If I was asked to build a Laker team made up of players who have played for the purple and gold franchise, this is the team I would assemble.
But first, let me make clear on a few details. This team is not made up of the top Laker players of all time. A team made of superstars doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the best team. The Dallas Mavericks just recently proved in their Finals series with the Miami Heat the point that a focused, well-disciplined, good-chemistry team can beat even a team made up of superstars. Before that, the (sigh) Detroit Pistons against the Lakers. So, this team of mine is made of the Laker superstars that is, in my opinion, the right superstars to build around on and the right Laker role players to create the best Laker team that can be – or, more precisely, one of the best teams that can be created from the rich collection of talents the Laker franchise has ever had through the years.
Also, this all-Laker team isn’t made up of my most favorite Laker players either, though some – or most – made the cut.
Another thing, to those players here who have also played for other teams in their careers, when evaluating on adding them to this team, I did not take into consideration their career achievements as a whole but only their peaks as Laker players.
And lastly, screw cap space feasibility...
And lastly, screw cap space feasibility...
Now I think that’s all I need to be clear on. Here we go…
CENTER – Wilt Chamberlain
Now I don’t think “The Big Dipper” is the greatest Laker center ever. The greatest Laker center ever is hard to determine with the likes of Wilt, Kareem, and Shaq playing for the Lakers during their careers. Kareem had that sweet unblockable sky-hook and Shaq is actually my favorite Laker center but Wilt is my choice for the center of my Laker team.
Wilt might or might not have been underrated as a defender prior his Laker years, but when he played as a Laker, he was started to be described as “Russell-like”. Bill Russel, Wilt’s rival, might had been a (ugh) Celtic but he is, in my opinion, what a center should be. A center should have a great defensive identity and instinct above anything else. He should be able to alter shots or make the opponent shoot uncomfortably and then be able to rebound the missed shots. His defense should spark his team’s offense. And Russell was great at it.
Prior to being a Laker, Wilt was known to be a powerful offensive force – being able to score 100 points in one game and average an outrageous 50.4 points a game. But when Wilt became a Laker, he concentrated more on defense and rebounding and triggering the fastbreaks, just as Russell was doing with the Celtics. However, though Wilt sacrificed his scoring, he was still an efficient scorer, unlike Russell who never developed an elite offensive game. Again, for me, a center should be a brilliant, dominant and influential defender above anything else. But to be a competent offensive threat as well is a big, big bonus. And Wilt was brilliant at both ends.
POWER FORWARD – Pau Gasol
I am part of the few who think that a talented big man like Pau Gasol is a more valuable piece to the Lakers than an explosive point guard like Chris Paul. I really think it’s premature to trade Pau. Sure, it’s frustrating to see Pau whenever he transforms to “Ga-soft” last season, especially against Dallas. But I say, let’s give him another chance. I’m sure Pau would bounce back this next season. Let’s not forget how Pau was a major contributor in the Lakers’ back-to-back championships. There was even a time when we call him the best power forward in the world today. He is a smart, versatile, and graceful player. He can rebound and pass well. There are times he is soft and lacked aggressiveness, but whenever Pau is motivated, he is such a beauty to watch as he works with finesse and intelligence when attacking. He’s still for me the greatest power forward to play for the Lakers, and thus, he’s the starting power forward on this team.
SMALL FORWARD – James Worthy
James Worthy is the real “King James” since he has the rings to validate his basketball royalty. Though overshadowed by Magic and Kareem when he played for the Lakers, he was still able to cement his status as a legend. Worthy was a fast and graceful small forward. He possessed both the fundamentals and the flare. He had brilliant footwork and moves that allowed him to explode to the basket. And he can rebound and pass well, too. More than that, he also had the invaluable talent of carrying the team to victory. This was prominently shown in more than one playoff series, which earned him the nickname “Big Game James”. That’s the difference of our “King James” with that other “King James”. Our “King James” thrives in big games, while that other “King James” chokes.
SHOOTING GUARD – Kobe Bryant
Duh. No-brainer. I don’t need to do any explaining at all why the Black Mamba is included here.
I think that even though there are plenty of firepower and star power in this team, Kobe will still see to it that he gets most of touches. Kobe the gunslinger will always get his points. And why not? He’s the most explosive offensive player the Lakers ever had. Of course, there will also be games when Kobe would lie-low and encourage and create opportunities for his teammates to do most of the scoring. But when it’s about taking the last shot? Kobe would always want the ball to be in his hands in the last seconds when the game is on the line.
Aside from that, being the best perimeter defender in the starting five, he’s going to be the initial defender of the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Wait… talking about defense reminds me – Hmmmm… I could be wrong in my initial assessment. We, in fact, already saw Kobe in a basketball team filled with stars – Team “Redeem Team” USA. And, as we had seen in his stint in Team USA, he actually didn’t take over the offense in that team but concentrated on the defensive end. He made it nearly impossible for the opposing team’s best scorer to actually score. And he only took over the scoring when critically needed (i.e. the gold medal game against Spain).
Maybe that’s how he’ll play instead? I can’t tell.
Kobe possesses such a well-rounded talent and a complicated mind that it’s really hard to determine what role he would choose to play in this team. But no matter what role it is, he’ll always have an unparalleled fire and focus in this team that will rub off to the rest his teammates. Now, considering the fact that his teammates are actually already among the most competitive players in the game’s history, the energy and the spirit of this team fueled by Kobe would be overwhelming.
POINT GUARD – Magic Johnson
Again, another no-brainer choice. Magic is the only one who can properly distribute the ball in this jam-packed team. We can trust Magic to properly judge when to pass, where to pass, what kind of pass to use, and who to pass to. He might have some trouble in defending the present’s breed of past point guards (maybe Kobe had to do most of the defending against elite point guards). But this cut both ways. Magic’s size will allow him to easily overpower the smaller point guards, which would make it easier for him to score or create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Aside from that, Magic’s such a brilliant ballhandler that it won’t be easy for an elite point guard’s quick hands to steal the ball from Magic.
I’m sad to see Lamar go… and the circumstance of his departure makes the mood more saddening. Anyway, he is, in my opinion, the ideal man that you want to first come out of the bench. He has such a well-rounded game that he can play any position from 1 to 5. He can come out of the bench to perform what the team needs in a given moment. Whether it’s ball movement, rebounding, defense, or scoring, Odom will give it.
Ron Artest (we have yet to see Metta World Peace play) as a Laker brought the perimeter defense that freed Kobe from being the prime defender of the opposing team’s best player. Ron was also expected to provide some scoring. This role that Artest played, Michael Cooper can do better. He also had a scoring game, especially from behind the arc. Nonetheless, his brilliant defensive game is the main reason he’ll be a significant factor to this team. The main expectation for him is to come out of the bench to guard the opposing team’s top scorer for most of the game.
The Mailman was already past his prime when he joined the Lakers, but he was still strong and effective. In fact, he’s probably the most consistent Laker in that 04-05 Laker team. He was a scoring threat and was able to defend the then elite power forwards (i.e. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett) pretty well. The Laker Malone would give this team additional toughness and grit. Karl would bail out Pau whenever the latter’s softness is at its worst.
I first considered Eddie Jones as Kobe’s reliever (a reverse of the roles during Kobe’s early years), but I think Byron Scott is the better fit for the team. Scott was a lethal three-point shooter. He is maybe even the best pure shooter the franchise ever had. He would greatly help both in spreading the floor and on the break.
Because of his legendary clutch plays, I just need to have Fish in this team. Kobe had made several breathtaking game-winners already but he has yet to make a 0.4 seconds gamewinner. Fish did. Laker fans are now frustrated at how ineffective Fish is in guarding younger and faster point guards, but in his prime, Fish was a solid point guard. He could shoot threes and drive and pass. But it still comes to his mental toughness and clutch plays that earned him this spot on this team.
Horry doesn’t only add more length and toughness to this team, but additional three-point shooting as well. He might not be the most consistent shooter here, but, like Fish, he had the reputation to knock legendary big shots. That’s why he’s called “Big Shot Rob (or Bob)”. His seven rings from stints in three different teams suggest that he knows how to make himself valuable to a championship team.
We love Rambis, not because of any talent he had, but because of his heart and hustle. In everything he did, whether it was cheering and waving a towel from the bench to grabbing those loose balls, he gave his all. This team needs a first class “garbage man” and Rambis is one of the best among these unsung heroes of the game. Rambis gets a spot here because I know his attitude and heart can light sparks for this team.
Lue makes it to my all-time all-Laker team because of one fond memory I have of him: he became an Allen Iverson simulation. During the 2001 NBA Finals, Phil had him play the part of an AI during the team’s practices because he had the same build as Iverson. Moreover, I also remember that there were times he frustrated AI when he was assigned to guard him during the series.
I have always loved Dennis’ game. He was a sort of Kurt Rambis, but with the talent to go with the heart and hustle. He was a great, flexible and tough defender, and probably the greatest rebounder in the game’s history. He only played a few games as a Laker, but, for me, that is enough to qualify him to be an addition to this team… at least, as an injury reserve. How I wish he managed to behave himself and found success when he was a Laker.
Ammo will always be part of any all-Laker team.
COACH – Phil Jackson
I found it hard to choose who between Pat Riley and Phil Jackson should coach this team. Phil is a cool cat most of the time and knows how to employ psychological warfare. Riley is, in my opinion, a better motivator and a better manager of rotations and lineup combinations. Both are smart and successful coaches. But I still pick Phil because he has more rings than Pat which implies that he is a more proven formula for success. Moreover, this team I had assembled has the talent to run both the “Showtime” fast break and the triangle offense and I think Phil would find it easier to integrate a “Showtime” fast break to his triangle offense than for Pat to integrate the triangle to his offense.