 2000 MVP Award
  • 3x Champion
  • 3x Finals MVP
  • 6x All-NBA First Team
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Is it weird to have a player who started 99 percent of his 1200+ career games coming off the bench? Sure. But it’s the reality this lineup is forcing us into. Shaq was a force for the Lakers and borderline unstoppable during Los Angeles’ title runs in the early 2000s.

Advertisement

O’Neal also only played in Los Angeles for eight seasons. He signed as a free agent in the summer of 1996 and was then traded to Miami in the summer of 2004. This minimized time as a Laker compared to the rest of this lineup is why Shaq is relegated to bench duty.

Also, none of the movies Shaq made were close to as good as Abdul-Jabbar’s role in “Airplane.”

Off the Bench

  • James Worthy
  • Byron Scott
  • Pau Gasol
  • Lamar Odom
  • Gail Goodrich

More: Is the NBA Rigged? Inside the 2002 Western Conference Finals Game That Birthed a Conspiracy

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.
View More Articles

Stories You Might Like