22 Best Los Angeles Lakers Players Ever

Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers represent absolute basketball greatness. With 17 NBA championships and a rainbow of superstars to have appeared in the purple and gold, the Lakers are the envy of most professional sports teams. With so many Hall of Famers, picking just 22 feels impossible. Nevertheless, the hard work of ranking the best Lakers has been done! From Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, find out where these legends rank below.

1. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson’s impact on winning was evident the second he took the floor for the Lakers. In his very first game, he stormed the court after Kareem made a game-winner at the buzzer, and he won Finals MVP as a rookie. A thirst for championships matched Magic’s flair for the dramatic, and he delivered unprecedented success to L.A.

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Kobe Bryant’s career was split into two unique, equally great sections. He proved he could accompany Shaq as the second scoring option on three titles, and he took the baton and won two more with a new cast of teammates in 2009 and 2010. Bryant’s dedication to his craft made him the most popular player in Los Angeles for much of the 21st century.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Image Credit: U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain/Wiki Commons.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played more seasons for the Lakers than just about any player in the franchise’s history. With five rings and three MVPs, Kareem’s devastating scoring impact and fit next to Magic Johnson made them the best duo in basketball history.

4. Jerry West

Jerry West with the ball
Image Credit: Barry Bregman/Wiki Commons.

Jerry West only won a single championship after being snuffed out by Bill Russell for years in the NBA Finals, but older Lakers fans swear by his importance to the franchise. West drug under-appreciated Los Angeles teams to the edge of greatness every year, and his work in the front office in the 1980s cemented him as a bonafide legend.

5. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal
Image Credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 /Wiki Commons.

Shaq’s arrival in Los Angeles symbolized a renaissance that would reignite the dynastic tradition of the franchise. The years the Big Diesel spent with the Lakers were his most otherworldly, as it often felt like not even an entire team of defenders could prevent O’Neal from slamming his body and the ball through the hoop.

6. Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor
Image Credit: 1969 Elgin Baylor Night, Public domain,/Wiki Commons.

A knee injury prevented Elgin Baylor from becoming a champion with Jerry West in 1972, but Baylor established the team as a presence on the West Coast for the majority of the 1960s. Baylor juggled military service and hooping, even averaging 38 points and 18 rebounds per game in 1962 when he also had to go overseas.

7. LeBron James

LeBron James
Image Credit: Erik Drost – Own Work, CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

LeBron James is arguably the best player in the history of the Lakers, but that doesn’t make him the best Laker if that makes sense. Most of James’ success came before he signed in Los Angeles, carving out his GOAT case with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. LeBron did bring respectability back to the team after a decade of irrelevance in the 2010s.

8. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain
Image Credit: Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer derivative work: JoeJohnson2, Public domain/Wiki Commons.

Wilt Chamberlain experienced a majority of his team success with the Lakers, even though his statical dominance came with the Philadelphia 76ers and San Francisco Warriors. The Stilt finally came to understand team basketball and camaraderie with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, maximizing his game and realizing his true potential.

9. George Mikan

George Mikan
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George Mikan, the first superstar in NBA history, established the initial Lakers dynasty while the team resided in Minneapolis. Though his game may not be as dominant in the modern age, Mikan set the standard for centers in Laker history that would be followed by Wilt, Shaq, Kareem, and more!

10. James Worthy

James Worthy
Image Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.

James Worthy is overrated or underrated, depending on who you ask, but Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appreciated the athletic flair he provided to the Showtime Lakers. Worthy’s wicked fast break finishes supplemented the team’s penchant for half-court scoring when the game slowed down in the playoffs.

11. Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol
Image Credit: By Keith Allison – [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, Wiki Commons.

Pau Gasol never gets credit for putting up with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson’s harsh personalities, but Lakers fans love the Spaniard for his unselfishness. Gasol introduced a finesse and skill to the team in the late 2000s that aided them tremendously in their repeat run.

12. Gail Goodrich

Gail Goodrich
Image Credit: The Sporting News Archives, Public domain/Wiki Commons.

Gail Goodrich led the 1972 Lakers in scoring, something that comes as a surprise to casual fans who only remember Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain as the stars of the team. Goodrich led a balanced attack and always played at his own pace. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

13. Jamaal Wilkes

Jamaal Wilkes
Image Credit: Here, Public domain/Wiki Commons.

Jamaal Wilkes is perhaps the most unknown player on the Showtime Lakers. Averaging over 20 points per game on over 50% shooting from the field in three different seasons, Silk was the quiet assassin who helped leverage the power of Magic Johnson’s playmaking during the Lakers’ first two titles of the 1980s.

14. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis
Image Credit: Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Anthony Davis has been the most talented player on the Lakers for much of the last half-decade, often easing LeBron’s responsibilities at the most opportune times. Davis’ play inside the bubble during the 2020 playoffs reminded Laker fans all over the globe that big men will always be the signature sign of their success.

15. Vern Mikkelson

Vern Mikkelson
Image Credit: Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

Vern Mikkelson revolutionized the power forward position for the Minneapolis Lakers, teaming with George Mikan to form an unbeatable frontcourt duo. His toughness and grit blazed a trail for future big men in the league, and he remains a pioneer in rebounding and defensive techniques.

16. Michael Cooper

Michael Cooper
Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rion Codrington, Public domain,/Wiki Commons.

Anytime an opposing star had a bad night against the 1980s Lakers, you could bet Michael Cooper might have been the culprit. Coop used every bit of his frame and long arms to annoy and harass Larry Bird, Joe Dumars, and other Hall of Famers who matched up against L.A.

17. Byron Scott

Byron Scott
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Byron Scott evolved into a deadly shooter and overall playmaker next to Magic Johnson during the late 1980s. When Kareem and Worthy got older, Byron Scott stepped in and ensured Magic had a star wingman to complete the dynasty.

18. Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher
Image Credit: Stephanie Young Merzel, CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.

Derek Fisher served as the voice of reason throughout the tumultuous journey of the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Fisher made timely shots, handled the ball, and served as an extension of head coach Phil Jackson. His prototypical point guard play often went under the radar.

19. Norm Nixon

Norm Nixon
Image Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.

Norm Nixon did much of what Byron Scott did for the Lakers only a half-decade earlier. Nixon’s steady scoring next to Magic Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes defined the first several titles for the Lakers during the Showtime era.

20. Bob McAdoo

Bob McAdoo
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Bob McAdoo was always a big statistical star for the Buffalo Braves but never translated those skills into winning. When he got to the Lakers, McAdoo accepted a bench role and was instrumental to the team in a pinch. McAdoo proves that many players need a change of scenery to get the best out of their potential.

21. Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee in action at the Orlando Magic v/s Washington Wizards Game on 11/27/08
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC BY-Sa 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Dwight Howard probably wouldn’t have made this list if he hadn’t returned for the second stint that resulted in a championship. Howard’s redemption arc was a vital component to the bubble title in 2020. It helped overshadow his rocky relationship with Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant in the first go-around in L.A.

22. Robert Horry

Robert Horry
Image Credit: Michael Sandoval from Pleasant Hill, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.

Every time Shaq and Kobe needed a role player to step up and lend a hand in dire moments, Big Shot Bob came storming through like a flash of lightning. His game-winner against the Sacramento Kings in the 2001 playoffs single-handedly changed the course of Laker history.

Author: Shawn Laib

Title: Writer

Expertise: Gaming, Sports, Film, Television

Bio:

Shawn Laib is a writer for Wealth of Geeks, The Manual, Den of Geek, and Edge Media Network. Shawn loves sports, gaming, film, and television and uses his knowledge of these subject areas to deliver interesting and entertaining content to his readers.