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) /
48 of 50
Jerry West (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Jerry West (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

Greatest Lakers of all time: 3- Jerry West

  • 14 seasons, 932 games, 1 title, 9 NBA Finals
  • 27.0 PPG
  • 6.7 APG
  • 5.8 RPG

“Zeke” was the best “combo guard” the NBA has ever seen, switching seamlessly depending on who his backcourt mate was. The Minneapolis Lakers drafted Jerry #2 in the 1960 draft behind the fabulous Oscar Robertson. But the team moved to LA shortly thereafter, so Jerry played his entire 14-year career in the City of the Angels.

In the 1960’s Baylor and West formed the greatest 1-2 scoring punch in NBA history. In the 10 full-time seasons they played together, each averaged over 20 PPG 9 times, and both averaged over 30 in 1961-62.

“Mr. Clutch” excelled at every aspect of the game. He is probably best known as a shooter, and was one of the finest in league history, displaying such flawless form that his likeness is used for the NBA logo.

But Jerry was far more than just a shooter. He also drove to the basket fearlessly, was an outstanding ball-handler and passer, was one of the best defenders in basketball, and was an excellent rebounder for his size.

If the NBA received media attention in West’s day the way it does today, he and his equally great teammate Baylor would be featured nightly on Sportscenter. It is very difficult to rank one over the other. But since Jerry stayed healthier longer, he gets the slight nod.

Here are some of West’s accolades:

  • He was voted onto the All-NBA team 12 times in his 14 seasons (11 times on the first team), missing out only in his rookie and final years
  • Although he was never voted regular season MVP, he finished 2nd four times and 3rd once
  • In 1969, the season he “only” made the 2nd all-league team, he was voted MVP of the playoffs- even though he played on the losing team!
  • He was voted onto the NBA All-Defensive team for its first 5 years of existence before missing out in his injury-shortened final season

A statistical summary is equally as impressive. In the regular season, Jerry averaged over 30 PPG four times (without the benefit of the 3-point shot), and for his career tied for 2nd in Lakers history in PPG, ranks 2nd in total points, 4th in APG, 3rd in games played  and even 28th in rebounds.

The playoffs unfortunately caused him the most grief as his Laker teams were only able to capture the crown once, in 1972. But he turned it on even more when it counted the most.

In the postseason, West ranked first on the Lakers in PPG (29.1, topping 30 points 7 times including an incredible 40.6 point average in 1965) and 2nd in postseason points (4,457). And he still averaged 6.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds.

If anyone wonders why he was nicknamed Mr. Clutch, these two plays might provide some background. At the very end of game 3 of the 1962 Finals, he stole a Celtics inbounds pass and turned it into a last-second layup to beat Boston. In game 3 of the 1970 Finals, his ¾ court buzzer-beating swish forced overtime against the Knicks.

His biggest frustrations occurred in the NBA Finals, particularly against those hated Boston Celtics. Six times in eight years between 1962 and 1969, his Lakers made it to the final round, and each time they lost to Boston. Three of those series went 7 games, so you’d think the law of averages would apply and LA would have won at least once.

In 1971-72, the season that the Lakers won a record 33 straight games and captured their first-ever title in LA, West was a full-time point guard teamed with Gail Goodrich in the backcourt. Jerry averaged 25.8 points that year while also leading the NBA with 9.7 assists per game.

West was also an outstanding front office executive with the Lakers, and got revenge of sorts against the Celtics when the Showtime purple & gold beat Boston 2 out of 3 times in the 1980’s. But all these years later, he says he still despises and refuses to wear the color green. Jerry also acquired both O’Neal and Bryant to set up the title ‘three-peat’ years of 2000-02.

There is no doubt that West ranks in the upper echelon of Laker players as well as one of the greatest guards in league history. On most other franchises, Jerry West would be recognized as their greatest player in history. But the Lakers, of course, are not just any franchise.