As we head into the next Los Angeles Lakers season, and a new era in Lakers basketball, the staff here at Lakers Nation has decided to take a look back and rank the 10 greatest Lakers of all-time.
The staff put together a list of the most significant figures in franchise history based on accolades, achievements and statistics. While there were many deserving candidates, the group was ultimately narrowed down to 10.
The rankings were determined by solely focusing on each individual’s accomplishments with the Lakers. Without further ado, here’s selection no. 8.
Seasons with Lakers: 14
Statistics: 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 43.1 FG%
Accolades: 11x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 1977)
Elgin Baylor might not be the best player in Los Angeles Lakers history, but he’s the best player no one talks about. Baylor is almost never mentioned in the discussion of the best Lakers of all-time going on at your local sports bar and he’s rarely name-dropped when people are naming the best players in franchise history. He doesn’t have a statue outside of Staples Center.
There are reasons for all of that. Baylor played alongside Jerry West, who is literally the NBA’s logo and therefore arguably it’s most well-known figure. While West went on to be the greatest Lakers executive ever, Baylor went on to work for… the Clippers. He also played with Wilt Chamberlain, who might have been the NBA’s first well-known outsized character. Playing alongside those two in the smaller media environment than exists today was always going to make fame harder to come by.
Still, Baylor’s production means he deserves to be recognized. He was one of the NBA’s first mind-blowing athletes, an ultra-smooth scorer who by all accounts was far ahead of his time in terms of playing style and probably would’ve been far better in the spacing available in today’s NBA.
Baylor was a first overall pick who averaged 27.4 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting during a 14-year NBA career that included a season in which the 6-5 guard averaged 38.3 points, 18.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists, the types of numbers that make it look like he was an adult playing against seventh-graders.
Baylor was also Los Angeles’ original gunner, averaging 33.1 shots per game that season in a display of Westbrookian confidence. It wasn’t irrational confidence either, as Baylor won Rookie of the Year and never looked back, going on to be an 11-time All-Star who also made the All-NBA team ten times. Baylor could score with the best of them, and he and West are arguably the most talented backcourt in the Lakers’ illustrious history, which is saying something on a franchise that also featured Kobe Bryant and Magic Johson (albeit not at the same time).
His numbers put him in the Hall of Fame, but Baylor retired too soon to join West and Chamberlain in breaking through and winning an NBA title, a knock on his resume that probably also somewhat explains why he’s not as revered in Los Angeles as his production would suggest he should be. Still, he’s easily one of the best Lakers of all-time and well deserving of his No. 8 spot on this list.
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