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) /
46 of 50
(Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images) /

Greatest Lakers of all time: 5- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 14 seasons, 1,093 games, 5 titles, 8 NBA Finals
  • 22.1 PPG
  • 9.4 RPG
  • 3.3 APG
  • 2.5 blocks

This ranking will also surprise some fans. It could be argued that Kareem, a master of the game’s most unstoppable shot, the sky hook, is the best NBA player of all time.

As virtually every pro basketball fan knows, KAJ scored the second-most career points in league history. At 7-foot-1 but a relatively thin 225 pounds, he relied more on his agility and finesse than on raw power. He possessed the #1 scoring weapon ever seen in the NBA, the unstoppable sky hook.

During his dominant college career at UCLA, the Bruins won 3 straight titles. Kareem (then playing under his given name, Lew Alcindor) was named the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament each year. He was quite possibly the best collegiate player of all time.

He was picked first in the 1969 draft, and in his second season led Milwaukee to what is still its only NBA championship. He played 6 spectacular years for the Bucks but yearned to live in a larger city with greater cultural opportunities and was accommodated with a trade to the Lakers in 1975.

Like Wilt before him and Shaq later on, Kareem did not immediately bring a title to LA. But beginning in 1980, the Lakers experienced their greatest sustained period of success, and the big man in the middle was a large reason why. Over the next 12 seasons, LA made 9 trips to the Finals and won 5 titles, including their first victory over the rival Celtics in 1985, when the Big Fella was named Finals MVP.

Kareem played 14 seasons with the Lakers and averaged over 20 points per game in his first 11 before finally slowing down a bit at age 39 for the 1986-87. But even that year he raised his game back up in the playoffs to help LA defeat Boston in the Finals once more and did so again the following year when they became repeat champions against Detroit.

With the Lakers, he was a 13-time all-star who is 6th in PPG, 3rd in total points, 12th in RPG, 18th in APG, and 2nd in games played. He was also 3rd in both postseason points and games played, and 6th in playoff PPG. In addition to that Finals MVP, he also won 3 regular season MVPs with the team.

So why is Kareem “only” number 5? In part because the 6 years he played for Milwaukee, when he averaged 30.4 points and 15.3 rebounds, were his best statistically. Also, it is extremely hard to compare great centers with first-rate wings. Finally, the Lakers have of course had more true superstars than any other franchise, and it is a difficult task to differentiate between them.