COMMENTARY | There is no doubt who the greatest NBA center of all-time is in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but when it comes to the pecking order of greatest players in Lakers history, the six-time league MVP and Hall-of-Famer deserves to be the fourth team icon to be honored with a statue at Staples Center.
That's because Magic Johnson, Jerry West and even broadcaster Chick Hearn were more important to the team than the 7-footer out of UCLA.
Abdul-Jabbar may have voiced some gripes about not being honored sooner by Lakers, but he is rightly being immortalized behind the likes of the iconic trio that is presently bronzed for eternity in downtown L.A.
He'll get his statue at some point to be determined during the 2012-2013 season, and the Lakers were correct in waiting as long as they did. They had to take care of the team's greatest legends first.
Magic Johnson Changed L.A.'s Basketball Culture
Beginning with Magic Johnson, it can be argued that no single player in NBA history has done more or meant more to any franchise than the five-time champion meant to the Lakers. Johnson was L.A., and he alone created an entire culture around his style of play -- Showtime.
All the flash wasn't without substance, however. Among all of his impressive statistics, Johnson's career average for assists per game of 11.2 is one of the reasons the Lakers were so successful in their heyday.
It's also one of the primary reasons Abdul-Jabbar was so effective well into his 30s.
Chick Hearn Gave the Lakers a Voice
For those who lived in Southern California from 1965 on, the Lakers always had a discerning voice, whether it was on television or the radio. That voice was Chick Hearn.
The Lakers' legendary broadcaster is known for his electric catch phrases and golden voice. No game was complete without hearing his distinct call that always seemed to capture the essence of exactly what was happening on the court -- even if fans couldn't see it.
But it wasn't just his talent that set Hearn apart. His tireless work ethic carried him to incredible heights when it came to longevity and perseverance. During his remarkable career, he called over 3,000 straight games and was a true iron man. Though he was a broadcaster, there may not be a single person that's more recognizable when it comes to Lakers history.
Jerry West Did it From Both Sides, and He's the Logo
Jerry West came a long way from his West Virginia roots to become one of the most recognizable figures in professional sports. Not only is he a legendary Laker, but he's the man on the NBA logo that is still used today.
He also has plenty of hardware, both as a player and an executive.
On the floor, he was the team's leader when the franchise won its first title in 1972. Prior to the title run that year, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award as a member of the losing team in 1969 against the Boston Celtics.
But incredibly, his accomplishments in the front office of the franchise trump his accomplishments in a Lakers uniform. From 1982 to 2000, he won seven championships as an executive and is responsible for orchestrating what could be seen as one of the greatest trades in NBA history -- the historic swap of Vlade Divac for a high school kid named Kobe Bryant with the Charlotte Hornets.
Kareem's Statue Loses No Significance
Because he meant so much to the game, it's easy to understand why Abdul-Jabbar would feel slighted by being the fourth person to be honored by the Lakers with a statue. But Kareem is an educated, smart man and basketball historian who has to understand the impact that Johnson, Hearn, and West each had on the team and the city of Los Angeles.
Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time NBA scoring leader with 38,387 points and has five titles with the Lakers, but he will have a hard time convincing any real Lakers fan that he is the No. 1 player in the history of the purple and gold.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has written for several publications, both online and in print, including Southern California's Press-Enterprise and is the Editor of Sports Out West.
For more insight, you can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.