The Lakers All-Time Starting 5


The Los Angeles Lakers have the most well-known history out of all the NBA teams. They have the biggest names of every era from Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, to Magic and Kareem, to Kobe and Shaq. The NBA HOF is a who’s who of former Lakers.


Photo Credit: CBS Sports

In this article, I will describe who I would put at every position of an all-time starting Lakers 5 and why. Comparing eras is hard, but it is not so difficult to imagine how dominant a super team with all the best players of each period would be. There is no team better than the Lakers to show off how great an all-time super team can be.

Some rules will have to be explained before the list starts.

First, I’m using the best year that each player had on the Lakers. That means players such as Wilt Chamberlain, who was elite on multiple teams, will be analyzed only for what he did with the Lakers.


Second, I will try to balance the lineup to be able to play in today’s game. That’s hard to do since the rules and other aspects of the game, such as the value of three-point shooting, changed. With all those changes, I will choose the player I think would adjust best to today’s NBA. They would be given today’s trainers with access to all the technology to better their game and become as athletic as possible. 


Starting with the point guard, Magic Johnson.


Photo Credit: Britannica

This one is slightly debatable since the logo, Jerry West, played point guard throughout his career. West was a scoring machine without the three-point line, meaning he could utilize that new wrinkle during this lineup challenge. This spot goes to Johnson, though. He was more versatile, faster, and is more fitting for an all-time lineup with loads of talent.

Even though West was statistically the better scorer, Johnson is the best point guard of all time. He could do it all. Averaging seven rebounds and 11 assists per game while shooting 50 percent for his entire career displays that.

Since this all-time lineup gets him at his absolute best, that was his 1983-1984 season. His per-game averages were 13.1 assists, 7.3 rebounds, 17.6 points while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor. He struggled a bit at the three-point line, but that did not matter. He only averaged less than one three per game during that season. He will be the primary ball-handler for this all-time super team since he was the best of all time at doing so. 


Next, the shooting guard, Kobe Bryant.


Bryant was one of the best players in history and arguably the greatest Laker of all time. West could be moved here instead of at point guard since he played shooting guard during a bit of his career. Still, Bryant’s defensive skills, mentality, offensive capabilities, and height advantage for defensive situations, such as teams with tall shooting guards, put him above West.


Kobe Bryant
Photo Credit: Lakers

This spot is filled by the 2002-2003 season of Bryant. The season choice is difficult since he was consistently good for nearly every year of his career. This season’s per-game stats were 30 points, 5.9 assists, and 6.9 rebounds. That was his most rebounds per game he averaged in a season for his whole career. He shot 45.1 percent from the field but shot 38.3 percent from three, by far his highest percentage for his career.

Kobe was also a great defender, averaging 2.2 steals per game, which was the most for his career as well. Many different seasons could be used in this slot, as Kobe’s stretch from 2002 to 2009 is a good as any run in NBA history. Either way, he was one of the best players of all time, so he deserves this spot on the lineup. 


The small forward spot for this lineup is a pretty debatable choice. Three names: Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, and LeBron James. Even though he only has two seasons to choose from, this spot must go to King James.


The main reasons for this choice are that James is faster, more efficient, and a better defender than the other options. Baylor did have a season where he averaged 38.3 points per game. Still, James shot a higher field goal percentage during his current 2019-2020 season with the Lakers. He is currently holding an efficiency percentage of 55.2. James averages 25.6 points per game while being one of the most versatile defenders. He stands at 6’9” while maintaining his athletic capabilities.


Lakers vs Raptors
Photo Credit: CBS Sports

The reason I’m picking this year over his 2018-2019 season is that his three-point percentage is 34.8 compared to the previous season’s 33.9. Even though the change is small, since he averaged two more points per game the last year, every three counts against three-point dominant teams.

Leading the league in assist with 10.5 per game helps as well. Even though James is playing point guard this season, moving him to small forward will allow him to run the offense less, making him more efficient on the scoring and rebounding end. He will easily adjust since he played small forward his whole career before this point.

This decision will get him more points per game and with Magic Johnson controlling the offense the point guard position, James will not be required to average 10.5 assists as he has in the 2019-2020 season. He is an excellent fit for this slot, making all three players so far skilled in nearly every way possible.


The power forward spot can be chosen from small forwards as well. This is a versatile spot because the Lakers have had such versatile players at this position. My choices were, Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, Anthony Davis, and Pau Gasol.


This one is the toughest decision to make on the list because there is so much talent. It could go either way but, Davis will be the chosen one for this lineup. Even though he only has this current season with the Lakers to back himself up, he averages more points per game with 26.8 than all the other best Lakers’ years except Baylor.


Lakers vs Pacers
Photo Credit: ABC30 Fresno

Davis averages nine rebounds with two blocks per game. It is not always about statistics, but a key decision-maker is that Davis, in his one season, is a better defender than the other options. Worthy was a beast on defense but not quite at a defensive player of the year level like Davis is.

Other than Baylor, Davis has the best scoring ability than the other options and is the best defender. An ongoing theme of this lineup is that everybody is an elite defender.

They are all fast enough to keep up with all sorts of lineups, they all are great at offense, but also all-around stellar players. Regardless of not proving himself as an all-time top talent with only one year as a Laker, Davis fits this spot perfectly.

Gasol was great at scoring, rebounding, and defending, but Davis is a better defender and is faster than Gasol was. Again, this choice is a tough one, but Davis will take the power forward spot. 



Lastly, the center spot. My choices were between Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain.


Abdul-Jabbar is the better all-time player, but comparing his best season with O’Neal’s is identical. In his 1976-1977 NBA season, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 26.2 points per game, 3.2 blocks, 13.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. He shot an incredible 59.9 percent from the floor that season as well. The reason I chose this season is that it’s the only year he shot such a high percentage while averaging at least 13 rebounds with 26 points.

As for O’Neal, in his 1999-2000 season, he averaged 29.7 points per game, three blocks, 3.8 assists, and 13.6 rebounds. He shot 57.4 percent from the floor, showing that even his percentage that year was identical to Abdul-Jabbar’s. The reason I chose O’Neal over Abdul-Jabbar is not only because his statistics were slightly better, but because of his size. His ability to post up on offense is marginally better than Abdul-Jabbar’s.


Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Abdul-Jabbar was terrific in the paint with his skyhook, but O’Neal’s power would create more possibilities to draw a double team while he’s posting up. That would end up with an open teammate on this high scoring team. His free throw percentage is concerning, but with this talented team around him, he will be used to pass the ball after forcing double teams. That way, he does not draw many shooting fouls.

He also averaged one more offensive rebound than Abdul-Jabbar, so that would help with getting more second-chance points. The reason I chose Shaq over Chamberlain is that Chamberlain was against less competition. It is not his fault who he played against, but during his best year on the Lakers (1969-1970), he averaged 27.3 points per game, which was lower than O’Neal’s. Wilt also shot 44.6 percent from the line, which was worse than O’Neal, and shot a lower field goal percentage. Even though he averaged 18.4 rebounds per game, I don’t see him getting that many when facing other players from more recent generations.

All these centers would draw double teams nearly as well as O’Neal, but O’Neal has the best odds of drawing a double while posting up. He averaged the most offensive rebounds, which would be essential for a team like this. This decision could have gone either direction, making it the hardest one on this list. 


This all-time starting lineup is the best one possible because all the players are insanely versatile on defense, all-around talented, and productive on offense.


The only flaw is the lack of three-point shooting, but the elite defense on this lineup will stop other teams from making more than they do. If one were to match them up against an all-time Warriors lineup, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would struggle to score because of Johnson and Bryant’s defense. Johnson is too tall for Curry to score much. The players on this all-time Lakers lineup are fast enough to make any lineup struggle to keep up with them. All the players on this lineup averaged at least 20 points per game except Johnson, who was stellar at everything else. This all-time starting lineup would be unstoppable.


Tell me what you think Lakers fans! Tweet at me @KyleRandolphFSM and let’s debate your Lakers All-Time starting 5! 


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-Kyle Randolph – Franchise Sports Media

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