Ten greatest athletes in Los Angeles sports history

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YCN Greatest Athletes Los Angeles. Yahoo! Sports photo illustration.
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Sandy Koufax, Kobe Bryant, Marcus Allen, Magic Johnson. Yahoo! Sports photo illustration.

Editor's note: YCN contributor Michael C. Jones has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for Los Angeles. Readers will determine by poll (upper right side of the page) who's No. 1. Results will be revealed Thursday, Aug. 2.

Los Angeles boasts a rich tradition of professional sports and countless athletes of influence that have made many venues within the city's limits stages for some of the greatest moments in sports history.

In the interest of narrowing things down, only athletes that played in the city, not just who were born or lived there, are in consideration for this list.

The other caveat is that this list goes beyond the numbers. Factors include: Which players meant more to the city, the surrounding community and their sport in general?

With that in mind, here are the top 10 athletes in L.A. history, in alphabetical order. Who do you think should be No. 1? The choice is yours.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers, 1975-89)

After 14 illustrious seasons as a cornerstone piece of the best Lakers teams of the '80s, "Cap" retired as the NBA's all-time scoring leader and a six-time NBA champion, five of which he won with the Lakers. He revolutionized the game with his sky hook, and was a humble winner.

He finally got a statue in front of Staples Center in 2012. The question is: What took the Lakers so long to build one?

Marcus Allen (Raiders, 1982-92)

Allen is a USC product born and raised in San Diego. But it's in the professional ranks with the Los Angeles Raiders where he turned into a Hall of Famer and all-time great on the gridiron.

He made the Pro Bowl five times while a member of the Silver and Black. He was MVP of Los Angeles' lone Super Bowl victory in 1983 and is third all-time for career rushing touchdowns with 123.

Kobe Bryant (Lakers, 1996-present)

It was a toss-up between including Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant, but the Black Mamba gets the nod because he's spent his entire career to this point in the purple-and-gold and is the face of the modern Lakers. He's a five-time champion and will go down as one of the greatest ever to play the game. He holds the all-time franchise marks in points (31,617), steals (1,828), and 3-pointers made (1,637).

What's more is at 35 years old and coming off a major injury, he's not ready to hang it up. It's a tall order for him to return to form so soon, but why would anyone doubt the greatest scorer in franchise history?

Eric Dickerson (Rams, 1983-87)

The NFL's all-time single-season rushing record still stands today after nearly 30 years. It was in 1984 that this six-time Pro Bowler and five-time first team All-Pro chalked up 2,105 yards on the ground with a monstrous 5.6 yards per carry average. He went on to play the second half of his career in Indianapolis, but his glory days were in L.A.

Wayne Gretzky (Kings, 1988-96)

Though he didn't necessarily play the majority of his career in Los Angeles, as he spent his early NHL years with the Edmonton Oilers, what the greatest player in the history of the NHL did for hockey in Southern California was nothing short of groundbreaking. Not only did he get fans excited about the game with his outstanding play, but he took his team to the brink of winning its first Stanley Cup.

He set the career-mark for goals scored while in a Kings uniform during the 1993-94 season and put the franchise on the map in the landscape of the East Coast-dominated sport. Like few others, he is immortalized outside of Staples Center for good reason.

Magic Johnson (Lakers, 1979-91, 96)

As difficult as creating a list of this nature is, there's no argument that Magic belongs on it. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone more Hollywood than Johnson. Not only was he the centerpiece of the "Showtime" Lakers, but his gregarious personality and infectious smile lit up any stage he was on. If it weren't for what was at the time a devastating positive HIV diagnosis, his playing career might have rivaled the best of all time.

Somehow it still does. He is the Lakers' all-time assists leader (10,141) and probably would have had the NBA career mark in that stat and a few other categories if he could've played longer. But he didn't need to do anything else on the court to make No. 1. He was and still is Los Angeles.

Deacon Jones (Rams, 1961-71)

Jack Youngblood gets honorable mention here as "Mr. Ram," but it was the late Deacon Jones who was a member of the original Fearsome Foursome, known as the greatest defensive line in NFL history and who coined the term quarterback "sack." His head-slap move was outlawed by the NFL after his playing days, something he said later that he took great pride in.

Sandy Koufax (Dodgers, 1958-66)

Los Angeles will always be a Dodger town, and Koufax was the greatest player in team history. He spent nine of his 12 major league seasons in Los Angeles after the team moved there from Brooklyn and enjoyed his best seasons as a professional while in Southern California.

He made six All-Star appearances in L.A. and won three Cy Young Awards before having to retire at the young age of 30 due to arthritis.

Shaquille O'Neal (Lakers, 1996-2004)

Shaquille O'Neal was already an NBA icon when he arrived in Lakerland as a free agent in 1996, but Hollywood was where he became a hoops legend. There couldn't have been a more perfect marriage of player and city as O'Neal in Los Angeles as his larger-than-life personality and dominance on the floor made him an instant hit with Lakers fans.

As a three-time NBA champion with the Lakers, his averages of 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.5 rebounds per game while in L.A. make him deserving of having his jersey sitting in the rafters among the all-time team greats. Perhaps one day he'll even have his likeness immortalized in front of Staples Center.

Jerry West (Lakers, 1960-74)

Word has it that when West came to Los Angeles from rural West Virginia out of WVU, his teammates could barely understand his southern drawl. But it didn't take long for them and everyone else in town to embrace him for what he brought to the court.

"Mr. Clutch" has his likeness portrayed as the NBA logo for his competitive drive, winning attitude and humility -- an ideal combination for a legendary athlete. He was a 14-time All-Star and helped get the Lakers over the hump in 1972, winning a title after losing seven since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.

So who tops the list? Make your vote.

Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. He contributes to SB Nation in addition to Yahoo! Sports and is the Managing Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.

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