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 20 greatest Lakers of all-time.
Our staff analyzed the ins and out of each Lakers player, determining their impact on the franchise during their tenure there. Stemming from awards to clutch performances, many contributing players were the difference during the 16 championship runs.
This list has been trimmed down to 20 Lakers, counting down these players strictly based on their accomplishments during their time with the franchise.
Season with Lakers: 10
Statistics: 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 40.3 FG%
Accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Second Team, Basketball Hall of Famer
The Lakers have a rich history of basketball, stemming as one of the premier sports franchises across the globe. Although many remember the Lakers strictly based on their time in Los Angeles, the franchise was also a juggernaut during their stay in Minneapolis. The Lakers did go on to move to Los Angeles before the start of the 1961 season, but not before establishing a dynasty.
With Vern Mikkelsen, George Mikan, and head coach John Kundla, the Lakers quickly found their way atop basketball. The Lakers would win the championship during Vern Mikkelsen’s rookie season, as the team was just absorbed from the NBL by the BAA, to form today’s NBA.
After capturing his first championship, Mikkelsen got his first taste of defeat during the 1951 season, as his team fell to the Rochester Royals. However, it wouldn’t take long for Mikkelsen and his team to rebound, quickly turning the page towards their next championship run.
The Lakers would go on to win three straight NBA championships, forming the first Lakers three-peat in franchise history. That team would quickly establish themselves as one of the first dynasties in NBA history, collecting hardware in five of six seasons.
Mikkelsen was the enforcer for this team alongside Mikan, another Hall-of-Fame talent. He resided as a premier low-post scorer during his playing days, with a variant of what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would turn into the ‘Sky Hook’ and a lethal mid-range jump shot. He roamed around the court, as a mobile big man and was often on the finishing end of many fastbreak scores.
One of his most memorable games came during his final season, as he totaled a career-high 43 points on 17 field goal attempts, while knocking down nine of 10 free throws against the Cincinnati Royals. Another notable performance came during the 1951-52 season, when he dropped 36 points during a 14-point win on the road against the hated Boston Celtics.
Mikkelsen was inducted into the NAIA Basketball Hall of Fame in 1956 and would later be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 alongside his coach, Kundla. Many Lakers fans may remember his appearance at Staples Center during the 2002 season, when the Lakers presented Mikkelsen, Mikan, Kundla, Slater Martin, Arlee Pollard (widow of Jim Pollard), and Clyde Lovellette championship rings modeled after the same the 2002 Lakers won.
Sadly, Mikkelsen passed away on Nov. 21, 2013, accompanied by friends at family at his home in Wayzata, Minnesota. Mikkelsen’s legacy will remain immortalized in Lakers history, as one of the first premiere big men in franchise history.
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