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.
10. Hated: Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison entered the NBA with a world of hype behind him. His successful college career at Gonzaga saw Morrison put up impressive numbers with superb outside shooting. Morrison, however, didn’t have the tools to succeed in the NBA against superior talent. Injuries also took their toll on him, forcing the Charlotte Bobcats to give up on him.
The Los Angeles Lakers gave him his second chance in the NBA, but it was somehow even worse. Morrison rarely played well enough to get on the court and his play during his limited minutes usually failed to deliver. Morrison had a quiet personality that served better in smaller markets with less pressure. There was no way he would have succeeded in Los Angeles. Following the Lakers flop, Morrison never played another regular game in the NBA.
9. Loved: Jerry West
One of the best and rarest forms of success in the NBA is a star player spending his entire playing career with one franchise. Jerry West accomplished this by never leaving the Los Angeles Lakers. West’s superb play gave him the honor of having the NBA logo being designed after him. We still see West every single time we look at the silhouette of the NBA logo today.
West won over Lakers fans with fourteen All-Star appearances, finishing as a legitimate legend in the sport of basketball. West’s post-playing career saw him work with the Lakers as both a coach and later in the front office. West left to work for the Golden State Warriors franchise, but he has nothing but kind words to say about the Lakers family.
8. Hated: Kwame Brown
Another member of the Los Angeles Lakers that had a terrible time due to playing with Kobe Bryant was Kwame Brown. The former number one overall pick in the draft failed in Washington and tried to find a new beginning in Los Angeles. Brown already dealt with Michael Jordan humiliating him during the time on the Wizards, so it didn’t seem likely that the Lakers situation could be worse.
Bryant did his best to prove Brown wrong by making a fool out of him in public interviews. In fairness to Kobe, Brown often played poorly and that hurt the team. Bryant would call out Brown’s horrible play and lack of confidence on the court. Lakers fans also hated Brown being a member of the team, leading to it being a horrible stint in Los Angeles for him.
7. Loved: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is still the all-time NBA leader in scoring. The talented big man had the perfect game for the time and the Los Angeles Lakers saw the best of his work. Abdul-Jabbar helped the Lakers win five NBA Championships and individually he won six MVP Awards. Abdul-Jabbar’s star power started to grow with his superb play coming in a major market like Los Angeles.
Some Lakers fans still throw out Abdul-Jabbar’s name in the conversation for the greatest of all-time. Kareem did finish his career with more points scored than Michael Jordan and was as consistent as any other legend in the history of the NBA. His time in Los Angeles helped add to his legacy as one of the true Laker greats.
6. Hated: Andrew Bynum
Passion for basketball is just as important as talent in the NBA. Everyone to make an NBA roster has incredible talent, but the best players have the strongest drive. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James all have a strong passion for the game of basketball to match the skills. Andrew Bynum is someone that could have been something special, but just never committed completely to the game.
Los Angeles Lakers fans had dreams of the new version of Shaq and Kobe when Bynum was drafted to be their center of the future. The big man had a few great seasons, but a combinations of injuries and disinterest saw him fail to live up to the expectations. Bynum was clearly not enjoying his time on the Lakers towards the end of the line. The Lakers lucked out by trading him before he regressed even more and had no value left.
5. Loved: James Worthy
James Worthy is one of the most underrated stars of his time, but the Los Angeles Lakers fans treat him with the proper respect. Worthy spent the entirety of his career on the Lakers over the course of twelve seasons. Worthy might not have been as dominant as some of the other Lakers stars, but he made up for it in consistency.
Worthy earned the nickname of Big Game James for his clutch performances. The two things most rewarded by diehard fans are loyalty and clutch play. Worthy showed both during his Lakers career and it led to him having a great time in Los Angeles. It’s hard to ask for more from a career in one organization that what Worthy witnessed during his Lakers run.
4. Hated: Karl Malone
The Los Angeles Lakers have been home to many dynasties, but they have also witnessed quite a few disasters when it comes to super teams. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s final run together featured the additions of Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Los Angeles added two legends that were both without a ring at the time, hoping to form a roster of legends to dominate the NBA.
Malone struggled the most to fit in after leaving the Utah Jazz for the first time in his NBA career. A personal rivalry between Malone and Bryant intensified in the locker room. Rumors circulated that Malone made a pass at Bryant’s wife causing the drama between the two. Regardless, Malone clearly regretted leaving the Jazz for a failed chance to contend for a title.
3. Loved: Kobe Bryant
All NBA players entering the league should aspire to have a run like Kobe Bryant did with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers, growing up from an immature kid into a ruthless competitor. Los Angeles fans witnessed five NBA Championship parades thanks in part to the star play of Bryant, making them a force for the majority of his time there.
The emotion shown from both Bryant and the fans on his final night in the NBA last season told the entire story. It is something that you can’t replicate or fake. Bryant truly loved his time being the face of the Lakers franchise. A new generation of Los Angeles kids grew up with Kobe and you can tell he’ll always treasure being a member of Lakers history.
2. Hated: Dwight Howard
The best example of someone hating their time with the Los Angeles Lakers is Dwight Howard. A blockbuster trade saw the Lakers acquire Howard from the Orlando Magic. Los Angeles fans expected the same results from the other time the Lakers stole a center away from the Magic with Shaquille O’Neal. Howard did not rise to the occasion like Shaq and witnessed his entire career change for the worst.
Howard was thought to be clear cut best center in the league when joining the Lakers. A lack of chemistry with his teammates and personalities clashing with Kobe Bryant changed that in a way Howard has yet to rebound from. Howard had a lackluster season and many Lakers fans loathed his jovial personality, as it seemed like he wasn’t taking the game seriously. The big man actually took less money to sign with the Houston Rockets after one year, deciding that leaving Los Angeles was best for his happiness.
1. Loved: Magic Johnson
The name most associated with Los Angeles sports history is Magic Johnson. An exciting style of play made Johnson a must-watch Superstar leading the Lakers to five NBA Championships. Johnson was an all-around great player excelling in every area of the game. Factor in his leadership qualities and it made Johnson a legend to Los Angeles fans, as he led the Lakers to dominance.
Johnson remained in the Lakers franchise as a coach and in other fields over the years. Even in recent years, Magic has never stopped being a part of the Lakers family. The main reason he purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers was his desire to want to remain in and help the L.A. sports world. Johnson is vocal and appears to have a genuine love for the Lakers franchise. No one better represents Los Angeles than Johnson.