The top five centers in Los Angeles Lakers history

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, having the second-most titles behind the Boston Celtics. A significant part of the Lakers’ rich history is the collection of centers that has played for the franchise.

According to NBA.com stats, the Lakers have three former centers who rank in the top 10 on the all-time points list. They also have two former centers who rank in the top 10 on the all-time rebounds list.

From playing in the Forum to Staples Center, the Lakers have boasted some of the best big men to ever play the game.

 

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most decorated and accomplished players in Lakers history.

Abdul-Jabbar’s longevity and sustained dominance was one of the hallmarks of his career, as he won six championships in 20 seasons. After winning his first title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Lakers in 1975.

As arguably the best center ever, Abdul-Jabbar had an unstoppable shot: the skyhook. He used it regularly in the post and scored with ease.

Abdul-Jabbar won five titles with the Lakers, being the perfect complement for Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson. During his career with the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar scored 22.1 points per game and grabbed 9.4 rebounds per game. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds, and he ranks third all-time in points behind the late Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.

Nicknamed “Cap,” Abdul-Jabbar is the epitome of greatness. A six-time MVP and Hall of Famer, Abdul-Jabbar is easily the best center in Lakers history.

2. Shaquille O’Neal

Before Shaquille O’Neal came to Los Angeles in 1996, he had played four seasons with the Orlando Magic and was one of the best players in the game.

He had even went to the NBA Finals, although he and the Magic were swept by the Houston Rockets in 1995.

But during his time with the Lakers, O’Neal’s legacy skyrocketed. He went from being a talented player to being a top 10 player ever. O’Neal, who played eight seasons with the Lakers, won three of his four championships in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the most physically dominant player ever, O’Neal knew how to use his body to create space and posterize hapless opponents.

O’Neal averaged 27.0 points per game and grabbed 11.8 rebounds while with the Lakers. He ranks second in franchise history for blocks behind Abdul-Jabbar, and he’s seventh on the Lakers’ all-time scoring list.

A 2016 Hall of Fame inductee, O’Neal’s ability to impose his will on opponents made him the best big man of his era.

3. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain quite possibly has the most individual accolades in league history.

From his record 100-point game to boasting the league’s highest points per game average (50.4), Chamberlain has a host of records. Standing at 7-foot-1, Chamberlain even led the NBA in total assists (702) during the 1967-68 season.

But for all his individual success, Chamberlain still was a winner.

He played the last five seasons of his career with the Lakers, winning a title with the team in 1972. His other championship came during the midst of his career in 1967, when he was with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Though Chamberlain was on the back end of his career with the Lakers, he still was a quality big man. During the 1968-69 season, his first with the Lakers, he scored 20.5 points a game and grabbed 21.5 rebounds. While with the franchise, he scored 17.7 points per game and grabbed 19.2 rebounds.

Much like Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal, Chamberlain is arguably a top 10 player ever. According to NBA.com stats, he is the league’s all-time leading rebounder, and he’s also seventh all-time in points.

4. Pau Gasol

A six-time All-Star, Pau Gasol had his best years with the Lakers. After the Memphis Grizzlies traded Gasol to Los Angeles in 2008, he became part of a title contender for the next few seasons.

Gasol was pivotal for the Lakers’ back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, being a viable No. 2 option behind Bryant.

As a mobile big man, Gasol was particularly skilled in the pick-and-roll. While with the Lakers, Gasol scored 17.7 points per game and grabbed 9.9 rebounds.

Gasol, 39, isn’t retired, as he was released by the Portland Trail Blazers in November of last year. With the release, Gasol has used the time away to work on rehabbing from a left foot surgery.

As arguably a future Hall of Famer, Gasol had a successful prime. During the two postseasons he won championships, Gasol averaged at least 18.0 points per game and 10.0 rebounds a game.

5. George Mikan 

George Mikan was so impactful that he has a whole drill named after him.

The “Mikan Drill,” where hoopers go from block to block and toss in layups, helps teach touch and finishing at the rim.

A Hall of Famer, Mikan played with the Lakers when the franchise was in Minneapolis. He played one season in the Basketball Association of America (BAA), and the league merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1949 to form the NBA; Mikan played six NBA seasons.

Mikan was a quality big man, as he averaged at least 27.0 points per game twice during his NBA career. He boasts NBA career averages of 22.3 points per game and 13.4 rebounds.

A four-time NBA champion, Mikan was one of the league’s first stars. For a franchise filled with talented bigs, Mikan was the Lakers’ first great center.

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Davis, Vlade Divac, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard.

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