The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the most successful franchise in sports history. You can argue the New York Yankees or Montreal Canadiens are above them, but the Lakers have always had the excitement to follow their success. Not only have Los Angeles fans been spoiled with sixteen champions in Lakers history, but the team has also been home to the most exciting stars in the sports world. The pressure associated with playing basketball in Los Angeles leads to different reactions from the players to rock the highly respected purple and gold colors.
Lakers legends embraced their time in Los Angeles by stepping up to the plate and leading the franchise to the promise land of championships and dynasties. The Lakers have a hit list of some all-time great Superstars that genuinely loved their time being there. Other players hated the pressure and fan criticism that comes from the negative times. They just couldn’t handle the spotlight or the team makeup of taking things seriously. We’ll look at both sides of the franchise’s history of notable NBA players. These are eight of the greats that loved their time on the Los Angeles Lakers and seven that did not have a good time playing for the organization.
15. Loved: Shaquille O’Neal
The acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal completely changed the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, bringing them back to the top of the NBA. O’Neal was already one of the most dominant centers in the league, but he wasn’t happy as a member of the Orlando magic. The huge move in free agency saw him join the Lakers for a chance in the bigger spotlight of Los Angeles (along with more money).
O’Neal always had a bright personality that shined even more on the Lakers, but let’s not forget how good he was on the court. O’Neal won the Finals MVP all three years of the Lakers three-peat in the early-2000s. A locker room feud with Kobe Bryant saw the Lakers trade O’Neal to appease Bryant, but Shaq clearly loved his time in Los Angeles.
14. Hated: Steve Nash
Steve Nash joining the Los Angeles Lakers was hoped to be the start of another dynasty. The combination of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Nash looked unbeatable on paper until they failed to develop chemistry. Lakers fans expected to get a two-time MVP and legendary point guard when Nash joined the team. Unfortunately, the wear and tear of playing in the NBA caught up to him.
Various injuries kept Nash out of the lineup during the majority of his Lakers tenure. It turned into one of the worst contracts in the NBA with the Lakers having to shell out big money for a guy sitting on the bench. Some of the Los Angeles fans turned against him with boos. Nash did not have a fun time on the Lakers and it was one of the more depressing endings to a storied career.
13. Loved: Wilt Chamberlain
The iconic center delivered some of the most dominant statistics of all time, that will likely never be matched. Most of his best years came on other teams, but he spent the final five years of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt Chamberlain’s active social life saw Los Angeles become his beloved home off the court as well as succeeding on the court with his teammates.
His tenure in Los Angeles saw Chamberlain add a Finals MVP Award and NBA Championship to his accomplishments. Chamberlain became a fan favorite winning over the Lakers fans with his spectacular play. You can only assume Wilt wishes he joined the Lakers in his prime, as his legacy could be even richer today. Still, Chamberlain and the Lakers had a great relationship to end his career on the perfect note.
12. Hated: Smush Parker
For the first time in the history of existence, we transition from Wilt Chamberlain to Smush Parker. The talented young guard joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005 and Los Angeles fans hoped Parker could materialize into an effective player to help a team in need of talent following Shaquille O’Neal being traded away.
Things got off to a rocky start for Parker, with rumors of Kobe Bryant telling him off on the first day of practice. Smush allegedly tried to befriend Bryant with a casual conversation about football and Bryant flat out told him he wasn’t good enough to speak to the star of the team until he earned it. Bryant was rude to Parker for the rest of his stint and told the media that Smush wasn’t good enough to be in the NBA. Laker life was torture for Parker.
11. Loved: Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor’s tenure with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers led to great success for over a decade. Baylor spent thirteen seasons with the Lakers and reached the NBA Finals eight times. The career of Baylor could be summed up with consistency and effort. Baylor gave his best every time he was on the court and that led to a great relationship with the fans.
The Lakers retired his jersey in 1983 as an appreciation for all that he gave to the franchise. All a player can ask for from a fan base is support during his playing days and appreciation when retiring. Baylor has gone on the record numerous times to state his love of being a part of the Lakers family. Baylor’s legacy will always remain a strong part of Lakers history.