Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Greatest Players in Lakers History (Updated 2023)

(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /
43 of 50
Los Angeles Lakers James Worthy
James Worthy #42 (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Allsport/Getty Images) /

Greatest Lakers of all time: 8- James Worthy

  • 12 seasons, 926 games, 3 titles
  • 17.6 PPG
  • 5.1 RPG
  • 3.0 APG

Big Game James was the #1 pick of the 1983 draft. The Lakers got that pick three years earlier from Cleveland in exchange for Don Ford, a pretty good but never great forward. It turned out to be one of the best trades the Lakers ever made.

In both his rookie and final years, James came off the bench. In the 10 years in-between, he almost always started, and averaged double figures in points every year. In 7 of those seasons, he was chosen for the All-Star team.

Worthy replaced Wilkes as the starting small forward and became an integral part of the Showtime Lakers. He teamed with fellow stars Abdul-Jabbar, Magic, Cooper and Byron Scott to form the nucleus of what is generally regarded as the best Lakers team ever, and one of if not the best the NBA has ever seen.

Worthy was the recipient of countless Magic passes on the fast break, where he was a tremendous finisher. In a set offense, his lightning-quick first step enabled him to beat virtually any defender off the dribble on an unstoppable drive to the hoop.

James earned his nickname because he had his finest game when the spotlight shined the brightest. In Game 7 of the 1988 Finals, he recorded his only career triple double with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Fittingly, he was named Finals MVP.

His other titles were perhaps even more meaningful because they came against the hated Celtics. Worthy was a big factor in both championships. In fact, he’s one of the few players whose playoff stats (21.1 PPG, 7th all-time for the Lakers, and 5.2 RPG) exceed his regular season numbers.

In his regular season career, James ranks 12th in PPG, 6th in total points, 24th in APG and 4th in games played. Had he played on a team with less-talented teammates, those numbers would have been even higher.