Los Angeles Lakers Franchise Five

Every summer, there is a lull in basketball news between free agency and the beginning of training camps throughout the lea
gue. In the dog days of the NBA summer, LWOS is bringing you the best five players to play for every NBA franchise in our Franchise Five series. The #LWOSFranchiseFive gives props to the best to ever lace up for each NBA team. Agree or disagree? Let us know at @LastWordHoops with the hash tag #LWOSFranchiseFive.

Franchise Five, Pacific Division: The Los Angeles Lakers
Is there a better team to kick off the series with than the Lakers? L.A.’s premier franchise has been the most successful of any team in the NBA’s history, and been the glamour franchise of the Association since moving the Los Angeles from Minneapolis. Certainly, the Lakers franchise could easily have two Franchise Fives, but since we’re forced to only give you one, here it is (note that this isn’t a starting five, but the best five players to play for a franchise throughout its history):

Magic Johnson: This will be one of the easier choices among all NBA teams, as Magic Johnson was not only one of the greatest Lakers of all time, but one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Widely regarded as the best point guard in NBA history, Johnson won five titles with his “Showtime” Lakers in the 1980’s and played in nine NBA Finals. The Hall of Famer was an 11-time all-star and three time NBA MVP who averaged 19.5 points and a record 11.2 assists per game throughout his career. A diagnosis with HIV in 1991 prematurely ended his career, but not after a Hall of Fame resume had been established. Magic is truly one of Los Angeles’ and NBA’s all time greats.

Kareem Andul-Jabbar: Magic Johnson’s Showtime running mate easily makes this list as well. Abdul-Jabbar came to the Lakers in a trade in 1975 after winning a championship and three MVP awards with the Milwaukee Bucks. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer played 14 seasons with the Lakers and was a 13-time all-star in L.A. He won three more MVPs while wearing purple and gold, and helped lead the team to five titles in the 1980’s. Known for his longevity and his patented skyhook, Abdul-Jabbar, was the picture of consistency in the NBA. He remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and despite blocks not being recorded for a portion of his career, remains the NBA’s third all-time shot blocker as well as ranking fourth all-time in rebounds. Abdul-Jabbar can make a legitimate claim as the greatest player in NBA history, and is easily one of the greatest Lakers.

Jerry West: Mr. Clutch played his entire fourteen year career for the Lakers and was an all-star every season he played. His career averages of 27 points and 6.7 assists per game throughout his career make him one of the most prolific offensive players in NBA history, with his 27 points per game ranking sixth in NBA history. A member of one of the greatest teams in NBA history, the 1972 Lakers, West won his only NBA championship despite numerous opportunities in the NBA Finals. West famously won the NBA Finals MVP award in its inaugural season in 1969 despite the Lakers losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games. West was immortalized by the NBA when his silhouette was famously used as the NBA’s logo. There isn’t much higher praise than that. West also achieved success as an executive in the Lakers organization, helping them win championships off the court as well. West remains one the great guards in Laker and NBA history.

Elgin Baylor: The lone player on this list who played for the Lakers in Minneapolis, Baylor was one the NBA’s greatest players, who now seems underappreciated. Playing in an era of extreme racism and hardship, Baylor excelled on the court throughout his fourteen seasons with the Lakers. An 11-time all-star, Baylor never won a championship, led the league in a major statistical category, or won an MVP, mostly because of the like of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Baylor, however, averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists for his career and consistently averaged over 30 points per game in his prime. Known for his character and selflessness, Baylor famously retired during the 1971-72 season, when the Lakers finally were able to win the NBA championship and become one of the best teams in league history.

Kobe Bryant: The final spot on the Lakers list goes to the best player in franchise history (if Magic Johnson calls Bryant the greatest Laker, who am I to argue?). Bryant is obviously the only active player on this list, but his spot is well deserved and his legacy continues. Bryant isn’t the player he once was, but his career with the Lakers is unmatched. He is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and ranks third on the NBA’s scoring list to go along with five NBA titles and 17 all-star selections as a member of the franchise. We can list the numerous accomplishments of Bryant all day, but he is without question one of the ten greatest NBA players of all time and most probably the greatest Laker of all time as well. Bryant has not always been a perfect player or team mate, but his will to win at any cost is unmatched. Lakers fans were lucky to have Kobe Bryant on their team for two decades.

Honorable Mention for the Lakers has to go out to other franchise greats Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, and Pau Gasol, the likes of which would make for a great franchise five for almost any other franchise.