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The Los Angeles Lakers All-Time GOAT Pyramid

Fadeaway World 12/3/2022 Eddie Bitar

A lot of all-time greats played for the Los Angeles Lakers. From George Mikan, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Credit: Fadeaway World © Provided by Fadeaway World Credit: Fadeaway World

The Los Angeles Lakers franchise is arguably the most impressive and dominant NBA franchise of all time. They have 17 total NBA championships, equalling the Boston Celtics record, and are a host of some of the best players of all time. In fact, the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise might have had 6 of the top 10 greatest NBA players play for them when looking right at the name: Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain. That is also excluding some other all-time greats including Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

But how do the best Lakers players rank among each other in a pyramid scheme? By narrowing down the list of the greatest players to ever play for the iconic Los Angeles Lakers franchise, it is clear to see how these legends’ careers panned out for the Lakers. There is something special about wearing the Purple and Gold jerseys in the famous Staples Center, and here is the list of the players that managed to play for the Lakers and how they rank in 6 tiers. In doing so, we get an indication as to which players rank among the best to ever play for the Lakers, but there can only be the best ever who occupy Tier 1.

Tier 6

Eddie Jones, Kurt Rambis, Andrew Bynum, Mychal Thompson

Eddie Jones kicks off Tier 6, as the starting shooting guard in the NBA during Kobe Bryant’s beginning years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jones was a solid two-way perimeter player, who could defend the ball and hit outside shots. Over his Lakers career, Jones averaged 15.2 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 5 seasons.

Kurt Rambis was not a star, averaging 4.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 0.6 BPG for his Lakers career. The big man stood 6’8” and 213 lbs, making him a figure inside the post when defending the rim and going after boards. Rambis was not expected to play starter’s minutes, but backing up star players is no easy task. But Rambis won 4 NBA titles so he is certainly not complaining.

Andrew Bynum was a critical piece during the Lakers’ 2010 championship run, acting as a twin tower pairing with Pau Gasol. Bynum only made one All-Star Team as a member of the Lakers, which came later in 2012, but he was a solid post scorer and at 7’0” and 285 lbs, his size made him an impact star by all accounts.

Mychal Thompson won 2 NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, in 1987 and 1988 while playing around 24 MPG with the franchise in the playoffs. A 6’10” big man who can score and rebound, Thompson was a capable scorer and was a massive piece for the Lakers’ championship runs while coming off the bench.

Tier 5: Norm Nixon, A.C. Green, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Lamar Odom, Robert Horry, Clyde Lovelette, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Vlade Divac, Happy Hairston, Rudy LaRusso, Bob McAdoo

A 2-time All-Star and 2-time NBA champion with the Lakers, Norm Nixon has to be given credit for his consistent play as a member of the Lakers over his career. Nixon averaged a career 16.4 PPG and 7.9 APG with the Lakers, very solid numbers from a star guard who did his best to win titles with the franchise. Nixon made his first All-Star Team with the Lakers, posting 17.6 PPG, 8.0 APG, and 1.6 SPG during the 1982 season. Nixon clearly had the talent to get the job done, which he did often.

A.C. Green was known as the “Iron Man” because he was just inhumanely durable. He managed to play over 1,100 straight games in a row, something that no player has even come close to. This means that in over 14 straight seasons, Green never got a knock on his body or even had an illness strong enough to not let him get on the court. This is simply amazing because no player has shown this type of dedication and love for the game to go this long without missing a game. Of course, 9 of those seasons came with the Lakers franchise.

Everyone who followed the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s era knows the value of Derek Fisher. The point guard was a tremendous competitor, using his strength to battle on defense and also knocking down timely jumpers. Considered a good shooter from the perimeter, Fisher had a high-arcing release that was generally consistent. Derek won an impressive 5 NBA titles starting alongside the legendary Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.

Rick Fox was not a star player, but he did not have to be. His role was to use his length to defend the perimeter, knock down open threes, and hustle for loose balls. Did he accomplish those tasks? The answer is absolutely yes, because Fox won 3 NBA titles with the Lakers and was the starting small forward for the dominant 3-peat Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Lamar Odom is one of the best “Swiss Army Knife” players in recent memory, because at 6’9”, he was a very versatile power forward. Odom could handle the ball like a guard and make plays for others, rebound effectively, and also create his own offense. Even if he was a streaky shooter, Odom could be a difference-maker on offense because he could do so much. Defensively, Odom was tasked with defending both wing players and bigs and always got the job done.

There are very few players in NBA history more clutch than Robert Horry. Despite being a role player without much All-Star skill, Horry was a hustle-first player who defended and went after loose balls. But his job was to make timely shots, and he did it time after time again. Robert Horry’s game-winning three-pointer in Game 4 against the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Finals is one of the greatest shots in basketball history.

A 6’9” center who completed 4 seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers, Clyde Lovellette took off after his first season with the franchise. The center put up 8.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG in his first season, following it up with 3 straight seasons averaging over 18 PPG with the Lakers. Following his average first season, Lovellette would eventually make 2 straight All-Star Teams, the first coming in his last season with the Lakers and the second coming with the St. Louis Hawks.

Jim Pollard made 4 All-Star Teams with the Lakers during the 1950s, winning 4 NBA titles as a 6’4” small forward. A decent scorer in his era, Pollard consistently averaged over 11 PPG and was a solid contributor on offense. Pollard began his career in the BAA and also won the BAA championship so he was a winner with the Minneapolis Lakers as soon as he became a professional.

Martin won 4 chips with the George Mikan-led Lakers and later won his 5th with the St. Louis Hawks. Making 7 All-Star Teams and 5 All-NBA Teams is nothing to sniff at, even if the guard benefitted by playing with some of the greatest players ever. Slater Martin was a product of the 1950s but that should not take away from his success as a professional who only stood 5’10” tall.

Vlade Divac spent 8 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, the longest stint with any team. The big man originated from Serbia and was a monster of a human being at 7’1” and 243 lbs. Making the Hall of Fame at the end of the year, Divac made 1 All-Star Team and was a consistent force for the Lakers for years. He was not lucky enough to win a title with the Lakers alongside the aging Magic Johnson, but he still became a Lakers icon for many European fans.

Happy Hairston stood 6’7” and weighed 225 lbs, making him an above-average athlete by most accounts and he did well enough to average 14.8 PPG over his career and win the 1972 NBA championship. Hairston spent 6 seasons with the Lakers, posting 15.2 PPG over that stint and proving to be a solid contributor on both ends of the court.

Rudy LaRusso was a 5-time All-Star in his career, three times coming as a member of the Lakers. The 6’7” forward was a solid offensive player who could rebound the ball very well, using his strength and muscular build to be a force on the court. LaRusso never won an NBA title with the Lakers, which is quite strange, but he was one of the franchise’s best talents considering his athleticism and impact.

Bob McAdoo was a superstar for the Buffalo Braves and averaged an impressive 28.1 PPG with them, but he was also a solid contributor for the Los Angeles Lakers. He joined the Lakers at age 30 and wasn’t the same player he used to be, but he was still a capable scorer coming off the bench. He won his only championships as a player in 1982 and 1985 with the Purple and Gold which makes him a valued member of Tier 5.

Tier 4

Gail Goodrich, Pau Gasol, Vern Mikkelsen, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper, Anthony Davis

Due to his tremendous scoring ability and perimeter defense, Goodrich quietly had a great career and gained entry into the Hall of Fame. Over the course of 14 NBA seasons, Goodrich averaged a respectable 18.6 PPG, playing primarily with the Los Angeles Lakers. Goodrich, a five-time All-Star, led the Los Angeles Lakers to their NBA championship in 1971–1972 as their top scorer. There is no doubt Goodrich belongs in Tier 4 to kick things off.

Pau Gasol was an invaluable addition to the Lakers team that only featured Kobe Bryant at the time. For years, Kobe was pleading for more help and when it didn’t come, he requested a trade. Instead of complying, the Lakers acquired one of the best big men in the game in Pau Gasol and the rest was history. Gasol was a perfect sidekick to Kobe Bryant, occupying the paint and acting as a secondary scorer. Thanks to the Gasol acquisition, the Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelsen made a total of 6 All-Star Teams with the Minneapolis Lakers, posting career averages of 14.4 PG and 9.4 RPG while playing every season with the team that took him No. 11 overall in 1949. Mikkelsen was a consistent presence in the paint as a 6’7” power forward, mainly through his scoring and rebounding. Mikkelsen also made 4 All-NBA Second Teams in his Hall of Fame career and ended his career with 4 NBA titles with the franchise.

Byron Scott was a valued member of the Lakers side that won 3 NBA titles in 1985, 1987, and 1988. The guard was exceptional at pushing the pace, creating for others, and scoring points. Scott averaged 15.1 PPG in his Lakers career and never played in the playoffs unless he was suited up in Purple and Gold. A tough competitor who knew how to win in his role, Scott helped the Lakers achieve great heights.

Jamaal Wilkes was a Hall of Famer who spent 8 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, after his first 3 seasons with the Golden State Warriors. Wilkes made his only two All-Star Teams in 1981 and 1983 as a scoring forward with solid all-around ability. A consistent offensive presence, Wilkes belongs in Tier 4 for being one of the best talents to play for the franchise.

Michael Cooper was a defensive master, using his technique and athleticism to stay with ball handlers and make life difficult for the opposition. The shooting guard won 5 NBA titles, won the Defensive Player of the Year in 1987, and made 8 All-Defensive Teams. Because of his dominant two-way play, Cooper was selected to the Hall of Fame and he spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers mainly during the 1980s.

After becoming one of the most talented players in the NBA with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, Anthony Davis was involved in one of the biggest blockbuster deals in recent memory when the Lakers acquired him to pair with LeBron James. Davis helped the Lakers win the championship in his first season, averaging 26.1 PPG in the regular season. His level has dropped in recent seasons, but he belongs in Tier 4.

Tier 3

Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, George Mikan, LeBron James

Elgin Baylor might be the greatest player, behind Karl Malone, to never win an NBA championship. Baylor was an unstoppable offensive force who was also capable of crashing the boards, a reason he made 11 All-Star Teams and 10 All-NBA Team appearances in 14 years. At 6’5” and 225 lbs, Baylor was a sensational athlete capable of doing most things on the court but his offense stood out with a career average of 27.4 PPG. Alongside Jerry West, Baylor was a force for a Lakers dynasty.

James Worthy, known as “Big Game James”, was a player who specialized in big moments. He was an All-Star on the court during the regular season, making 7 All-Star Teams, but he became a superstar in the playoffs. Worthy won the 1988 Finals MVP award and also captured 3 NBA titles alongside Magic Johnson and the Lakers. No doubt, James is one of the greatest Lakers ever because he was an elite defender and one of the key pieces of the “Showtime” Lakers teams that were deadly on the fast break.

A 6’10” center that was considered the league’s first true superstar, it was only fitting that George Mikan started his career with the Lakers. The dominant big man started his first 3 seasons of his career by winning 3 straight scoring titles and would follow that up with 2 straight seasons leading the league in rebounds. Mikan also won 5 championships in 6 years, using his incredible size and dominance in the post to destroy defenders. Playing in the 1950s makes Mikan’s career seem forgettable, but it certainly wasn’t and he is an all-time great Laker.

LeBron James, the best small forward of all time, is one of the stars in Tier 3. The highest expectations in sports history were placed on The King when he joined the league, and he has somehow managed to surpass them. James, who is presently in his 20th season and playing at a high level, has won four NBA championships, four MVP awards, four Finals MVP awards, and an astounding 18 All-Star Team selections. Even if he has only played 5 seasons with the Lakers, he did bring an NBA championship in 2020 and for that, deserves his place in Tier 3.

Tier 2

Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West

The most physically dominant big man after Wilt Chamberlain was Shaquille O'Neal. While Wilt had tremendous athleticism, Shaq was just raw power. He would force his way to win rings, and there wasn't anything anybody could do about it. Alongside Kobe Bryant, Shaq managed to win 3 NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in a run that impacted the NBA forever. Because of how dominant Shaq was, the league has to enforce the 3-second rule. Shaq literally changed the rulebooks and deserves his spot in Tier 2.

The greatest center to have ever played also happened to be a Los Angeles Laker. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the most unstoppable shot in the history of the game in the skyhook, a running hook shot that was unblockable and unguardable. Kareem had the perfect mix of dominant defense and offense, controlling all aspects of the game when he was inside. There is a reason he has 6 NBA Championships (5 with Los Angeles and 1 with Milwaukee), and it is his due to his dominant two-way play in the post.

Wilt Chamberlain was the first real unstoppable center in the league. Wilt Chamberlain has a host of unbreakable records that will stand the test of time. His famous 100-point game and also his 50-rebound game will likely never be accomplished again, and Wilt was simply too large and too athletic for any opponent to handle. Chamberlain was able to win 2 NBA championships over his career, including one with the Los Angeles Lakers. It is true that Wilt had incredible stints elsewhere, but he was one of the all-time greats during his 5 seasons with the Purple and Gold.

Jerry West, the NBA's emblem and one of the greatest shooting guards of all time, deserves to be listed among the others in Tier 4. West was a premier scorer, passer, and shooter who played in 14 consecutive All-Star games, was named to the All-NBA team 12 times, and won the NBA championship in 1972. West is also the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award in a losing effort by posting 37.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 7.4 APG. The incredible basketball mind has also managed to become a top executive in the NBA following his retirement.

Tier 1

Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson

Kicking off Tier 1 is Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the most dominant individual players in league history. With possibly the greatest mentality out of all players in his era, Kobe left his heart and soul on the court every night. Armed with elite fundamentals and an offensive bag that might be second to none, Kobe had two Hall of Fame careers as #8 and #24 with the Los Angeles Lakers. A dynamic scorer and 5-time NBA champion, Bryant was an elite winner with a killer instinct comparable to only one player. That player happens to be the GOAT, so Bryant was a near photocopy of one of the greatest athletes in the history of team sports and is widely regarded as the greatest Laker ever.

The greatest point guard and leader ever, Magic Johnson was arguably the most dominant player during the 1980s and 1990s before Michael Jordan took over. Magic won 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, and 3 MVPs with the Los Angeles Lakers; changing the way point guards were looked at because he stood 6’9” with incredible size and length. When discussing the greatest Lakers of all time, Magic’s name is often mentioned right at the top because he is simply a special point guard with a resume that will probably never be usurped by any star at his position. In terms of point guards, there is no comparison to Magic and there probably never will be.

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