Top Five Individual Seasons In Lakers History


Although the Boston Celtics may have the most championships, there is no doubt as to which franchise has had the best crop of players over the course of NBA history. From George Mikan to Kobe Bryant, some of the best to ever lace em’ up have worn the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers.  In fact, four of the top five scorers of all-time played for the Lakers at some point in their career.

With great players comes great statistics.  Magic, Wilt, Shaq, the list goes on and on of some of the great stat-sheet fillers the game has ever seen.  Let’s take a look at the grading system.

First of course, are the basic statistics.  Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, and percentages, will be the primary base of grading great statistical seasons.  However, winning has to be taken into account. Scoring 30 points per game on a losing team does not mean much.  Lastly, advanced statistics will not be looked at only because that wouldn’t be fair to the great Lakers of the early days such as Mikan and Jerry West.

As for Mikan, rebounding was not a recorded statistic for the first three years of his career, which were by far his best scoring seasons.  Also, the big man never shot more than 42.8% from the field.  We love the five championships, but Mikan will not appear on this list.

As much as I love Kobe Bryant, the only season that he posted numbers that would receive any consideration for this list, the Lakers went 42-40.  It’s not fair comparing a pure scoring guard like Bryant with some of the great forwards and big men of all time anyways.

First, the honorable mention:

Elgin Baylor 1961-62: 38.3 PPG, 18.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 42.8% FG, 75.4% FT

What?  Yes, this was also my initial reaction when I saw this ridiculous stat line.  The only issue with this is that Baylor only played 48 games that season.  Right in the middle of the season, Baylor was drafted into the army.  He returned in the playoffs, and put up 61 points (an NBA finals record) and 22 rebounds in one game against the Celtics in the 1962 finals, which was won by Boston.  

Jerry West 1964-65: 31.0 PPG, 6.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 49.7% FG, 82.1% FT

One of West’s best seasons. What really stood out was his playoff totals.  After Baylor went down with a knee injury in the playoffs, West picked up the production, averaging 40.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in the playoffs.  The Lakers lost to the Celtics 4-1 in the finals.

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Shaquille O’Neal 2000-01: 28.7 PPG, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 57.2 FG%, 57.3% FT, 2.8 blocks, 0.6 steals

Another unheard of stat-line that did not even make the top five in Lakers history.  O’Neal led the Lakers to their second consecutive championship, and averaged 30.4 points, 15.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in the playoffs that year.

5.  Elgin Baylor 1960-61: 34.8 PPG, 19.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 43.0% FG, 79.3% FT

Get used to seeing Baylor here on this list.  He clearly does not get the credit he deserves for putting up some of the best stat lines we have seen.  However, the issue with this Lakers team is that they finished 36-43.  They did manage to get to the Western Conference Finals, but still, even with the loaded stat line, under .500 won’t get you far in this list.  Baylor did average 38.1 PPG and 15.3 rebounds in the playoffs that year.  Absurd.

4.  Wilt Chamberlain 1968-69: 20.5 points, 21.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 58.3% FG, 58.3% FT

Undoubtedly the best statistical player of all time, Wilt the Stilt’s numbers rapidly declined once he was traded to the Lakers in 1968.  Early in his career, Chamberlain once averaged 50 points per game and 25 rebounds.  Believe it or not, Chamberlain was the only Lakers big man to ever put up a 20-20 season. It was considered an “off” season for Chamberlain, despite putting up statistics that would be considered impossible in today’s game. The Lakers almost won their first ever championship in L.A. that season, but Chamberlain twisted his knee with a few minutes left in Game 7 against Boston and the Celtics won 108-106.

3.  Magic Johnson 1986-87: 23.9 PPG, 6.3 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 1.7 steals, .5 blocks, 52.2% FG, 84.8% FT

Arguably Johnson’s best season, he took home the MVP honors for the first time in his career.  Johnson also led the NBA in assists for the sixth time in his career.  To top that, he set his career high in scoring.

Despite these statistics, what made this season so special for Magic, was his post-season performance.  Johnson led the Lakers to their fourth title in the last ten years, and the tenth for the franchise.  The Lakers faced the Celtics for the third time of the decade, and Magic hit one of the most iconic shots in NBA history in Game 4. Magic’s baby sky hook over Kevin McHale is, to this day, the best shot in Lakers history. He averaged 26.2 points, 13.0 assists, and 8.0 rebounds in the playoffs, and took home Finals MVP.

 2.  Shaquille O’Neal 1999-00: 29.7 PPG, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, .5 steals, 3.0 blocks, 57.4% FG, 52.4% FT

The Big Diesel won his first championship in 2000 and the only way to describe his season was pure dominance. O’Neal led the NBA in scoring, and set a career high for himself.  He finished second in the league in blocks, and played 40 minutes per game, which is rare today even for a point guard. Like Magic, Shaq’s production only got better as playoffs came around.

Shaq set playoff careers highs with 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds, leading the Lakers to their first title in 12 years. O’Neal took home his first of three consecutive Finals MVP awards.

1.  Elgin Baylor 1962-63: 34.0 PPG, 14.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 45.3% FG, 83.7% FT

Based on the simple stats, this may not be the best stat line of Baylor’s career, but there is more to this special season.  Baylor shot a career high from the free throw line, and his 45.3% from the field was by far the highest of his elite scoring days.  He played all 80 games, and led the Lakers to a 53-27 record.

The Lakers went on to play the Boston Celtics in the finals, and lost 4-2.  Losing to Bill Russell during the 60s is nothing to be ashamed of.  Baylor averaged 32.6 points and 13.5 rebounds in the playoffs.

Let’s not get carried away, Baylor is by no means the best Laker of all time, but there is no doubt that the dude could fill up a stat sheet.

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