Lakers: 20 Greatest Individual Performances in Franchise History
The Los Angeles Lakers have been blessed with an abundance of superstar players, and even more impressive individual performances.
Despite their recent struggles, and lack of a consistent, established scoring threat, if you search the internet looking for the greatest players of all time, you will quickly realize how the Los Angeles Lakers dominate the field.
Unlike the Chicago Bulls, whose talent was heavily concentrated in the Michael Jordan era, the Lakers, just like the Boston Celtics, have consistently had superstars spanning different eras.
From legends like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich, transitioning to the likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, then Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have had no shortage of impressive individuals, who have in turn had impressive individual performances.
With that in mind, it is no wonder why the front office is stuck looking to the past for answers, when it is readily apparent that the solutions to their problems lie in the future.
Further, with Kobe on his last legs, it is easy to forget how casually he destroyed his opponents in his prime. Translation: Prepare for a load of Kobe Bryant performances you never should have forgotten about.
That said, here is a list of the top 20 greatest individual performances in Lakers franchise history.
20. Kobe Bryant Scores 21 in the 4th, Leading Largest Come Back in Lakers’ History
This was impressive team win for the Los Angeles Lakers, but they would never have pulled off the victory without the incredible performance by Kobe Bryant.
Entering the fourth quarter trailing by a staggering margin of 27 points, 88-61, to the Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas Mavericks in 2002, there was no way the Lakers were supposed to win this game. That night, Nash was giving the Lakers headaches, scoring at will, but in classic Kobe fashion, he buckled down in the fourth quarter, slowly but surely taking over the game.
Inexplicably cutting the lead to 15 points with about seven and a half minutes to go in the contest, it was all downhill for the Mavericks after that point on. Kobe Bryant ended up finishing with 21 fourth quarter points, hitting the game winning bucket with eight seconds left.
To put this in perspective, currently, less than 20 players in the NBA are averaging 20 points per game or more.
It was not even the amount of points that Kobe scored that made this one of the most impressive performances in franchise history, but the ease with which he scored them.
Equally impressive was the fact that Kobe struggled the entire game, scoring only 6 points through three quarters, only to waltz his way to 21 points in the final 12 minutes of the contest.
19. Jerry West 63 Points, 1962
Jerry West’s 63-point outburst is an amazing feat even to this day, but even more impressive when you consider the fact that the three point line was not officially introduced in the NBA until the 1979-80 season.
Arguably, this means that West could have quite possibly scored even more and is why comparing NBA players across generations is damn near impossible to do. If you watch any of Mr. Clutch’s highlight videos, you realize that many of his shots were from the outside, so this is a fair argument.
You do not become the logo of the entire NBA without accomplishing some unthinkable feats, and this was one of them from Jerry West. Armed with a silky smooth jumpshot, both off the dribble and from the spot up position, watching this contest live was assuredly a treat that fans in attendance were not likely to forget.
Now a member of the executive board of the Golden State Warriors, you can still see some of West’s moves in the NBA currently. The two-dribble pull up jump shot or running hook was Jerry West’s bread and butter, and you can see that he still holds them near and dear to his heart as he attempts to teach Harrison Barnes in this video.
18. Kobe Bryant Hits NBA Record 12 Three-Pointers in a Game
In no way is Kobe Bryant known as a sharpshooter from behind the three point line. On his career he only averages just around 33 percent from beyond the arc, considerably less than the league average. That said, it is ironic that Kobe Bryant still holds the record for most three pointers made in a game, tied with Donyell Marshall who made 12 threes, two years after Bryant did so.
That storied night against the Seattle Supersonics, Kobe hoisted up 28 shots, 18 from 3-point range, respectively shooting 57 percent overall and 67 percent from distance, finishing with a cool 45 points in only 37 minutes of play.
What is surprising about that night was the fact that Kobe hit the first of his 12 threes with five and a half minutes left to go in the second quarter, then proceeded to hit five more before halftime. Prior to this game, the Lakers’ record for threes in a game was eight, set by Nick Van Exel in 1997, but Kobe demolished that with ease, hitting 11 by the third quarter.
Currently, the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, are on Kobe’s heels, both already with 11 made threes in a game. How long this record will stand the test of time, we will have to wait and see, but fans will always remember the night that Kobe could not miss from beyond the arc.
17. Shaq Drops 61 on His Birthday
The legend goes that during the game, Shaq became upset after he saw his idol Kareem Abdul-Jabaar giving tips to opponent Keith Closs on how to stop him and that is what ignited his stellar performance.
Not only did Shaq score 61 on the helpless Los Angeles Clippers, but he did so on his 28th birthday, on what he considered his “night off.”
In his hilarious recollection of what he calls his best game ever, Shaq revealed:
That night it was my birthday, and we had a party… Usually I go home, eat lunch, take a nap and get ready for the game, but we playing against ‘The Great Keith Closs and the LA Clippers,’ so I’m taking the night off. I got to get ready for the party…
So, we get out there and they’re killing us, and everybody’s looking at me. . . I look over to the bench and I see one of my idols telling Keith Closs how to stop me. I see Kareem saying, ‘You gotta do this, you gotta do that.’ Now I’m pissed.
Shaq may be remembered for his outgoing personality, but when he was locked in, he was virtually unstoppable, just ask Keith Closs. Further, if scoring 61 points in a contest was not enough, Shaq also went on to pull down 23 rebounds the very same night.
16. Kobe 56 Points in 3 Quarters, 2002
Much is made of The Black Mamba’s 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks, an instance which will be mentioned later in the slideshow, that people often forget that Bryant also scored 56 points through three quarters against the Memphis Grizzlies, three years prior.
D’Angelo Russell once mentioned that Los Angeles Lakers fans are spoiled, and he may be right, as they were treated to one of the longest primes in NBA history. For more than ten seasons, Kobe Bryant was a threat to explode on any given night, and this instance proves this point distinctly.
In just 34 minutes, that night Kobe shot 62 percent, on 21-of-34 shooting, with five rebounds, four assists, and zero turnovers, posting a +40 on the night. Los Angeles ended up smoking the Memphis Grizzlies, 120-81, and you can bet that after the game, Pau Gasol was thinking to himself, “Man, I wish I never had to play this guy again,” finishing a sad -38 in 44 minutes of play.
For some reason, similar to when playing the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant seemed to always erupt against the Memphis Grizzlies. Thanks Shane Battier and Jalen Rose!
It is highly unlikely that Lakers fans witness another Kobe Bryant 50 point performance, but it was great while it lasted.