COMMENTARY | As if living in Los Angeles wasn't already just about as close to perfect as you can get, the city is also home to the most star-studded NBA franchise in the league.
There's a reason the Los Angeles Lakers have only missed the playoffs five times: superstar players. Superstars win championships and superstars love L.A. because it's about as close to perfect as you can get.
So many superstars have played for the Lakers that trying to come up with an all-time top 3 presents the problem that no other team has -- too many players to choose from.
Actually, the Lakers' top 4-6 are even better than any other team's trio. Only the Boston Celtics even come close with Bird, Bill Russell and Kevin Garnett.
When we're talking about something like "best," even if we eliminate personal favorites and preferences, we're still dealing with opinion. Of course, stats are the most important aspect -- along with championships won.Championships are finite. We know for sure whether a team won them. Statistics start to slide into that gray area because of what statistics you consider most important or even whether you believe more modern analytics. While I don't think basketball has caught up to baseball in advanced metrics, they're getting closer to determining what a player's real value is or has been.
For this discussion, it doesn't matter if a player is a "good locker room guy" -- that's just completely arbitrary opinion. What does that even mean? Does he drive the carpool? Does he do everyone's laundry? Does he give killer backrubs?
Here is the Lakers' biggest "Big three":
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
On a franchise that's been home to three of the league's five greatest centers of all time, there's a lot of debate over which one was the greatest. Kareem was a 19-time All-Star, a six-time MVP Award winner and a six-time NBA champion.
In addition to being an unstoppable offensive force, he was a good defender and durable as all heck. As a result, he is among the leaders of almost every cumulative stat the league has, including points, rebounds, blocks, games played -- and so on and so on.
He edges out legendary big man Wilt Chamberlain -- who comes in at a respectable No. 4 for the Lakers and who, on any other team in the league, would certainly be in their top three. They both had incredible careers, but Kareem did just a bit more. Also, he was in the movies Game of Death and Airplane! Now that's an L.A. star!
2. Magic Johnson
Right now there's probably no greater ambassador for Los Angeles sports than Magic Johnson. In addition to being a Lakers legend, he's also part of the ownership group that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers and helped get Frank McCourt out of our lives.
Many people consider him to be one of the nicest guys in the sports world -- full of charm and charisma. So much so that they even let him have is own talk show. And even though that wound up being one of the worst things to ever happen on television, people still loved him (not enough to watch the show, of course).
He was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time MVP Award winner and a five-time NBA champion. His cumulative stats aren't as impressive since his career was cut short when he found out he had contracted the HIV virus.
There is little doubt that if Shaq had ever developed any sort of decent free-throw shooting ability, he would be regarded as the greatest player to ever hit the hardwood. Oh, man those free throws were brutal -- at one point it was even suggested he should shoot underhand. Underhand!
He's now remembered by most in L.A. as the losing half of the Kobe Bryant-Shaq squabble. As soon as Kobe -- who comes in at No. 6 all-time for the Lakers -- had the power to force the team's hand to get rid of the most dominant big man in the last 20 years, he did just that and it has tainted the fans' memories of just how awesome Shaq was.
He was a 15-time All-Star, one-time MVP Award winner and four-time NBA champion. He left the Orlando Magic at the first chance he got and went to L.A. in hopes of becoming an international entertainer in addition to his basketball career. The result was four albums (yes, four!) and 12 films (yes, 12!). He's the embodiment of what everyone comes to L.A. for.
Joining Kobe and Wilt in the "Great Lakers Who Would Be in Any Other Team's Top 3" are Jerry West (No. 5) and the underrated Elgin Baylor (NO. 7). All four of these players can easily be counted among the league's dozen or so greats of all time.
It'll be interesting to see which player will the next superstar to join the legends of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.
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