With the growing excitement for the Lakers-Rockets showdown tomorrow night and how it will ultimately shape the Western Conference playoff picture, we thought it would be appropriate to take a little stroll down memory lane.
With that, here are the five greatest individual playoff performances by a Laker of all-time.
Elgin Baylor: 1962 Finals, game 5
Sadly Elgin Baylor is easily one of the most forgotten names in NBA history. He set the table for the likes of Julius Erving and was one of the first to capture the imagination of the basketball world.
However game five on the 1962 NBA Finals is a game that history won’t easily forget. And although the Lakers ultimately lost to Bill Russell’s Celtics in seven games, Baylor’s incredible 61 point performance in the Finals is still an NBA record to this day.
Jerry West: 1969 Finals, game 7
Still the only player in NBA history to be awarded the Finals MVP as a member of the losing team, West recorded a staggering 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in their games seven loss to the Lakers. West also recorded 53 points in game one of the series. He later said that while the MVP award was nice, it did nothing to help with the pain of the loss.
Shaquille O’Neal: 2000 Finals, game 1
This performance sparked what would soon be three straight titles for the Lakers and the beginning of a dynasty. ‘The Big Aristotle’ dropped 43 points and hauled in 19 rebounds against the Pacers. It was Shaq at his very peak and was arguably the most dominant force the NBA had ever seen in that stretch.
James Worthy: 1988 Finals, game 7
They called him “Big Game James” for a reason and his game seven triple-double against the Pistons attests to that. Worthy finished with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists and earned the Finals MVP. He is one of only 15 players in NBA history to record a triple-double in a Finals series – and trust us, it’s elite company.
Magic Johnson: 1980 Finals, game 6
Game six of the 1980 NBA Finals gave us the greatest playoff performance of all-time, hands down. With league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out of the lineup, rookie point guard Magic Johnson stepped onto the court as the Lakers’ starting center.
He went on to lead the Lakers to a championship with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a block. That night opened the door to the career of one of the greatest men in sports history.
Who do you think has been the greatest Laker on the game’s biggest stage?