Lakers Players Gotta Have Style

Lakers Players Gotta Have Style

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Tom Fletcher
Aug 31, 2023 • 4 min read

The Los Angeles Lakers, an emblematic (dare I say, THE EMBLEMATIC) franchise of the National Basketball Association (NBA), were originally founded as the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947. The name "Lakers" was a nod to Minnesota's state nickname, "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Kinda weird, but kind brilliant.

The Minneapolis basketball team was graced by the presence of George Mikan, basketball's first dominant big man. Besides being amazing at the basketball, Mikan looked like he could be a nuclear scientist, a marquee film director, or the leading man in a film he directed himself, with himself in the starring role, playing a nuclear scientist.

I mean, just look at this smooth operator in his glasses. Under his leadership, the Minneapolis team secured five championships.

In 1960, like one of those Hollywood blockbuster scripts from the 90's that got optioned for big money, the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles, becoming the NBA's first Best Coast team. The team's golden years started off with a BANG with the acquisition of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, two titans of the hardwood, who elevated the Lakers' reputation and expectations. The team, however, continually fell short in the championships, most often to the Boston Celtics - a rivalry that would become the NBA's version of a classic Greek tragedy. Even adding the legendary Wilt Chamberlain did little to stem the green tide of championships that swelled into Boston, the product of some leprachaun magic and maybe also Bill Russel.  

Undeterred, the orginal BIG 3 played some exceptional hoops and put up some of the stats that would garner perennial mentions as top players in NBA history.  West even got the NBA logo design after  him! And while players were subject to the styles and fashion of the era that they were in, there were some groovy style moments as well (most of them involving Wilt, from what I can gather).

In the late '70s, the narrative around the Lakers began to shift seismically. With the arrival of the superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and later Magic Johnson and then James Worthy, and guided by the inimitable Pat Riley, Showtime was born. A style of basketball as glamorous as the city it represented, Showtime's fast-breaking, freewheeling play netted the Lakers five championships in the '80s.

The early '90s were a challenging period for the Lakeshow, yet out of that darkness emerged a new duo for the ages: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Under Coach Phil Jackson, they delivered a triptych of championships, restoring the Lakers to their previous glory. Personal styles were decidedly, um, interesting, as they were wont to be in the fashion wasteland of the early 2000's. Still, there were some moments to be had.

Post-Shaq, the team was Kobe's kingdom, his reign marked by an unwavering intensity and two additional championships. The Lakers, like Los Angeles itself, became synonymous with stardom, drama, and the relentless pursuit of success (and maybe, just a little, some individual accolades). Kobe's tragic death only cemented his status as one of the handful of athletes who will always be synonymous for the incredible success enjoyed by the NBA's marquee franchise.

The purple and gold standard was carried forward by LeBron James and Anthony Davis in 2020, when they seized yet another championship. Lakers' legacy, after all, is a parade of constellations, the steady rhythm of revolution and renewal, much like the city they call home. And, with the full powers of the worldwideweb and social media behind them, these dudes paid just as much attention to their personal style as they did to kicking butt on the court.

Davis and Lebron currently lead the way in that department, but here-today-gone-tomorrow hoops-and-style standouts like Jordan Clarkson and Russel Westbrook  added their own flair to the drama, both on the court and walking down "the tunnel", a spectacle that is often more entertaining than the game itself.

It's impossible to say what the future holds for the Lakers (besides, you know, winning a ton of games after they sign Giannis) but if their storied history is any indication, it promises to be nothing short of spectacular and stylish, ever unfolding like the final act of a captivating film, credits yet to roll.