NBA / Jun 3, 2010 / 6:37 pm

My Top 10 Favorite L.A. Lakers

Kobe Bryant (photo. Chris Sembrot)

Norm Nixon isn’t walking through this door. Elgin Baylor isn’t walking through this door. Silk Wilkes isn’t walking through this door.

I was born in 1982, and I didn’t begin to understand NBA basketball until sometime around 1988. So before I roll out a list of my all-time favorite Los Angeles Lakers, I should point out that I missed a lot of the “Showtime” era (though ESPN Classic has helped rectify that), and I never watched Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain when they wore purple and gold.

Still, growing up in Seattle — where we had the “Beat L.A.!” chant down as much as any crowd in Boston or San Antonio — I compiled plenty of experience with the League’s most glamorous franchise. The first basketball game I ever went to was Sonics/Lakers, where I can’t exactly recall anything Magic Johnson did, but I do have a crystal-clear memory of Sedale Threatt dunking on L.A. I’ve been in KeyArena as Kobe was booed lustily and people sitting courtside gasped at Shaq‘s size up-close. More recently, I’ve done cover stories on Kobe, features on Lamar Odom, and I’ve been in the Lakers locker room a few times. They’re not my team, but I know the Lakers well enough:

10. A.C. Green — The rebounding, the hustle, the dirty work. The Jheri Curl. Green was the L.A. version of Michael Cage, one of my favorite Sonics, but despite three championships, one All-Defensive and All-Star nod, he’ll still be better known for his anti-Hollywood lifestyle. Green’s prime was in the ’80s, and yet he came back to the Lakers in 2000 as a 36-year-old, started all 82 games at power forward, and helped bring home another ‘chip in the first successful run of the Kobe/Shaq three-peat regime.

9. Ron Artest & Lamar Odom (tie) — Odom is a good player and a better person. He’s been to hell and back in his personal life, losing his mother as a kid and losing his child as a young adult. He’s fallen short of the superstar expectations many had for him coming into the NBA, but has become a key player on a championship team. Artest, in just one year in L.A., has already made his place in team lore with the conference finals game-winner against Phoenix. If he contains Laker-killer Paul Pierce in the 2010 Finals and walks away with a title, Artest will be an instant legend. Say Queensbridge.

8. Nick Van Exel — Helped bridge the post-Magic, pre-Kobe era, dropping about 15-16 points and 7-8 assists per game for five years and four playoff appearances. Reputation-wise, Nick the Quick got a raw deal when he “shoved” a referee and the guy flopped onto the scorer’s table worse than Vlade Divac, but the dude could ball. Back in middle school I tried for about a week to change my shooting form to left-handed just because I wanted to shoot like Van Exel.

7. James Worthy — Could have been the No. 1 guy on some really good teams if he hadn’t landed in a perfect situation with Magic and Kareem. Worthy ‘s smooth style and athleticism suggest he could have played in today’s game and still dropped major buckets.

6. Michael Cooper — My introduction to the term “defensive stopper.” Coop was a self-made star, a third-round draft pick who rode the pine as a rookie before turning himself into an eight-time All-Defensive pick, ’87 Defensive Player of the Year, and owner of five championship rings. Even in his 50s, Coop (coaching the women’s team at USC) looks like he’d keep you scoreless for about three or four days.

5. Kobe Bryant — Best player of this generation? I’d still put Kobe behind Tim Duncan, but the argument is getting tougher to make in Duncan’s favor. The most skilled offensive player of his era, you wonder how much more popular Kobe would be if he didn’t always have the (self-inflicted, I’ll admit) Jordan shadow constantly trailing him.

4. Gary Payton — My favorite basketball player of all-time, but I couldn’t in good conscience put him in the Top-3 for this franchise when GP only played one year in L.A. and was fully in his decline (14.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.2 spg).

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

3. Shaquille O’Neal — You go back and look at the numbers, the win-loss records, and the championships, and it makes no sense that Shaq only copped one league MVP during his tenure with the Lakers. Shaq hit his prime during his L.A. years, and say what you want about him now, but he was always entertaining.

2. Magic Johnson — One of my sports heroes, Ken Griffey Jr., retired yesterday. I imagine that Junior is to Seattle fans what Magic was to the L.A. faithful. Along with his otherworldly talent, his outward love of the game was what set him apart from the rest. I get paid partially to spark debate and start arguments, and I still haven’t come up with a logical way to suggest Magic isn’t the greatest point guard of all-time. For people around my age, Magic made passing the ball cool when Jordan still had us enthralled with dunks and circus shots.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — Before I could even appreciate what he did on the court, I was a Kareem fan. I read his autobiography (Giant Steps) when I was a kid, and while he was near the end of the road at the time as a player, Kareem instantly became one of my favorite athletes. I still have that book and read it again a couple years ago, and it still impacts me. Six championships, six league MVPs, all-time leading scorer, best college player of all-time … and yet people still don’t give Kareem enough credit in discussions of the NBA’s G.O.A.T.

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  • Promoman

    To each his own, but Gary over Kobe?

  • http://www.themavenreport.com Kyle

    You’ve gotta fuckin be kidding me!!! Putting Gary Payton on that list makes this post a waste of time.

  • Ben1en

    Remember, AB isn’t saying who are the BEST lakers, he’s saying who are his FAVORITE lakers. that is the main reason why the Glove is ahead of the Black Mamba…

  • Mr. TKO

    Well, as much as I hate the fact that Kobe isn’t right below Magic on this list, I’m not mad for him placing Gary Payton high up on the list.

    He loves the Sonics and even though I don’t know much about the Sonics, I’m sure GP is probably universally loved there. So if one of the best players from your team history plays on another team that you’re making a list for, most likely he’s gonna show up pretty highly.

    Same way if I was making a favorite Miami Heat list, Lamar Odom and Shaq would rate pretty highly regardless of actual impact (as long as they ain’t stink up the joint)

  • Celticsdada

    no wonder why this sob is a celtics hater. Ok then Burton

  • LB

    My favorites:
    5) D-Fish- Love his hustle, grit, smarts, clutch shooting and leadership. Gets it done through sheer determination rather than talent. Otherworldy, breathtaking talents like AI and Starbury have come and gone, but Fish still remains. Gives hope to overlooked people everywhere. He does flop alot, I admit. How does a guy as diseled as he is, and a guy not afraid to lay down the wood on an opponent flail around like he’s been shot evertime he gets nailed on a screen? But he’s a real class-act all around.

    4) Robert Horry- Loved his slacker style. Love how he didnt bother showing up until the postseason. It was really endearing. Reminded me of that talented younger brother you have who never applied himself, but did JUST enough so that you cant get too mad at him. I’m from LA. Really dig them laid back types.

    3) Eddie Jones- One of the most underrated players of his generation, in my opinion. One of the smoothest and athletic players in the game when he was in his prime. Did everything you want a swingman to do, from draining open 3s, filling in the lane for spectacular dunks, getting steals- all without breaking a sweat. Never complained about minutes or shots. He probably could have averaged more points and become a bigger name if he didnt share shots with Nick Van Exel, young Kobe and an in-his-prime, I’m gonna dominate you and make myself a nickname Shaq. Eddie Jones no doubt pushed Kobe into becoming the player he is today during practice.

    2) Lamar Odom- Smooth. The only player his size who can dish a wraparound no look after grabbing a tough board, or swoop in for a graceful, bird-like reverse layup. But more so than his breathtaking play, i appreciate Lamar Odom for being such a wonderful person. The way he’s bounced back from personal tragedies is truly an inspiration.

    1) Nick the Quick Van Exel- One of the most unique players I’ve ever followed. Growing up as a rebellious kid, I loved Van Exel’s “I dont give a fuck” attitude. Even his lazy eyes matched his vibe. Dude’s game was the opposite of how the point guard position should be played. A selfish ball hog, he would jack up fadeaway 3s from 28 feet before the shot clock started. But damn, was he fun to watch. I loved his “herky jerky” (as Stu Lantz calls it) style. His moves made no sense. It seemed like he just dribbled around without a plan and then just threw up a crazy shot. He’ll have games where he’ll make 5 out of 20 shots- but the last one will go in to win the game. Truly a badass mofo who didnt play the game it should be played, but taught me the joys of watching basketball.

  • LB

    Oh, gotta give a shout out to Vlade Divac too! Loved his dramatic flopping, his wild eyed pleas to the ref and his overall, sloucy, schubby demeanor and appearence. Loved how he changed how I thought of centers. Before him, I never thought that centers could shoot long range jumpers or whip behind the back passes. But most of all, he seemed like a genuinely good-natured guy who loved the game of basketball, and life.

  • LB

    This was a list of my FAVORITE Lakers, not the greatest. These players were one of the first players I ever followed, so watching them really inspired in me a life-long love for basketball. This is why I didnt mention guys like Baylor, West, Wilt, Worthy, Kareem and Magic. What the guys I mentioned did on the court registered with me on an EMOTIONAL level. The Showtime Lakers were before my time. I watched all their highlights, but watching highlights of the Showtime Lakers didnt inspire the same feelings I had watching my heroes live. I remember Dr J telling Slam in an interview that he couldnt compare himself to Jordan, because both Dr J and his Airness made people from both their respective eras FEEL a different way that couldnt be replicated unless you were there at that particular time and place. It’s like that with me and the Lakers I watched and the Lakers of the past.

  • Me

    would that mean you could put kobe on a list of all time hornets? I mean they did own his rights for about 15 minutes.

  • Cha-Ching

    Yeh Kareem is Mr. NBA. Yes, a step above Mike.

  • Cha-Ching

    Magic, seeing things before they happened was jus amazing.

  • lali

    gary payton was only there for one season i dont think he deserves to be on thist list but he was a heck of a player kobe should at number 3 in my opinion

  • blacknapalm

    ya’ll need to get some reading comprehension. FAVORITE not greatest or all-time rankings. i don’t count payton though, he was a sonic. at least in miami, he got a ring

  • thrillah

    At #3, I loved Eddie Jones when he was playing alongside Kobe, but he wasn’t exactly known for dunking. However, I remember he had made a layup from just inside the 3 point line. It feels nice to reminisce…I miss Jordan.

  • sh!tfaced

    10. Vladimir Radmanovic — Celtics fans know he deserves a small piece of Pierce’s Finals MVP trophy.

    9. (tie) Mark Madsen — Nobody would even remember him if he didn’t “dance” in their 2001 ‘chip parade.
    9. (tie) Adam Morrison — Needs to do a Mark Madsen and cement his legacy in Lakers history.

    8. Caron Butler — Imagine the shitload of talent they would’ve had if they didn’t give him away for Kwame.

    7. Gary Payton — Grumbled about his role, the Triangle and, in some ways, Phil Jackson.

    6. Smush Parker — Prolly the most inconsistent Laker of all-time. Had spats with Phil & Kobe.

    5. Kwame Brown — Should be ranked higher but he’s the main reason why they got Gasol.

    4. Elden Campbell — Might be the Laker counterpart of the Celtics’ Dino Radja, although Dino prolly cared more.

    3. Isaiah Rider — Every team he joined thought of him as the missing piece to the puzzle. “JR” was actually the one who was missing a piece. Won a ring in 2001 though.

    2. Dennis Rodman — Arguably the worst Laker of all-time. Went all out in his time in LA. 23 games, 4 ejections, 52 days.

    1. Sasha Vujacic — Takes the top spot with that stunt in Phoenix. Ainge needs to get Dragic a courtside seat for Games 3, 4 & 5 and hope The Machine does a repeat performance.

  • Showtime

    Ron Ron is working his way up … Dude just paid 9.000 bucks for two courtside seats and gave em to Laker Fans

  • ronh

    it is kobe 1 than magic 2 then kareem 3. kobe is going to have more championships and he is going to be the number 1 laker all time hands down

  • Ian

    i cant even name 5 lakers i like

    lets c

    1. magic
    2. well thats all i got

  • Goel

    Top 10 favorite Lakers.
    10) Cedric Ceballos (Garbage man)
    9) Sedale Eugene Threatt
    8) Kurt Rambis
    7) Jerry West
    6) Wilt
    5) Elden Campbell
    4) Fisher
    3) Shaq
    2) Rodman
    1) Nick Van Exel