This past week Shaquille O’Neal appeared on ESPN’s First Take and gave his opinion on which 4 Lakers greats belong on the franchises’ hypothetical Mt. Rushmore.
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 18, 2019
So it got me thinking, who would I have on my Lakers Mt.Rushmore? For other franchises, the discussion in quite simple, where there is a clear cut best player in franchise history, with a clear pecking order that follows. But for the Lakers, there is no clear cut G.O.A.T as people argue Kobe>Magic, or vis versa. And the discussion only gets harder when you realize there are five or six viable options to fill out the 3rd and 4th spots.
If Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant are the two locks on everyone’s Lakers Mt.Rushmore, that leaves Kareem Abdul Jabbr, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlin, George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, and James Worthy to fill out the final two faces of Lakers Mt.Rushmore.
No disrespect to Mikan, Baylor and Worthy, but they are on the outside looking in on the fight for the final two spots in this conversation. With that said, who snags the final two, Kareem, West, Shaq, or Wilt?
4. Jerry West
Jerry West, the logo is a lifetime Laker, something that holds weight when it comes to my rankings. From 1960 until 1974, West was the face of the Lakers, going to 9 NBA Finals. The only blemish on West’s career is his 1-8 record in the Finals. It was no fault of his own as he dominated in plenty of finals series but Bill Russell’s Celtics were too much to over come. West even won Finals MVP in a series which the Lakers lost. West would capture his lone Fianls win in 1972 when he and Wilt led the Lakers to victory over the New York Knicks.
West put up absurd numbers in his career, averaging 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. I guess over the course of time and the further we stray from his playing days, people forget how great West was as a player. Some would argue that West has one upped his playing career with his career as an executive, helping build the showtime Lakers, Shaq and Kobe Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies, and helped kick start the current Warriors dynasty. Combine his playing career and the importance to the Lakers as an executive, West deserves to make the list.
3. Kareem Abdul Jabber
When you take in to account longevity, accolades, winning, and imprint on both the Lakers and the NBA, the NBA’s all time scorer snags the 3rd spot on the Lakers Mt. Rushmore.
In 14 years with the Lakers, Kareem averaged 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, winning 5 NBA championships. Kareem became the all time leading scorer in NBA history as a Laker, with most of the points via his legendary sky hook. Kareem was a focal point of the Lakers dynasty of the 1980’s. Yes the ’80s Lakers are remembered as the showtime Lakers and you think fast breaks and flashy passes by Magic to Worthy and Byron Scott, but when it came time to win championships, Kareem was the guy they leaned on. He gave the Lakers finesse Lakers toughness and an automatic bucket with his sky hook. Without Kareem there is no Lakers dynasty in the 1980’s. Who knows, without Kareem, maybe the next guy on this list doesn’t go on to have the same career.
2. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson personifies Los Angeles. While on the court, Ervin “Magic” Johnson lived up to his nickname with his flashy plays and passes that left the crowd in awe. Magic created the “Showtime Lakers” with his fast pace, flashy style of play. With each no look pass, and fast break bucket, Magic had the sold out crowd ready to blow the roof off of The Forum arena. Winning 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVP’s, and 3 league MVP Awards, Magic’s playing career speaks for itself.
Magic’s most iconic play may have came in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals against the rival Larry Bird and Boston Celtics. Down 106-105, Magic got the inbounds pass from Michael Copper, used a hesitation to freeze up Kevin McHale just enough to get a step on him to throw up a running “baby skyhook” over McHale and Robert Parish’s finger tips. It was the go-ahead bucket, and the Lakers went on to win the final series of the iconic Bird-Magic, Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980’s.
1. Kobe Bryant
Honestly Magic and Kobe could be flipped back and forth between one and two on this list, but coming from the perspective of someone who seen Kobe’s entire career play out, I have Kobe ranked as the best to ever grace the Purple and Gold. Bryant spent a franchise record 20 seasons with the Lakers, raking up 33,643 points (franchise record and 3rd best all time) 5 NBA championships, 2 Finals MVPs, one NBA Regular Season MVP, 18x All-Star (4x MVP), 15x All NBA, 12x All Defensive team, Rookie of the year, and 81 point game. The list of Kobe’s accomplishments as a Laker is endless.
Kobe checks the box when it comes to memorable moments and iconic plays that the rest of the list pales in comparison too. Winning the Slam Dunk Contest in his rookie year, the Game 7 ankle breaker and lob to Shaq against Portland, 81 points against Toronto, buzzer beater against the Suns, the free throws against the Warriors after tearing his Achilles, 60 points in his final game. Plenty are missing from that list as well, but I think I get my point across.