With the launch of SB Nation Los Angeles, we introduce to you a weekly feature, the "Top Five." Every week, we will look at the top five of some aspect of Los Angeles sports. It could be anything really, ranging from announcers to sports bars to head coaches. You name the category, we will rank it.
The first in the series of Los Angeles "Top Fives" is the the top five most popular athletes.
1. Kobe Bryant
This one is really a no-brainer, as he is the main cog in the Lakers' back-to-back championship machine. Having just completed his 14th season -- do you feel old yet? -- Bryant is still a top five player in the league, and judging from the MVP chants at Staples Center every time he is at the line, he is seen in this town as a top one player in the NBA. The 2009-2010 season saw Kobe pass Jerry West to become the all-time franchise leader in points scored, and match Magic Johnson's five titles. Los Angeles is Kobe Bryant's town, and it will be until he hangs up his sneakers.
After the goal to beat Algeria to win Group C in the World Cup, there is a case to be made that Donovan could be the most popular athlete in Los Angeles, but Kobe is a tough man to top. Donovan captured the hearts of not only Los Angeles, but the country as well. The L.A. Galaxy star and Southern California native has now played in three World Cups for the U.S. Men's National Team, and is the highest scoring American player in World Cup history.
3. Pau Gasol
Think back three seasons ago. After getting eliminated by the Phoenix Suns for the second straight season, all was not right in Laker land. Our No. 1 choice might be No. 1 in Chicago or some other city instead, as Kobe was not a happy camper, and wanted to be traded. Flash forward to mid-season, and general manager Mitch Kupchak pulled off a coup, acquiring Gasol and a draft pick from Memphis for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, and two first round picks. All the Lakers have done since acquiring Gasol is win 74.5 percent of their regular season games (a 61-win pace) and advance to three straight NBA Finals, winning the last two championships. The success the Lakers have had since trading Marc Gasol for his older brother Pau makes me wonder just what would have happened had the Dodgers ever traded Chris Gwynn for his older brother.
4. Andre Ethier
Ethier has made a name for himself over the last few seasons by winning games for the Dodgers in their last at-bats. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Ethier has nine walk-off hits, the most in baseball during that time. Sending the fans home happy time after time is a great way to boost one's popularity, and Ethier is beginning to reap the benefits. A Silver Slugger winner last season, Ethier currently is in third place among National League outfielders in the latest All-Star balloting, looking to become the first Dodger to start an All-Star game since Russell Martin in 2007. Ethier is so popular, he even has his own brand new SportsCenter commercial.
5. Derek Fisher
I just want to point out that this list is for the most popular, and not necessarily the best athletes in Los Angeles. Who doesn't like D-Fish? It might be maddening at times as opposing point guards blow past him unfettered into the paint, but Fisher has a knack for hitting big shots. Without his aggressiveness in the fourth quarter, the Lakers might not have won Game 3 of this year's NBA Finals. In the last eight seasons that Fisher has played for the Lakers, they have made the Finals seven times.