When you think of the greatest teams assembled many teams come to mind. Perhaps when you think of dominance in terms of a basketball squad you think of the 2017 Golden State Warriors or the 97 Bulls. While the showtime Lakers featured many great players over many different years no Lakers team was more dominant from top to bottom than the 82 Lakers. I would argue that from top to bottom this is the greatest Non-Olympic team ever assembled.
This Lakers team featured 3 MVPS, Bob Mcadoo, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Magic Johnson, together they combine for 10 MVP awards. Today we are going to breakdown the key players on the team and the success the team achieved.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a man that needs no introduction. Over his illustrious career, he racked up 6 championships in addition to a league-record 6 MVP awards. Due to his unstoppable skyhook, the 34-year-old Kareem was still the go-to scorer for the team. That season he averaged 23.9 points 8.7 Rebounds and 2.7 Blocks while shooting 57 percent from the field. Jabbar was both the defensive anchor and main post presence on the team which is impressive especially in addition to his age.
Magic Johnson had a personality larger than life. The 6 foot 9 point guard sure was dynamic. He wasn’t the most adept scorer but his size advantage over the rest of the point guard position allowed him to score in the paint relatively easily. Throughout the 1982 Season Magic averaged a triple-double with 18.6 points 9.5 assists and 9.6 rebounds a game. Magic did all this while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. While Magic was never the best shooter and often struggled to guard even average point guards on the perimeter the composition of this Lakers team was able to somewhat hide his flaws.
Next up is one of the most underrated rated players in league history. While your average run of the mill fan wouldn’t know him his impact on these Lakers teams may be second to none. From the power forward position Jamal Wilkes was an excellent post scorer while also being able to stretch the floor. Truth is Wilkes is one of those players that would excel in the league today. In addition to his scoring ability, Wilkes was a superb defender as evidenced by his multiple all-defensive team selections throughout his playing career. Throughout the 1982 Season, Wilkes averaged 21.1 points and 5 rebounds per game. He was also as efficient as he was talented shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Wilkes possessed a deadly mid-range shot and his length made him a deadly inside out scoring threat.
Norm Nixon was a key member of this team. He was the starting point guard for the team but played a similar role to a shooting guard, often playing off-ball to allow Magic to be the primary play initiator. With his 6 foot 2 170 pound frame he was liquid quick and a capable shooter. He was most adept at slashing through the paint and finishing over taller defenders. Nixon is often forgotten by NBA history but a more remembered player is Maurice Cheeks of the 76ers. These two have very similar play styles. During the season Nixon averaged 17.6 points on a 49.4 percent effective field goal percentage. Nixon was also a very capable playmaker who was more than capable of running the offense, this is proven by him averaging a solid 8 assists per game.
Bob McAdoo was the last MVP on this team. For the first time in his career, McAdoo was coming off the bench and playing more of a complementary role. This still didn’t stop Mcadoo from contributing, and in just 18 minutes per game, he chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, and one block on 46 percent field goal percentage. The regular season stats don’t do the former MVP Justice. In the playoffs, he took on a much bigger role averaging 17 points per game in 27.7 minutes.
Michael Cooper was the team’s, sixth man. With his lanky 6 foot 5 170 pound frame Cooper was one of the premier defenders in the league. Cooper had extremely long arms and great lateral movement, therefore he often guarded the opposing team’s best scorer. He played just under 29 minutes per game scoring 12 points in addition to his excellent defense. Cooper is another person who would easily adapt to the league today. His ability to knock down the three was somewhat wasted in the time he played in. However, when you were down three with the game on the line the ball was going to either Cooper or Wilkes.
The final player that will be covered is Kurt Rambis. Rambis was something like a precursor to Dennis Rodman, he knew his role and played it to perfection. Rambis was a rugged interior defender who averaged 1.2 Blocks per game throughout the 82 seasons. In just 17.7 minutes per game, he grabbed 5.4 rebounds per game. His real impact was seen when you look at the fact he averaged over 12 rebounds per 36 minutes good for second in the league behind Moses Malone.
In the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Suns in the 2nd round and swept the Gervin lead Spurs in the conference finals. In the NBA Finals, the Lakers met the Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius Erving. However, the Sixers lacked a truly dominant big man and the Lakers defeated them in 6 games. Back then if you were first in your division you didn’t play in the first round hence the reason why they only played 3 rounds that season.