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. 10.
Seasons with Lakers: 15 (12 as player, 3 as assistant)
Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 52.1 FG%
Accolades: 3x NBA Champion (1985, 1987-88), 7x NBA All-Star (1986-92), NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1988), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1983), 2x All-NBA Third Team (1990, 1991), Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 2003)
Fresh off an NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers were fortunate to land the top overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft, thanks to a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers two years prior. With that pick they chose James Worthy, the perfect addition to Showtime.
Worthy went on to average 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in just under 26 minutes per game during his rookie season — shooting 57.9 percent from the field in the process. He appeared in 77 games and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team for his contributions on the court.
Unfortunately for Worthy, a broken leg late in the regular season ended his rookie year prematurely, and he was unable to help the Lakers as they ultimately fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1983 NBA Finals. A year later he would looke to make up for that.
Over 21 games in the 1984 playoffs, the 6’9 forward averaged 17.7 and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from behind the arc in 33.7 minutes per game. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics.
Los Angeles would redeem themselves the following year, defeating the rival Celtics in six games in the 1985 NBA Finals, and winning their second championship in four seasons. It was here that Worthy truly began earning the nickname ‘Big Game James’ for his clutch shots and performance.
Worthy always seemed to step his game up on the biggest stages and in the biggest games and his numbers beared that out. Worthy averaged 17.6, 19.4, and 19.7 points during the regular season of his three championship years. Those numbers rose to 21.5, 23.6, and 21.1 points respectively in the playoffs.
His crowning moment came during the 1988 NBA Finals. Worthy averaged 22 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. In Game 7, Worthy put on one of the greatest performances in NBA history with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists to help the Lakers clinch their second consecutive championship, Worthy’s third overall.
Worthy would be named NBA Finals MVP for his efforts. He is one of only two players to ever have a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals as LeBron James joined him in 2016.
Though he shared the spotlight with the likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar during the ‘Showtime’ era, Worthy complemented them well with his lethal shooting and highlight-reel effort on any given night.
After battling with consistent knee pain in the early 1990s, Worthy called it a career just prior to the 1994-95 season and his no. 42 jersey would soon be retired by Los Angeles in 1995.
He was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team in 1996, and in 2003, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 2012, Worthy joined Spectrum SportsNet as a studio analyst and also co-hosts Access SportsNet, the network’s pregame and postgame shows for Lakers telecasts.
Additionally to his work on television, Worthy is currently an assistanton the Lakers’ coaching staff in a player development role, and has held that position since the 2015-16 season.
Previous: No. 11 Wilt Chamberlain