Any ranking of players as the Greatest of All Time is fraught with challenges. How can you possibly judge across generations of players? Those playing 50 or more years ago will not play the same physical defense as current superstars. Equally, the players of old wouldn’t have had the support from physio, masseur, personal training regimes and nutrition and sports psychology either.
It is especially hard when you are trying to rank players from such a successful franchise that have gone through periods of utter dominance of the sport. There is a glut of possibility in terms of players that could be selected to frequent this list.
So, we need a set criterion to work so that all is fair in love and rankings. First, we are only judging the time that players were Lakers. So, if that shooting guard had the best of their success at a different team, they didn’t make the list. Second, we have drawn on professional accomplishments like MVP and All-NBA teams, as well as the number of championships won. Finally, we looked to see if they balanced offensive and defensive abilities – sure this is highly subjective but it is our list – you can always argue with us on social media!
Seven: Eddie Jones
See you think Eddie Jones should be higher up the list. However, you are forgetting that golden rule about only judging the player for their time at the Lakers. The best of Jones’ career was with the Hornets, so he can rank higher on their GOAT list. He only played three and half seasons for the Lakers but was named on two All-Star teams and twice voted NBA All-Defensive Second Team – once when he played half the season for the Hornets. The guy has definitely got the skills and the pedigree and had he been at the LA Lakers longer, he would have climbed higher.
Six: Jamaal Wilkes
We know, we know – Wilkes wasn’t a pure shooting guard. The man nicknamed Silk was maybe better known for his time as a small forward and his best work was, arguably, as a wing player. Wilkes spent eight of his twelve years in the NBA at the Lakers, winning two titles and being named on two All-Star teams. He was consistent and durable – and obviously flexible. He played over 80 games a season as an average and so could always be relied upon to be ready. He 19.9 points on average, with 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists – his efficiency was solid too, with 52.3%. He might not have been a superstar who cast fear in opponents hearts but he worthy of his induction in the Hall of Fame in 2012 for his service in Los Angeles.
Five: Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper spent his entire career with the Lakers. He never reached the same peak performance as Jones and Wilkes but he did contribute much more over his time with the team. Even though this is because of shorters stints by our players ranked six and seven, there should be some credit given for loyalty.
Why did Cooper come higher on the list than Wilkes specifically? Well, it was a close call – as Wilkes undoubtedly showed a better balance of skills – but not by much. Cooper also contributed to three more championship titles successes, which has to count for a hell of a lot when ranking players. While Cooper wasn’t the linchpin in these championship runs, he did offer a solid contribution each time.
While Wilkes may have shown some vision for his forward play too, Cooper was a defender through and through. He made five NBA All-Defensive First Teams and three in the Second Team.
Four: Byron Scott
Scott played consistently for 11 seasons for the Lakers and so deserves his high ranking. At his best, he might not have been better than Jones and Wilkes but he contributed much to the franchise. Byron Scott posted 65.5 win shares, which is 13 points more than Cooper – so he deserves to be one up from him on this list.
Scott never quite got the recognition of Cooper in terms of NBA All-Defensive teams, he was a better-balanced player with decent offensive capabilities. Scott’s player efficiency rating was always above the NBA average and in the 87-88 season, he completely smashed it.
When you are looking at loyal, solid players with only a smidgeon of star-power, it is a close-run thing between Cooper and Scott – but Scott wins because of his win share stats.
Three: Gail Goodrich
We can feel the ripples of WTH travelling through our knowledgeable readership. Third? Are you serious? Oh, how the debates are about to begin. But, remember, this is the best shooting guard list, not the great players of all-time list. Goodrich played many positions and only had a brief still at number 2. However, his contribution as shooting guard at these times was significant enough to help him to the number three position in our list.
What do we need to say about Gail Goodrich? He was a legend. He spent 14 seasons at the Lakers and was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He was a four-time All-Star and was also named to the All-Star First Team in 73-74. Unlike others on the list, Goodrich was a focal point for the Lakers when they went on to win the championship. Therefore, loyalty, consistency and some flair too.
Two: Jerry West
While Kobi is blatantly coming in at number one in this list, he was not that much better than West. West played at a different time and so it is easy to assume that basketball players get better year on year. However, West was a legend and as a Hall of Fame inductee and 14-time All-Star, there is no doubting his credentials. The one disappointment would be he never gained an MVP title and he was only part of one championship-winning team.
Before you argue that it is nowhere close between Bryant and West – look at Wests’ scoring stats and then remind yourself that the three-pointer didn’t exist in his day. Then, you will understand his genius.
One: Kobe Bryant
Far and away the best. He has won five titles and has an MVP under his belt. He also had 5 top-three finishes in the MVP vote. The man is a legend and it is insulting to argue this anymore.
If you have enjoyed reading this article, make sure to check out our piece ranking the best Lakers’ centers of all time.