Man, this year has been a drag.
The Los Angeles Lakers currently sit with the fifth worst record in the league, 18-34, and crawl out of All-Star break weekend with a banged up roster and top five draft lottery ambitions. With the continued injury battles for Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake, the Lakers once touted ‘strength’ at point guard has simply diminished. Pau Gasol rests above a hot bed of trade rumors, like always, and Kobe Bryant is presumably fighting to get back onto the court, rehabbing relentlessly.
The Lakers’ season has gone completely south, and ‘purp and gold’ faithful can only brace for the concept of the Western Conference playoff race without the Lakers taking stage.
So for now, we will relish in the possibility of receiving a top three to eight draft pick, via NBA Draft lottery, and hope Kobe Bryant can ride off into the sunset within two years, with a sixth NBA Championship ring.
Until then, we will discuss and break down random topics through out the ‘NBA-universe.’
Recently, Heat All-Star and two time NBA Champion, LeBron James, sat down with NBA TV, and after being asked to state his ‘Mount Rushmore’ of NBA Legends, the King donned Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson to his mountain.
LeBron’s list is an impressive one, and of course, everyone will have their own idea of what symbolizes a player worthy enough to be chiseled into the NBA’s greatest ‘Mount.’
Taking the ‘Mount Rushmore’ approach, I will break down and deliver my ideal Los Angeles Lakers ‘Mount Rushmore.’
Los Angeles Lakers ‘Mount Rushmore’ of NBA ‘Legends’
Assembling the Lakers ‘Mount Rushmore’ is no easy task for any Laker fan, or NBA fan for that matter. Some of the greatest players in NBA history have taken the stage in sunny southern California, making the Lakers, one of, if not the most storied franchise in the NBA, maybe even American sports.
To pick my top four Laker legends, I graded them based off 1) championships, of course, 2) stats, 3) consistently playing at an All-Star level, and 4) Los Angeles legacy throughout their respected careers.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Lakers career: 14 seasons
Laker Championships: 5
Hall of Fame (1995), NBA Most Valuable Player (1976,1977,1980), NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1985), NBA All-Star 13 times as a Laker
To be on the Laker ‘Mount Rushmore’, being a Laker for life is almost a necessity. For the man once known as Ferdinand Lewis ‘Lew’ Alcindor, Jr., that isn’t the case.
After going number one out of UCLA to the Oscar Robertson-led Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969 NBA Draft, Lew went on to win the 1971 regular season MVP trophy. With continued success through the 1971 season, Alcindor would lead the Bucks to the NBA Finals, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets, winning his first NBA Finals MVP trophy and Title.
Following the Championship victory Lew would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, having converted to Islam a few years back, while attending UCLA.
After a few more years with Milwaukee, Jabbar requested a trade to either New York or Los Angeles, and in 1975 the Los Angeles Lakers were able to require him.
After pairing him in the years to come with fellow Laker greats Erving ‘Magic’ Johnson and James Worthy, the ‘Showtime’ era squad led by head coach Pat Riley was underway, setting off one of the greatest run’s in sport’s history.
Kareem averaged 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game as a Laker.
3. Jerry West
Laker career- 14 seasons
Laker Championships: 1
Hall of Fame (1980), NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1969), NBA All-Star 14 times as a Lakers
For the ‘Logo’ himself, winning titles wasn’t easy with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics holding the league hostage, winning 11 of the 13 NBA Championships while Russell played for Boston.
With the Celtics out of the picture after Russell’s retirement, West faced the New York Knicks in the 1972 Finals now. Even though West says he played poorly in the Finals he still contributed and helped the Lakers close out New York, dropping 21 points in game three and 23 points in game 5.
After his playing career in Los Angles, West really makes the cut on the ‘Mount’ due to his incredible General Manager and scouting ability, guiding the Lakers to four NBA Championships as an executive and scout.
He was fundamental in development and scouting from 1983 to 2004, helping make the Lakers a top tier organization for almost his whole tenure. West would win two NBA General Manager of the Year Awards, and was an important influence in each Championship season.
West averaged 27 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game as a Laker.
2. Dr. Jerry Buss (1/27/1933 – 2/18/2013)
10 NBA Championships as Laker owner
The man who created ‘Showtime’ and never stopped entertaining.
With his purchase of the Lakers right before the 1979 NBA Draft, Dr. Buss drafted Magic Johnson to pair with All-Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After winning one Championship, disagreements between Magic and then coach Paul Westhead lead to the addition of coach Pat Riley, forming a Lakers dynasty.
The Lakers would go on to compete in eight finals through out the 80′s, winning five of them.
After ‘Showtimes’ depletion, the Lakers went on to add All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal in 1996 and paired him with young shooting guard Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft.
The Lakers would go on to win three titles behind Kobe and Shaq, setting up Los Angeles with a new modern dynasty. After Shaq’s departure, the franchise didn’t fret. Some persuading and promises by Dr. Buss to growing star Kobe Bryant helped the Lakers from losing both young super stars.
With the addition of Pau Gasol in the 2007 season to a very talented Lakers roster, the franchise would go to three straight finals, losing the first and winning the second, winning back to back championships.
Dr. Buss was an integral role player in establishing Los Angeles as the entertainment capitol of the world. From his early doing of adding cheerleaders for halftime and timeout entertainment, dimming the lights on the crowd at staples, and being the foundation of 10 championship runs, Dr. Buss will forever be known as the greatest Lakers owner of all time.
1. Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson
Laker career: 13 seasons
Laker Championships: 5
Hall of Fame (2002), NBA Most Valuable Player (1987, 1989, 1990), NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1980, 1982, 1990), NBA All Star 12 times as a Laker
The ‘Magic Man’ came to save the Lakers championship woes in the 1979 Draft, going number one to Los Angeles, and paired with big man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the 1980 NBA season would be a thing of legend. Kareem had yet another dominate year, and with Magic on his squad, they would both appear in their first finals as Lakers.
Facing the savvy and athletic Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers were not phased. After dominating performance’s by Kareem throughout the Finals, a sprained ankle kept the big man sidelined for game 6. With the Lakers leading the seven game series 3-2, coach Paul Westhead started Johnson at center, who would then establish himself as the most versatile player in NBA history, tallying 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals, in a 123-107 series clinching victory.
Johnson would be named Finals MVP, and ‘Showtime’ was only getting started.
With the addition of coach Pat Riley, Magic was able to take his fast pace style play and translate it into an incredibly dominate Laker offense. The Lakers would go on to control the 80′s, and Magic was a primary reason why.
In his second Finals, Magic would record a triple double in the deciding sixth game, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers again. Magic would once again collect MVP honors.
Larry Legend and the Boston Celtics
Magic would go on to face the Celtics in the 1984 NBA Final, starting the great rivalry of Boston/Los Angeles, Magic/Bird.
The Celtics would steal the first championship from MAgic and the Lakers, but the following year Johnson would get his revenge, defeating the Celtics in six games with Kareem taking home MVP honors.
Magic contributed heavily to the Laker championship victory, recording an average of 18 points 14 assists and 6 rebounds for the series.
For the 1986-1987 season Magic would go on to claim NBA regular season MVP, averaging 24 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds per game. The Lakers would once again face the Celtics, and Magic would drop one of the greatest sky-hooks in NBA history. As the clock winded down in Game 4 of the 87 Finals, Johnson drove on big men Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, threw up a “junior, junior, junior sky-hook” he called it, sinking the shot that would win the game and eventually lead the Lakers to another Championship victory over Boston. Magic would again take home finals MVP honors.
Back to Back Champs
To win back to back championships, Johnson and the Lakers would face Isaiah Thomas and the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons in the 1988 NBA Finals.
The Pistons would not let up, splitting the first six games with Los Angeles. In the deciding game six, Lakers Hall of Famer James Worthy would drop a triple double, helping Magic win his fifth and last championship.
Magic will forever be ‘Mr. Laker’.
He is seen as the man who helped change the culture of the franchise and Los Angeles, as well. Having contributed to both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Sparks franchises’, he has kept close with his LA history.
Laker legends almost chiseled in…
Phil Jackson- Won five Championships as Lakers Head Coach.
Pat Riley- Won four Championships as Lakers Head Coach.
Wilt Chamberlin- Won one Championship as a Laker. voted ‘Top 50 player all Time’.
Shaquille O’Neal- Won three Championships with the Lakers, as well as three straight Finals MVP awards.
Elgin Baylor- Never won a title but will always be known as one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play.
James Worthy- Won three Championships with the ‘Showtime’ Lakers. ‘Big Game’ James Worthy had an incredible triple double, 36 points 16 rebounds and 10 assists, to knock off the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons on his way to 1988 Finals MVP.
To be decided…
Kobe Bryant- Kobe will be on this mount. Someone will be knocked off.
We cant judge Kobe yet, even at this stage in his career. He still could win a championship, so it wouldn’t be fair to place him on the ‘Mount’ because his career isn’t actually over yet. Once it is, then we can actually look back and reflect, with Kobe ultimately chiseled in.