Given how a Lakers-Celtics showdown sparks so much talk about the history of both franchises, ESPN is offering fans the chance to vote on their all-time Lakers starting five. (There's the all-time Celtics starting five, too, if you're into that sort of green thing.) Vote early, vote often and share your thoughts on the ultimate "Franchise 5." To get the ball rolling, here are my selections from the choices below:
Finalists: Derek Fisher, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon, Nick Van Exel
With sincere respect to Fish, No. 25, Norm and "Nick The Quick," this is a no-brainer for even the lobotomized. Magic's being the consensus best point guard ever would make this an easy call. Magic's being arguably the greatest Laker ever -- and, as I noted a while ago, he may retain permanent ownership of the crown -- would make this an easy call. But here's what makes the call indisputable: Magic could well be argued to be greatest player of all time. I'm guessing most people wouldn't rank him ahead of Michael Jordan, but I doubt even those people would deem the premise indefensible. That Magic can even remain in the same sentence as "pick your gold standard" baller constructs an open-and-shut case.
Not to be a jerk, but if you pick anyone else, you're simply wrong.
Finalists: Kobe Bryant, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, Jerry West
It's a close call between Kobe and West, whose overall impact on the Lakers could make him the most influential dude ever to suit up. But we're voting on shooting guards, and with that in mind, the numbers -- not to mention the titles -- shake out in Kobe's favor. No. 24 just passed No. 44 as the franchise's all-time scoring leader and is developing a stranglehold on every record in the books. The dude even has West's endorsement as the ultimate Laker. What's the point of awarding The Logo if he won't even accept the honor?
Finalists: Elgin Baylor, Rudy LaRusso, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy
Chick Hearn once said that Baylor was the best player he'd seen. Chick Hearn knew a whole lot more about basketball than I do or ever will. His vote is my vote.
Finalists: Pau Gasol, A.C. Green, Happy Hairston, Clyde Lovellette, Lamar Odom
As a very superstitious man with a strong belief in the power of jinxes, I hesitate to make a case for El Spaniard. After all, we're in the middle of a Lakers title chase, and if I talk up Gasol's talents, I feel as though the door is being opened for a crappy remainder of the Finals. But assuming (knock on wood) the Lakers come through, Gasol will have played a key role in back-to-back championships while growing into possibly the NBA's most talented big man. And more could be on the horizon, as Gasol has just entered his prime as the best complement to Kobe Bryant since Shaquille O'Neal. Perhaps even the better complement, when you consider how much better the two get along.
At the very least, he has the "best International Laker" title seemingly in the bag, although the jury is still out on Sasha Vujacic.
Finalists: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Shaquille O'Neal
Of all five positions, this is the toughest decision. All four players rank among the crème de la crème of big men, much less those suiting up for the Lakers. All four put their stamp on championships. But I've got to make a call, so the potential tiebreakers are examined. Years with the franchise. Numbers. Titles. Iconic status. In seeking the best of all worlds, my vote goes to Abdul-Jabbar. Plus, he played Roger Murdock in "Airplane," an impeccable résumé filler in and of itself.