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) /
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Shaquille O’Neal #34 AFP PHOTO James Nielsen (Photo by JAMES NIELSEN / AFP) (Photo by JAMES NIELSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Shaquille O’Neal #34 AFP PHOTO James Nielsen (Photo by JAMES NIELSEN / AFP) (Photo by JAMES NIELSEN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Greatest Lakers of all time: 6- Shaquille O’Neal

  • 8 seasons, 514 games, 3 titles, 4 NBA Finals
  • 27.0 PPG
  • 11.8 RPG
  • 2.5 blocks
  • 3.1 APG

Some fans will be surprised (Amazed? Incredulous?) that Shaq wasn’t ranked higher since his 8 seasons with the Lakers were nothing short of spectacular.

He was a relentless beast under the basket. Like Mikan and Chamberlain before him, O’Neal absolutely dominated the paint, a 7-1, 325 pound unrelenting force of nature that was impossible to guard. It was also extremely difficult for referees to judge foul calls for and against him

Shaq signed with the Lakers for his fifth season as a free agent in July 1996, a month after the team had acquired Kobe Bryant on draft day. Lakers executive Jerry West was ecstatic, with visions of future titles flashing before his eyes.

Yet it wasn’t until Shaq’s fourth season in LA, when Phil Jackson brought with him the triangle offense that was a perfect fit for O’Neal, that the Lakers won the NBA championship. Then they repeated the following year and completed a three-peat in 2002.

The Diesel put up terrific regular season numbers. He was a 7-time all-star who is tied for 2nd in PPG, 7th in career points, 5th in RPG, and 22nd in APG. He converted nearly 58% of his field goal attempts (but only 53% of his free throws).

But he was an even more dominant force in the postseason. During those three title years, his playoff averages spanning 58 games were 29.9 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. And oh yes, he was named Finals MVP for those 3 consecutive years.

On most teams O’Neal would have been far and away the franchise’s best player. So why is he only ranked 6th on the Lakers?

The answer is that O’Neill ranks only 18th in games played. Each of the top 5 players ranked above him was also an outstanding Hall-of-Famer and wore the purple and gold for at least 5 more seasons and at least 300 more games than Shaq did.

As a side note, had Shaq remained a Laker for the rest of his career, as did all 5 remaining players, his scoring and rebounding averages would certainly have dropped a bit from the spectacular levels because his career had started to spiral downward. But ranking #6 on the Lakers is still an impressive achievement.