Perhaps no other team has had the star power over their franchise history as the Lakers have. Some of the NBA’s greatest players have bore the Lakers gold and purple during their careers. And during those times, those stars have put up some memorable games and seasons. Today, we’re going to take a look at the 10 greatest individual seasons by a Los Angeles Lakers, dating all the way back to the 60s through the 2000s.
10. Kobe Bryant – 2006-07
Stats – 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists; All-NBA 1st team, All-Defensive 1st team
We’ll start off right away with a current player and arguably the greatest Laker of all-time. It wasn’t his greatest scoring season (which we’ll get to later), but it was damn close. He put up 40+ points 18 times, 50+ 10 times, and had two 60-point games in the same week. His month of March saw him average 40.4 points while he never scored less than 23 points. And, as I said, it’s not even his best season.
9. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 1975-76
Stats – 27.7 points, 16.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.1 blocks; NBA MVP, All-NBA 1st team, All-NBA Defensive 1st team
Kareem’s best statistical seasons were definitely spent in Milwaukee, but that’s not to say he didn’t provide amazing seasons in LA. 1975-76 saw him playing without Magic or Worthy, making him the focal point of the offense. He responded by leading the league in rebounds, blocks, and minutes and finishing second in points. In his time in LA, he’d never averaged more points, rebounds, or blocks in a single season.
8. Wilt Chamberlain – 1968-69
Stats – 20.5 points, 21.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists
Much like Kareem, Wilt’s best seasons were behind him by the time he got to LA. And just like Kareem, his first season as a Laker was his best. Despite not receiving any accolades (short of being named an All-Star), Wilt was very much still capable of dominating a game as he put up games of 60 and 66 points that season. He still finished first in the league in rebounds by over 300 rebounds and helped lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the (damn) Celics in 7 games. His 1712 rebounds that season are the most in Lakers history, also.
7. Jerry West – 1965-66
Stats – 31.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists; All-NBA 1st team
Jerry West will forever be immortalized as a Laker legend and, maybe the more obvious, the NBA logo. West was known as a great all-around player, and his greatest all-around season is the one that makes this list. His 2476 points scored in 65-66 are the 4th most in franchise history. His 7.1 rebounds a game were his third most and his 6.1 assists a game were far more than he had averaged up to that point in his career. West’s superb all-around play led the Lakers to the Finals were they lost to (guess who) the Celtics in (guess how many) 7 games.
6. Magic Johnson – 1988-89
Stats - 22.5 points, 12.8 assists, 7.9 rebounds; NBA MVP, All-NBA 1st team
Maybe the man most associated with the Lakers, Magic Johnson had his share of amazing seasons. But his 88-89 campaign saw him run the Showtime offense to perfection. His 989 assists are the 2nd most in franchise history for a single season. He nearly joined John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, and Kevin Porter as the only men with 1000 assists in a season. Instead, he led the Lakers to the NBA Finals before an embarrassing sweep against the Pistons.
5. Elgin Baylor – 1960-61
Stats – 34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists; All-NBA 1st team
Baylor is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. He’s most known for being the first true “high-flyer”, but he was a super player. Despite being just 6’5, Baylor averaged 11 of the 14 seasons he played. And his scoring was second to none for perimeter players in his era. His 60-61 season saw him finish 2nd in the league in scoring to only Wilt Chamberlain. His 1447 rebounds was fourth in the league behind three of the all-time greats: Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Bob Pettit. And this wasn’t even his best season!
4. Shaq – 1999-00
Stats – 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 3.8 assists; NBA MVP, All-NBA 1st team, All-Defensive 2nd team
The Diesel’s only appearance on this list was his best season as a pro. Often criticized for his lackadaisical attitude, Shaq came into the 1999-2000 season in shape, motivated, and willing to do whatever it took to win. The result? Shaq destroyed his opponents. His 29.7 points a game led the league as the Lakers steamrolled to a 67-15 record and an NBA title. Shaq completed the rare Triple Crown as he was named All-Star, regular season, and Finals MVP.
3. Magic Johnson – 1986-87
Stats – 23.9 points, 12.2 assists, 6.3 rebounds; NBA MVP, All-NBA 1st team
Following what some regarded as a humiliating series loss to the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals the year before, Magic came back angry, motivated, and out for revenge. Magic took control of the offense and ran Showtime to perfection as he led the Lakers to a 65-17 record and a championship over the evil Celtics. Including the playoffs, this Lakers team went 80-20, losing only three playoff games.
2. Kobe Bryant – 2005-06
Stats – 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists; All-NBA 1st team, All-Defensive 1st team
Short of Wilt Chamberlain, only Michael Jordan has put on a scoring display the likes of what Kobe treated fans to in 2005-06. His 2832 points rank 7th all-time, behind only MJ and Wilt. 21 times he scored more than 40 points. Six times, he eclipsed 50 points. Twice he broke 60, including his historic 81-point game. Go ahead and take a look at his game log from that season. Only three times did he score less than 20 points THE ENTIRE SEASON. He scored over 35 points in a game that season more often than he didn’t. A truly historic season.
1. Elgin Baylor – 1961-62
Stats – 38.3 points, 18.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists; All-NBA 1st team
It takes something truly unbelievable to dethrone Kobe’s unbelievable season. And just by glancing at the stats, Elgin’s season has a case for that. But that’s not even the whole story. Baylor was enrolled in the United States Army Reserve and, prior to the season, was drafted for service. Being stationed in Washington state, Baylor could only play when he could leave on weekend passes or on breaks. As a result, Baylor only played in 48 games that season and couldn’t practice with the team. Taking that into context, his 38 points and 18 rebounds a game is that much more amazing. This doesn’t include his playoff performance that season, where he scored 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Celtics. The 61 points is a still-standing NBA record for most points in a Finals game.