The Immortals: Which Laker Should Be The Next To Stand Outside Staples Forever?

There’s no denying it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will go down as one of, if not the greatest, Laker of all time. A six time MVP and NBA Champion, Abdul-Jabbar was the most dominant center of his era; one that included the likes of Wilt Chamberlain (SP), Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon (SP). The NBA’s all-time leading scorer will, at some time during the 2012-13 season, be erected as a statue outside the Staples Center. It’s about time the organization honours not only the greatest Laker to ever throw on a jersey, but arguably, one of the greatest players of all time. But who’s next? Many players whose names are mentioned among ‘the greatest’ have worn purple and gold, so who should be next to be established in stone, to be forever immortalized outside the Lakers arena?

Kobe Bryant:

While I won’t dispute that fact that I have a huge bias toward Kobe Bryant, I certainly think he needs a statue outside the arena. Just not yet. The Black Mamba has five rings, with (hopefully) more to come, two finals MVPs, one regular season MVP and fourteen All Star appearances. Even the king himself, Michael Jordan, can only compare one person to himself, and that’s Bryant. Kobe is almost capable of anything on the court, but is it time for a statue? No, not yet; there are Lakers who deserve it more right now.

Wilt Chamberlain:
‘The 100-Point Man’ definitely deserves a statue, but just not at the Staples Center. Chamberlain played in Los Angeles from 1968-1973 and joined a squad featuring Elgin Baylor and Hall of Fame guard, Jerry West. During Chamberlain’s first season, he was benched several times and the phenomenal scorer only averaged 20.5 points per game; not to mention the two games he scored six and two. During the ’69 playoffs, Chamberlain was accused of choking as his mediocre performances arguably cost the Lakers a championship to the Celtics. In the following season, a knee injury caused him to miss all but three games. After making it to the Finals once again, the Lakers suffered another Game Seven loss to the Knicks after he could not shut down the injured Willis Reed. In ’72, the Lakers hard luck ran out, and Chamberlain, Finals MVP, led his team to their first championship over the New York Knicks. Wilt later retired as a Laker, and left a sensational legacy behind him. Worthy of a statue? Sure, but there are players more deserving before him.

Shaquille O’Neal:
Shaq Daddy. The Big Baryshnikov. Shaq-Fu. Diesel. O’Neal had many names to match his many rings, and will go down in history as one of the most dominant NBA players of all time. Following the acquisition of Phil Jackson as Head Coach in 1999, the Lakers managed three consecutive titles, after the implementation of ‘triangle offense’ allowed Bryant and Shaq to excel. Let’s not forget, Shaq was named Finals MVP on all three occasions. In the ’99-2000 season, O’Neal also earned the MVP trophy for the regular season, one vote short of becoming the first unanimous MVP in history. Should Shaq be immortalized in stone? Yes, no doubt. But I can think of one person who deserves it more.

Phil Jackson:
Yes, I know Phil Jackson never actually played in the Laker’s uniform, but he is responsible for orchestrating the franchise’s several dominant seasons. Jackson won a championship in the first year as head-coach following an incredible table topping season. The 2000, 2001 and 2002 season’s belonged to the Phil Jackson and his superstar team, topping Indiana, Philadelphia and New Jersey in Finals series. The implementation of the ‘Triangle Offense’ that was used most efficiently due to the talented combination of Shaquille and Kobe, caused the Lakers to be the most dominant team in the NBA for many years to come. In January 2007, Jackson won his nine hundredth game which then placed him ninth on the all-time win list for head coaches. After dropping the 2008 Finals series to Boston, Jackson led Kobe and the Lakers to two more consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010. Jackson retired in 2011 tied with John Kundla’s record for most championships won by a head coach in a single franchise. Jackson will forever go down as the Laker’s best head coach to ever grace the side of the court. So should Jackson be the next statue outside Staples Center? No doubt about it.

Do you believe there are others who should be etched in stone outside the Staples Center that are not on my list?  Who do you believe, if any, warrant a statue thereby immortalizing them in the hearts and minds of Lakers fans?

Feel free to post comments below.