The years between the Fall of 1979 and the Summer of 1990 are considered “the Showtime Years” in Los Angeles Laker history. This is the period when the Lakers were led on the court by Magic Johnson, and were led on the bench by Pat Riley. Riley left the Lakers after the 1990 season, and though the team went to the NBA Finals in 1991, they were no longer the Showtime Lakers, as Magic left following the Finals due to his HIV disease. During those years, the Lakers appeared in the NBA Finals eight times, winning five titles, including two at the expense of the Celtics, making the Lakers the “Team of the 80s”.
Every Laker fan knows about Magic, Kareem, “Big Game” James, Jamaal Wilkes, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, and the other Lakers whose names made the papers after every game. These are some of the greatest players in the history of the team. However, there were several others who played for the Lakers during this era who were not so well known, but were still members of the “Showtime Lakers”. Here then, are 15 players that you might have forgotten, or did not know, played for the Lakers during the Showtime Era.
15 Bob McAdoo
Bob McAdoo was the second-overall pick in the 1972 draft, and during his four seasons with the Buffalo Braves, McAdoo was Rookie of the Year, won three consecutive scoring titles, was a league MVP, and became the youngest player to ever have a 50-point/20-rebound game; a record that he still holds 40 years later. He was also the last player in the NBA to date to average 30 points and 15 rebounds per game for an entire season.
Unfortunately, McAdoo’s next five seasons were not as productive as his time in Buffalo, and he fell into journeyman status before landing with the Lakers. With the Lakers, McAdoo became a two-time champion, and one of the most valuable reserves on the team. McAdoo’s lethal jump shot gave the Lakers another potent weapon, and allowed Kareem to rest during the season and be fresher for the playoffs. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals during all four seasons that McAdoo was with the team, and only Bird’s Celtics and Lebron’s Heat would match this feat in recent years.
14 Billy Thompson
Just as the Lakers made the NBA Finals each year that Bob McAdoo was with the team, the team won the NBA Title in each of the two seasons that Billy Thompson was a Laker. Thompson, joining the Lakers and winning a title during his rookie season, made him the fourth player to win an NCAA title and an NBA title in consecutive season, but he became the first to win an NCAA title and follow it with two consecutive NBA titles. Unfortunately, that was the only history that Thompson would make during his NBA career.
Billy Thompson was not a key reserve on the Lakers, though he did have his moments with the team. Following his two seasons with the Lakers, Thompson was sent to the Miami Heat for their inaugural season, and within a few years, he was out of the NBA. Billy Thompson might not be in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but being the first to achieve what he has can never be taken away from him.
13 Mychal Thompson
Today, Mychal Thompson is known as the father of Klay Thompson; two-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, and the member of the Splash Brothers not named Steph Curry. However, previously, Mychal was the first overall pick of the 1978 NBA Draft. Once he was traded to the Lakers, his arrival gave the team four players who were all top picks in their respective drafts (Kareem, Magic, Worthy).
Thompson proved to be a capable backup for Kareem, and anchored the second unit with Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper. With the Lakers, Thompson won two NBA titles, and when his son won the title in 2015, Mychal and Klay became the fourth father and son pair to win NBA titles and in 2017, the second pair to win multiple titles each, after Luke and Bill Walton. Though Thompson was the only one of the four #1 draft picks to not make the Hall of Fame, he was still a valuable part of the team.
12 Spencer Haywood
Spencer Haywood began his career averaging 30 points and 19.5 rebounds per game on his way to winning the ABA Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards, along with the ABA All-Star Game MVP Award. After joining the NBA, Haywood continued playing on an all-star level, but his personal demons started to affect his play. After making four All-Star teams with the Sonics, Haywood was traded to three different teams over two seasons, landing with the Lakers at the beginning of the 1979-80 season.
Playing with Magic and Kareem with the Lakers, Haywood was the top scoring reserve on the team. Unfortunately, his demons became too much for him. In the middle of the 1980 NBA Finals, Haywood’s drug use caused him to fall asleep during a practice, and he was kicked off of the team by the coach. Haywood was still awarded a championship ring, and because of his stellar play prior to his drug problems, Haywood was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
11 Vlade Divac
Vlade Divc ended his NBA career as a teammate of Kobe Bryant, but he began his career as a teammate of Magic Johnson’s When Kareem retired following the 1989 season, the Lakers drafted an unknown center from Yugoslavia who was one of the stars of the team that won the Silver Medal in the 1988 Olympics. Vlade played with a European style in that he didn’t play with much aggression at first, but after a season with Magic and the team, Vlade learned to be tougher on the court.
During the season, Vlade made the All-Rookie team, Magic was the league’s MVP, and Pat Riley was the Coach of the Year. However, the team missed the Conference Finals for the first time since 1981, which was the longest streak of Conference Finals appearances since Russell’s Celtics. The following season, the team with Vlade as the starting center reached the NBA Finals, and over time, Vlade became the first player with no American basketball experience to play 1,000 games in the NBA.
10 Maurice Lucas
During the 1980s, there were certain teams and players that absolutely hated the Lakers because Lakers were difficult to overcome. The Phoenix Suns were one of those teams, and Maurice Lucas was one of those players. Lucas was one of the league’s enforcers, and the Lakers were one of his prime targets, as teams did everything that they could to get over the Lakers. Lucas engaged in several altercations with Lakers players, but in 1985, he joined the team and helped the Lakers to the Conference Finals.
Though he was only with the team for a single season, Maurice Lucas made one of the most underrated but memorable shots in the franchise’s history. Overall, Lucas’ play helped the Lakers continue their dominance in the Western Conference, but the Lakers fell to the Rockets in the Conference Finals. Lucas left the Lakers after the season, but he will be remembered as a member of the Showtime Lakers.
9 Wes Matthews
One of the few weaknesses that affected the Showtime Lakers was the fact that the team could never find a backup point guard after trading Norm Nixon for Byron Scott. Several players were brought in to try to solve this problem, and one of the first was Wes Matthews. Matthews came to the Lakers after stints with five other teams, but for a short time, he was the best fit as the backup point guard for the Lakers.
While he was with the Lakers, Matthews helped the team capture two consecutive NBA Championships, becoming the first team to win titles in consecutive seasons since Russell’s Celtics. Though he was a two-time champion, Matthews had trouble staying in the league after leaving the Lakers. Matthews bounced around international leagues for several years, and today, he is known as the father of Wesley Matthews, one of the starting guards for the Dallas Mavericks.
8 Larry Drew
Larry Drew’s career is very similar to that of Wes Matthews. Drew joined the Lakers after playing for several teams in the NBA, and Drew was brought in to be the backup point guard to Magic Johnson. Drew arrived after Matthews left the team, and while Matthews won two NBA Championships, Drew appeared in a single NBA Final, and lost to the Jordan Bulls. Again, like Matthews, Drew’s NBA career ended after leaving the Lakers, but Drew was hired as an assistant coach with the Lakers when his playing days were over.
Drew was released from the Lakers’ coaching staff when Phil Jackson was signed as the head coach, again missing out on a championship, but he ultimately captured one as an assistant coach with the Cavs in 2016. Another thing that Drew and Matthews have in common is that they each have sons who reached the NBA and today, they are known more for being the fathers of NBA players than for their own careers.
7 Dwight Jones
In 1972, the United States was defeated in controversial fashion for the first time in an Olympic Finals. The defeat cost the US the gold medal in men’s basketball, after the US had won every other previous Olympic tournament. The loss also cost Dwight Jones, the leading scorer and rebounder from the US team, the recognition that he deserved as the most outstanding player in the Olympic tournament. Unfortunately, Jones’ NBA career was not as successful as his Olympic run.
Jones was a journeyman player for much of his career, playing for the Hawks, the Rockets and the Bulls. In 1983, Jones was traded from the Bulls to the Lakers, going from a 4th place Bulls team to the team with the second-best record in the league. The team made its way to the NBA Finals, but the Lakers were swept in the Finals by Philadelphia. Jones was out of the league following the season and out of basketball one season later, without either an Olympic medal or an NBA Title.
6 Orlando Woolridge
Prior to joining the Lakers, Orlando Woolridge was one of the top players on the pre-Jordan Chicago Bulls. During the 1984 season, Woolridge was the leading scorer for the team, making him the last player to lead the Bulls in scoring prior to Michael Jordan’s arrival. Woolridge was signed by the Nets, but personal demons cause him not to be re-signed by New Jersey, and the Lakers signed him for extra bench scoring.
Woolridge arrived the season after the Lakers had won their second consecutive NBA title, and with Woolridge, the team reached its eighth straight Conference Finals and its third straight NBA Finals. The team failed to win the NBA title in either of the two seasons in which Woolridge was with the team, and after leaving the team, Woolridge played for the Nuggets, and then for the Pistons during Isiah’s final years. Woolridge is one of the few players who played with Magic, Jordan and Isiah Thomas.
5 Ron Boone
Ron Boone is the third leading scorer in the history of the ABA. Boone was also a multi-time ABA All-Star and a former ABA Champion. After the close of the ABA, Boone spent two seasons with the Kings and the 1979 season with the Lakers. Boone’s connection to Showtime is that he was a member of the 1979-1980 Lakers for six games before being traded to the Jazz, where he ended his career.
Though Boone was a starter before joining the Lakers, he was one of the team’s most consistent players. So consistent was Boone that he retired from basketball having never missed a game in his career, appearing in 1,041 consecutive games between the ABA and the NBA. His record stood until it was broken by fellow Showtime alum AC Green. Today, Boone is set to begin his 28th season as the radio color announcer for the Utah Jazz.
4 Mike McGee
Mike McGee graduated from the University of Michigan as the all-time leading scorer in the Big 10 Conference. McGee held that position for eight years until fellow Wolverine Glen Rice surpassed him. When he was drafted by the Lakers, he was also one of the fastest players in the league, which was a help to the team on defense because he could guard smaller, quicker guards while being big enough to guard small forwards.
McGee played with the Lakers for five seasons, and he was part of a championship team during his rookie year. Overall, McGee was part of two championship teams during a run of four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. McGee played for several other teams after leaving the Lakers, and though his pro career was not as prominent as his college career, Mike McGee retired with two NBA titles. He also still sits in the top five in scoring in the Big 10 conference, more than 30 years after he graduated.
3 Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan began his career as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA, as he was constantly among the league leaders in steals. Jordan joined the Lakers, but was unable to get many minutes because of the presence of Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon. Though he did not play much with the team, his defensive ability made him a crowd favorite. His tenure with the Lakers earned him a championship in 1982, but his career was over after seven seasons in the league.
After his playing days were over, Jordan moved into coaching. The highlight of Jordan’s coaching career was that he took over the year after Michael Jordan left the Washington Wizards. Eddie Jordan turned the team around and the Wizards became one of the top teams in the league for a short time. Today, he and his wife are known as stars of The Real Housewives of Potomac.
2 Don Ford
Don Ford was drafted by the Lakers in the 1975 NBA draft. Ford was a sixth round draft pick, which means that by today’s standards, he would be an undrafted free agent as today’s NBA draft is only two rounds. Ford arrived the same season in which Kareem was traded to the Lakers, but even with Kareem winning his fourth of six MVP awards, the team finished below .500 and missed the playoffs.
Ford was a reserve on the Lakers, and after 4½ seasons, he was traded to Cleveland. His legacy with the team was that he was traded to the Cavs during the 1980 season for the draft pick that became James Worthy. Ford will also be remembered as the brother-in-law of Sharon Tate, the actress who was murdered by the Manson Family. Ford’s wife passed in 2000, and today, Ford is a color commentator for the UC Santa Barbara basketball team.
1 Chuck Nevitt
Chuck Nevitt was a 7’5” center who was drafted by the Houston Rockets one season before Ralph Sampson. Nevitt took a year off from basketball, and this kept him from being Sampson’s first “Twin Towers” partner. At the time, Nevitt was the tallest player in the history of the NBA, as he stood one inch taller than Sampson. After his one year break from basketball, Nevitt was signed by the Lakers, and though he only appeared in eleven games for 59 minutes, he was awarded a championship ring for the 1985 season.
From there, he played for the Pistons on the 1988 team that lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, and served a 10-day contract with the 1992 Bulls. Though he played nine seasons in the league, he only appeared in 155 games. His 826 total career minutes is the equivalent of 18 complete games, so needless to say he was a little used player. However, Nevitt holds the distinction of being the tallest player to win an NBA Championship in league history.