By: Troy Pierce
Twitter Handle: @stonedlakerfan
The Los Angeles Lakers have the greatest lineage of big men to ever step on a basketball court. From Kareem to Shaq to George Mikan – the Lakers have always had an affinity for 7-footers.
Today I am going to rank the five best centers to ever play for the Lakers. Many of the players I name have played for multiple teams, however, my ranking will be largely based upon their accomplishments achieved with the Lakers.
Let’s get right to it…
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has achieved just about everything there is to in the NBA. He is the NBA’s all time leader in points scored and widely regarded has having the most unguardable scoring move in NBA history, the sky hook. In his time with the Lakers Kareem won five NBA titles, was selected to the all-star game 13 times, won two NBA MVP awards (1976 and 1977), amid many other all-NBA accomplishments, and leading the league in scoring, rebounding, and blocks on multiple occasions. Considered by some to be the best center ever, Kareem takes his rightful place as the first entry on our list.
Shaquille O’Neal is considered by many to be the most physically dominant center ever. His size and strength made him virtually unstoppable near the basket. The way Shaq was able to use his size to dominate smaller players forced teams to use the “hack-a-Shaq” strategy. Shaq was so poor from the free throw line that teams would foul him to keep him from scoring close to the basket. During his time with the Lakers Shaq was the league MVP one time, won three NBA titles, lead the league in scoring, multiple all-defense and all-NBA honors, and is a three-time NBA Finals MVP.
3. George Mikan
George Mikan is the first great seven-footer in NBA history. Though the Lakers had not yet moved to the Los Angeles, Mikan was vital to the teams early success as he helped lead the Lakers to five championships. Among his many accomplishments, Mikan’s legacy goes beyond his playing ability. Mikan’s ability to score near the basket brought about rule changes that would help shape the NBA into what it is today. Mikan had such a scoring prowess near the basket that the change to widen the lane from six feet to 12 feet was eventually made in an effort to create more distance between the basket and widest part of the key. Eventually, the move was made to add the 24 second clock. Opposing teams had such difficulty stopping Mikan that a “keep away” strategy started to be used by many teams. Opting to waste time in order to keep the Lakers, and Mikan, from scoring was the only way teams could stop Minneapolis, and the shot clock was born.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
Yes, fourth probably seems a little low on this list for a name as prominent as Wilt Chamberlain but by the time he made his way to Los Angeles Wilt had already played his best basketball. Nonetheless, he is often brought up as one of the best big men to ever play in the NBA. Once scoring 100 points in a single game, Wilt was well past his prime with the Lakers and one helped to bring one championship to the city of Los Angeles.
5. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol only spent seven seasons in Los Angeles but he was a fan favorite during that time and served as a key piece to two championship teams. He and Kobe’s friendship and connection on the court often has them brought up in “greatest-duos” conversations because of their chemistry on the court. Though Pau has never been a transcendent force in the NBA like the other names on this list, he helped to spark a new era of success along side on of the greatest players in history, Kobe Bryant.