Throughout their long and storied history, the Los Angeles Lakers have had many legendary players wear the purple and gold. Some of the greatest players to ever shoot a basketball now have their numbers hanging in the rafters at Staples Center. Narrowing down who the five most important Lakers in the history of the franchise is no easy task but that doesn’t stop many from trying.
Team governor Jeanie Buss recently attempted to do so and ruffled some feathers.
“You have start with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. And Kobe [Bryant]. And LeBron [James] … Magic [Johnson] might be number one. No, Kareem. I don’t know. It’s so hard. Does [Phil Jackson] count as a Laker? Then Phil,” Buss said on the All the Smoke podcast.
That’s certainly an impressive list of names but there’s at least one player that Buss should’ve included.
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Jerry West Claps Back
One of the first great Lakers players was Jerry West. He’s the man on the current NBA logo and brought the team a championship in 1972. He’s widely considered one of the most important players to ever play for the team. The fact that LeBron James is on Buss’ list and West isn’t is questionable, to say the least. He made it clear that he was none too happy with the list.
“I saw the other day Jeanie Buss made a statement, the five most important Lakers, one of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard in my life. I was there a lot of times, had a lot of success,” West told Vescey. “Be curious to know if they would have had that success if I hadn’t been there.”
“And I don’t ever take credit for stuff, I don’t. When I was around, maybe I was just a good luck charm,” he continued. “But I do know, that when this thing fell apart, there was a lot of years where they weren’t very good.”
West has every right to be offended. Not only was he a great player for the Lakers, but he also came back and helped build the team as an executive. If it wasn’t for him, Kobe Bryant would’ve likely never joined the team. West certainly deserves a spot on the list over LeBron.
Shaquille O’Neal Also Offered Thoughts on List
Another notable omission is Shaquille O’Neal. He helped lead the team to three straight championships and was an absolute force for the Lakers. Though he could make a case that he’s among the most important players to wear purple and gold, O’Neal was more understanding than West.
“I love Jeanie Buss. I have never, would never say anything negative about Jeanie Buss,” O’Neal said on The Big Podcast with Shaq. “She gave me $120 million, $100 million, another $80 million. I would never, ever in my life say anything negative about Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. That is her opinion. I respect her opinion.”
O’Neal did admit that he would be irritated if he was younger.
“At 49, I’m a lot more peaceful than I was. If I was 29, I would say, ‘Hold on, LeBron’s only been there 720 days. How you gonna put him before me?’ But look, I’m 49, I respect people’s opinions.”
LeBron is arguably the greatest player in NBA history and is certainly an important Laker. However, he’s been with the team for less than three years. He hasn’t done enough to warrant getting more credit than the likes of West, O’Neal or even the late Elgin Baylor.