The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the storied franchises in sporting history. The legendary team has competed in 31 championships dating back to their time in Minneapolis. The organization has 8 MVP Trophy winners, 21 Hall of Fame players, 4 Hall of Fame coaches, and the infamous Jerry West’s silhouette is the NBA logo. These are the 10 best teams ever assembled by the Los Angeles Lakers organization.
10. 2009 NBA Championship
The 2009 season was the Kobe and Pau show. Kobe’s incredible season earned him All-NBA and All-Defensive first team honors. Bryant finished second in MVP voting and was one of two realistic competitors challenging Lebron James for the prestigious award. Pau’s phenomenal play earned All-NBA third team honors. Kobe was lucky enough to play with the best backcourt in the NBA, consisting of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Trevor Ariza. Andrew Bynum was an absolute beast in the paint with 714 points, 398 rebounds, and 90 blocks in only 50 games. Los Angeles dismantled the Magic in five games, and are the 2009 NBA champions.
9. 2001 NBA Championship
The 2001 season is known as the emergence of the Shaq-Kobe Lakers that dominated the league as a two-headed scoring monster. Shaq and Kobe were both top 10 in scoring and made the All-Defensive second team. Shaq earned All-NBA first team honors and Kobe earned All-NBA second team honors. They won the second of three straight NBA championships after sweeping each of their 3 playoff opponents from the Western Conference. They met the Philadelphia 76ers in the Finals and lost the first game of the series, which will always be known as the day Allen Iverson scored 48 points and stepped over Tyronn Lue. The Lakers would avenge this disrespectful act and win the next four games, and the NBA Championship. Shaquille O’Neal won Finals MVP after he averaged 33 points, 15.8 rebounds, 4.9 Assists, and 3.4 blocks.
8. 1988 NBA Championship
The 1988 Lakers had 3 players in their starting five that were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Despite having three future Hall of Famers, the Lakers were multi-dimensional and 7 players averaged 10+ points per game. Not included in these offensive categories is Michael Cooper, who came off the bench and was a first-team All-Defensive selection. Cooper played a critical role in the success of the team and was selected to 8 career All-Defensive teams. The playoffs were extremely competitive for the Lakers, as they played 3 game 7’s in the postseason. James Worthy led the playoffs in scoring and won the Finals MVP after beating Isaiah Thomas and his Detroit Pistons.
7. 1982 NBA Championship
The 1982 Los Angeles Lakers season almost ended before it began as infighting led to Magic Johnson publicly arguing with head coach Paul Westhead, and telling reporters he wanted to be traded. Owner Jerry Buss, had already questioned the slow-paced offense and decided to fire the lackluster head coach. Pat Riley was named the new offensive coach, and GM Jerry West was named head coach, though West said he intended to leave the coaching responsibilities to Riley, and merely serve as an adviser on the bench. After 12 games, West handed over the reins to Riley who led the team the rest of the season. The Lakers entered the playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference, and swept their way to the finals. The Lakers beat Dr. J’s 76ers in 6 games with the other worldly play from Magic Johnson whose 97 points, 65 rebounds, 48 assists, and 15 steals earned him the Finals MVP Award.
6. 1980 NBA Championship and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Wins the MVP Award
Starting Five in Finals: Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper
In 1980 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had one of the greatest individual seasons in Lakers history. He averaged 24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 3.4 blocks to win the Most Valuable Player award. Kareem was helped by rookie, Magic Johnson, who scored 18 points a game. Their 60 wins earned them a number one seed in the playoffs and they cruised through their first two series against the Suns and Sonics. They played the Philadelphia 76ers in the Finals, and the depth of the Lakers roster far outmatched the third seed in the East. The Lakers rookie sensation won the Finals MVP after averaging 21.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and 2.7 rebounds. Kareem also had impressive numbers with 33.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 4.6 blocks per game. With numbers like this, either man could have earned MVP honors.
5. 1985 NBA Championship
Starting Five in Finals: James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis
The ’85 Lakers went to their fourth straight NBA Finals, and looked to avenge their Finals loss to the Boston Celtics a year before. The Lakers had a great season and entered the playoffs with yet another number one seed. Magic Johnson made the All-NBA first team, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was selected to the second team, and Michael Cooper was selected to yet another All-Defensive team. Magic led the Lakers with the second-best assist numbers in his career, averaging 12.6 assists per game while averaging 18 points. Kareem had a consistent year with 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
The Lakers dominated the first round of the playoffs as 5 players scored 50+ points in the 3-game sweep of the Suns. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Lakers exploded scoring 124+ points in each of their victories, beating the Trail Blazers in 5 games. Byron Scott and James Worthy carried more of the load in the Western Conference Finals, with 117 and 113 points respectively. The Lakers won the series after a decisive 153-109 game 5 victory.
They played against the Boston Celtics, and MVP Larry Bird, in the second of three Finals matchups in the 1980’s. The Celtics jumped out to an early series lead after obliterating the Lakers 148-114. Kareem dominated game 2 win 30 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocked shots. The Lakers steadily dismantled the Celtics and won the series in 6 games. Kareem was the Finals MVP after averaging 25.7 points, 9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks.
4. 2000 NBA Championship and Shaquille O’Neal Wins the MVP Award
Shaquille O’Neal’s 1999-2000 season is the best season of his Hall of Fame career, and one of the best individual seasons of any player in NBA history. He was the MVP of the All-Star game, regular season, and Finals. His 29.7 points per game, and .574 field goal percentage led the league, and he received an astounding 120 of 121 MVP votes, just missing a unanimous decision. He was selected to the All-NBA first team, and All-Defensive second team. His fellow All-Star teammate, Kobe Bryant, was selected to the All-NBA second team, and All-Defensive first team.
The Shaq show continued into the playoffs as he led the league in scoring, rebounds, and win shares during their championship run. The Lakers won their first series against the Kings, as Shaq averaged 29.4 points, and Kobe averaged 27.8 points. They breezed through the Suns in 5 games during the second round, while Shaq averaged 30.2 points. They were matched with a talented Trail Blazers team that played Kobe Bryant extremely well, and forced a game 7, after the Lakers jumped out to an early 3-1 series lead. They made it into the Finals by the skin of their teeth in an 89-84 game 7 victory. This proved to be the Lakers toughest competition as Shaq had the most dominant Finals performance professional basketball has ever seen. Shaq averaged 38 points, 16.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks to win his first NBA championship.
3. 2002 NBA Championship
Starting Five in Finals: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry
The 2002 Lakers are the best Los Angeles team since Lethal Weapon was in movie theatres. Shaq and Kobe were the hottest duo in the league and both players earned first team All-NBA honors en route to their third straight championship. Kobe was the NBA’s third leading scorer with 25.2 points per game, and Shaq had a fantastic average of 27.2 points per game but he missed 15 games and fell short of the league leaders.
The Lakers breezed through the Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs and were matched with MVP Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers depth ultimately won the series in five games, as the Duncan was the only player on the Spurs who played up to his potential. This was a defensive series as neither team scored more than 100 points in any of the five games.
Los Angeles played the number one seed Sacramento Kings in a nail biting series that was pushed to a controversial game 7 tiebreaker. Four of the first five games of the series were decided by two possessions as the Kings took a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 turned into one of the biggest NBA playoff controversies as many have speculated that the game was rigged to force a seventh game. Heading into the fourth quarter the game was tied at 75, and the Kings were obviously in control. The final quarter saw a six-minute stretch where the Lakers were scoreless from the field, but shot 27 free throws, and even Shaq made most of his attempts. This is suspicious, but the Kings did have chances to win the game, and failed to score when it counted. Games 7 in Sacramento turned out to be one for the ages, and in Hollywood fashion the game went to overtime. Shaq and Derek Fisher dominated overtime scoring 10 of the team’s 12 points while the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket. The Lakers won 112-106 to advance to eliminate the Kings and advance to the Finals.
Shaq was at full force and his unique size and athletic ability could not be matched as he earned his third straight Finals MVP award. The 7’1’’ 325 lbs. monster was as big as a house and nimble as a guard, he could run the floor, lock down the post, shatter the backboard, and intimidate any opponent that crossed his path. He averaged 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 blocks in the 4-game sweep of the Nets to earn his third straight Finals MVP Award.
2. 1972 NBA Championship and Bill Sharman Wins Coach of the Year
Any 69-win championship team that includes 4 Hall of Famers (Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, and Elgin Baylor) must be included in the conversation for best team of all-time. Although Elgin Baylor only played in nine games before retiring, he sparked a legendary 33 game win streak that still stands to this day. The team averaged an unbelievable 121 points per game while managing to give up 108.7 points for an NBA record 12.3 point differential. The Lakers unheard of scoring abilities were led by Gail Goodrich who scored 25.9 points per game, and Jerry West who averaged 25.8 points per game – respectively ranking 4th and 9th in scoring. West also led the league with 9.7 assists per game, while Wilt led the NBA with 19.2 rebounds per game and a .649 shooting percentage. For their efforts, West was named to the first team All-NBA, and Wilt was named to the second team All-NBA. Both players were given first team All-Defensive honors, while head coach Bill Sharman won the Coach of the Year Award.
The Lakers faced the Chicago Bulls in the opening round of the playoffs and dismantled them in four games. Both West and Goodrich scored 114 points to lead the team to a Western Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
In the first game of the series, the Lakers scored an inept 72 points as Wilt was 4-16 from the free throw line and nobody could pick up the slack. They rebounded strong in the 2nd game, and scored 135 points behind the 42 points from Jim McMillian. The Lakers won 4 of the next 5 games to finish off Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Bucks in six.
The Lakers were matched against a New York Knicks team that consisted of 5 future Hall of Fame players (Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley, Dave Busschere, and Earl Monroe) and Phil Jackson, who would later make it to the Hall as a coach. They were still no match for the ‘72 Lakers.
The Knicks jumped out for an early series lead as the Lakers shot a miserable 37 percent from the field. They quickly turned the tide and won the next four games in a row. Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was the Lakers hero, and Finals MVP after averaging 19.4 points, 23.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. The dominant Finals performance against a star-studded team asserted themselves as the best Lakers team up to that point, and one of the best rosters to ever be assembled in NBA history.
1. 1987 NBA Championship – Magic Johnson Wins the MVP Award – Michael Cooper Wins the Defensive Player of the Year Award
Starting Five in Finals: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, A.C. Green
The 1987 Los Angeles Lakers are the best team to take the court in the mecca of Southern California. They are widely recognized as one of the top 4 teams in NBA history. It’s not every season that one team win 65 games, the season MVP Award, the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and then beats their franchise rival on the biggest stage.
Magic Johnson was the backbone of the team scoring a career high 23.9 point per game, while leading the league with 12.2 assists per game. Johnson won the MVP Award for his contribution and Michael Cooper backed him up on defense, winning Defensive Player of the Year Award and solidifying himself as one of the greatest shutdown defenders in the game.
In the NBA, no team is great unless they go deep into the playoffs, and the Lakers made quick work of their opponents. They swept the 3-game series against the Nuggets behind the precision passing of Magic, and the sniper esque shooting of James Worthy, who shot .722 from the field during the series.
Los Angeles was matched against state rival, Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. James Worthy continued to shoot well from the field, and Magic Johnson increased his average to 20 points per game. The Lakers jumped out to a commanding 3-0 series lead, but during game 4 the Warriors Sleep Floyd had the game of a lifetime, scoring 51 points to push the series back to Los Angeles where the Lakers won in five.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers played the 7th seed Seattle Sonics who were no match for the talented Los Angeles squad. The Lakers unleashed the three-headed beast of James Worthy, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who averaged 30.5 points, 19.8 points, and 19.3 points respectively. The Sonics played their hearts out, but ultimately lost each of the first 3 games by less than 10 points. Heading into game 4 they were completely disheartened and the Lakers destroyed them with a 31-point victory to sweep the series and send them to the NBA Finals.
The 1987 season was the last of the Showtime Lakers matchups against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Lakers went into the series with fresh legs as they only lost once in the playoffs, while the Celtics had two series that reached game 7, and played 5 games more than the Lakers. The first game of the series went to the Lakers, as Worthy and Magic combined for 62 points, and 23 assists. There was a much more even distribution of the ball during game 2, as 5 players scored 20+ points to entirely dismantle the Celtics. Larry Bird’s 30 points brought the Celtics back to life as Boston won game 3 at home.
When people think of the 1987 Lakers, the first thing that comes to mind is the final moments of game 4 in Boston. The Lakers are down by 1 with 7 seconds left and they have the ball out of bounds. Michael Cooper inbounded the ball to Magic a step inside the three-point line who fakes a pass down low to Kareem. It only takes Magic a split second to see Kareem is covered, and he uses a beautiful stutter step and then darts to the lane against the big man Kevin McHale. When Magic reaches the bottom of the circle in the paint, he is surrounded by 3 Celtics players and jumps in the air and shoots a beautiful baby sky hook, the only possible shot, and sinks the game-winning bucket with 2 seconds left to play.
Magic’s incredible moment gave the Lakers a 3-1 series lead, and the entire franchise knew the series would be theirs. They dropped the next game to the Celtics, and returned to Los Angeles with a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers defense shut down Larry Bird, who only scored 16 points, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar unleashed 32 points coming from Magic’s 19 assists. The Lakers won the Finals with that 106-93 victory, and will forever be known as the greatest Los Angeles Lakers team ever assembled.