COMMENTARY | Now that Los Angeles Lakers' legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a statue featuring his likeness scheduled to be unveiled in front of Staples Center at some point during 2012-2013 NBA season, the speculation can begin as to who deserves to be recognized in such fashion next.
Broadcaster Chick Hearn, Magic Johnson and Jerry West will stand immortalized next to Abdul-Jabbar when his likeness is finished. Given the franchise's great history, who's next in line?
Here are the top five Lakers who deserve a statue, in order.
No. 5, Wilt Chamberlain, C, 1968-1972
Wilt Chamberlain is an NBA legend considering the body of work of his entire career. The Hall-of-Famer joined the Lakers as he was declining, but was still effective in his later years and was an integral part of bringing a championship culture to L.A.
He was the MVP of the franchise's first title in Los Angeles, averaging 14.7 points and 21.0 rebounds per contest in the 1972 playoffs.
No. 4, Elgin Baylor, F, 1958-1972
Elgin Baylor meant a great deal to the Lakers franchise. The Washington, D.C. native and University of Seattle product was the No. 1 overall pick of the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1958 NBA draft and would be one of the team's first true superstar players.
He finished his career with 23,149 points, which was good for a 27.4 points per game average over the course of his 13-year career. Unfortunately, he would retire before he could share in the Lakers' first franchise title in 1972, but he will forever be remembered for being one of the first Lakers legends.
No. 3, Phil Jackson, Head Coach, 1999-2011
The Lakers set a precedent of recognizing non-players as integral parts of its franchise history when they honored Chick Hearn with a statue outside of Staples Center, so it would only be fitting that the winningest coach in team history be forever remembered alongside the other franchise icons.
After having historic success with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Jackson coached the Lakers to five NBA championships and dealt with the big egos of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant while installing the instrumental triangle offense in Los Angeles.
The Hall-of-Fame coach stands atop the greatest of all time with a career .704 win percentage and 11 titles with the Lakers and Bulls. There's no doubt he deserves a statue in front of Staples Center one day.
No. 2, Shaquille O'Neal, C, 1996-2004
Staples Center is known as The House that Shaq Built, so it's only fitting that the four-time NBA champion who won three with the Lakers be bronzed in front of the venue that he helped make famous.
He was the MVP in all three of the Lakers' NBA Finals victories and was the MVP of the league in 1999-2000 when he averaged 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. He is second to Chamberlain on the Lakers career field goal percentage list with a .575 mark.
But it's Shaq's charisma, his flair for the dramatic and all-around likeability that make him the ideal man for immortalization. Much like Magic Johnson did in the '80s, O'Neal brought a new Showtime back to Los Angeles in the '90s and early '00s.
No. 1, Kobe Bryant, G, 1996-Present
There's no disputing that Kobe Bryant is the greatest Laker of all-time. When his career is complete, he may be the best player the NBA has ever seen and is already in the conversation for that distinction.
Bryant is a five-time champion with the Lakers and is still chasing more hardware. He's No. 1 in franchise history in points (29,484), 3-Pt field goals (1,505), free throws (7,407), and games played (1161). He's only needs three more steals (currently at 1722) to pass Magic Johnson for first on the all-time Lakers list in that category and is third in defensive rebounds with 4,778.
The numbers don't lie -- he's the best ever to wear purple and gold. Bryant is the most deserving of the next statue because of his longevity and what he's meant to the organization. When fans think of the Los Angeles Lakers, it's Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson that come to mind immediately.
The Lakers rightly ensured Johnson had a presence at Staples Center, and they'll likely do what's right and give Bryant a place right next to him when the time is right.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and is the Editor of Sports Out West.
You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.