For some years, the Minneapolis Lakers were a moderately successful team in the NBA with a few titles. In 1960, they relocated to Los Angeles and while a title came in 1972, still not that spectacular. But in 1979, they signed on Magic Johnson to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and thus began “Showtime.” For that decade, the Lakers went to eight NBA Finals with five of them being championships. Since then, they remain one of the top names in the NBA. They trail only the Celtics in terms of the team with the most championships (sixteen in all) and have boasted some of the best players in the game. Now, they’re back in the spotlight with LeBron James deciding to sign with them in hopes of trying that title record.
Naturally, most remember the big names: Magic, Kareem, Pat Riley, Kobe, Shaq and others. Even some of the lower-rung guys on those championship squads get attention. But as you’d expect with such a storied team, the Lakers have seen a lot of guys who only dropped in for a season or two before moving on. Amazingly, many of them rank among the best players the game has ever seen. Some made the Lakers a home for a bit while others had a rather forgettable tenure. A few got some championship rings out of it but aren’t quite household names while others fans prefer to forget played at all. It’s amazing to see just how many guys have worn those iconic yellow and purple jerseys. Here are 20 players you may have forgotten were Lakers to show the history and impact this team possesses.
20 Kwame Brown
When Kwame Brown was picked by the Washington Wizards, he told coach Doug Collins “you draft me, you’ll never regret it.” Collins regretted it. Brown just couldn’t seem to handle being a teenager in the NBA and it hardly helped when Michael Jordan openly trashed his work in practice. It rubbed off on fans who didn’t give Brown much of a chance despite his promise. They offered a plush contract but instead, Brown became a free agent to join the Lakers.
He seemed to finally be showing his potential only to be hit by an injury.
He was never the same afterward with bad numbers and the fans rejected him. Brown would go bouncing around the league, making L.A. just another stop for one of the more disappointing draft picks of the 2000s.
19 Pat Riley
Pat Riley is so tied in to coaching that it’s easy to forget he was once a player. A versatile college player, Riley was with the ABA San Diego Rockets before joining the Lakers in 1970. He played for them for five seasons, including the 1972 championship team before finishing with the Suns. His playing stats weren’t that spectacular, averaging seven points and more a guy in the clutch than a long-term player.
But after time as a broadcaster, Riley transitioned into a top-level coach. He led L.A. to four titles. Riley would go on to tenures with the Knicks and win another title coaching the 2006 Heat but his L.A. time is what’s best remembered. Yet, even those who loved the “Showtime” era can forget Riley was a Laker player first.
18 Gary Payton
“The Glove” was hailed as one of the best defensive men of his time. He was easily the star of the 1990s Seattle SuperSonics. He also won two Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000 and Seattle fans loved him. However, in 2003, Payton was part of a trade to the Bucks, a move Sonics fans felt ruined the team. Payton then joined the Lakers, intent on winning a title. However, he never quite fit into Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and left after the Lakers were crushed by the Pistons in the 2004 Finals.
Known for his trash talking, L.A. was a surprisingly forgettable stop in an otherwise great career.
17 Isaiah Rider
A great standout for UNLV, Rider entered the 1993 draft for the Timberwolves and did fantastic in his rookie season. However, he couldn’t quite sustain the same power, not helped by a rather large ego. He led the Trail Blazers in scoring before moving onto to Atlanta in a very unpopular trade. Things were better when he signed with L.A. as he led the bench in scoring and while he wasn’t a starter, was still a good addition.
He was part of the championship team of 2001 and said he wanted to stay. Instead, he had a forgettable tenure in Denver before hanging it up.
While Rider couldn’t be as great as his rookie year indicated, he still has a ring to showcase his time in L.A. was worth it.
16 Byron Scott
The “Showtime” era of the 1980s Lakers was full of great players and colorful characters. Somehow, Byron Scott seems to have slipped from the consciousness of Lakers fans, not as notable as some of the other stars of that era. But his shooting was a key component of that team, winning three straight NBA titles and sticking with them until 1993. He bounced around the league with a brief return to the team in 1997 before playing in Europe.
Scott is better known to modern fans for his coaching career. Ironically, Scott returned to coach the Lakers in 2014. It’s odd how forgotten Scott is to fans but should be remembered as a top reason “Showtime” existed.
15 Glen Rice
Glen Rice started off as one of the first grabs for the expansion Heat where he had to put up with their infamously terrible first season. But Rice was clearly the focus of that team as a three-time All-Star and later a great star for the Heat. In 1999, he was traded to the Lakers and while it wasn’t popular at the time, fans changed their tune fast. Rice was a key ingredient to the team, helping Shaq and Kobe with the high scoring and keeping the Lakers going.
It ended with him enjoying the NBA title in 2000 but then he had a huge falling out with the team. He was thus traded to the Knicks and the rest of his career fizzzled. Still, Rice’s L.A. tenure got him a ring and should be better remembered a great piece of that puzzle.
14 Tyronn Lue
Today, Tyronn Lue is known as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the man responsible for helping get LeBron back and then to four straight NBA Finals with 2016 a victory. That’s made it easier to forget his playing career which started with the Lakers. He was actually drafted by the Nuggets but then traded to L.A. before playing a game.
There, Lue was part of the early 2000s Laker dominance, winning back to back NBA titles.
After that, Lue moved onto the Wizards, the Magic, Rockets, Hawks, Mavericks, Bucks and the Magic again. Lue has made a strong transition to being a successful head coach.
13 Bob McAdoo
Some believe that if not for constant injuries, Bob McAdoo would have been one of the game’s greats. He was excellent in the old ABA for the Braves and then led the NBA as scoring champion for three seasons running. He’s the last man to average 30 points and 15 rebounds a game in a season and still one of the best “sixth men” to take the court. In the '80s, he joined with the Lakers to be part of their championship squads of 1982 and 1985.
Sadly, McAdoo wasn’t that popular with the public or teammates. He finished his NBA career with the 76ers before going to Italy for a title there. He also earned three titles as assistant coach for the Heat to show a better “twilight career” than others.
12 Caron Butler
In his 14-year career, Caron Butler sure made his way around. He started in 2002 with the Heat, who were trying to rebuild themselves and showed his stuff as a nice shooter while handling injuries. In 2004, he was part of the trade to the Lakers for Shaq and thus, is a footnote in the big Shaq to Miami trade. Butler did better than expected, averaging 15 points and a field goal percentage of .445. But bad injuries and rough work all around caused the Lakers to trade him off to the Wizards.
His Lakers run is a notable part for one of the most forgettable “champions” in NBA history.
11 Antawn Jamison
Drafted by the Raptors, Jamison was immediately traded to the Warriors for Vince Carter. He was a sensational player, averaging 29 points a game. He was soon with the Wizards, leading them to the playoffs and saying he wanted to end his career with them. Instead, he was traded to the Cavs as part of a multi-team deal and that didn’t sit right by him. It got worse when LeBron left for Miami and Jamison was openly considering retirement.
He signed with the Lakers in 2012 and seemed back to his old form, scoring 33 points in his debut.
Some miscommunications with his coaches led to him being benched and his tenure with the team lasted just one year. It just seemed Jamison was one of those guys in the wrong place at the wrong time and that included his stint in L.A.
10 Spencer Haywood
A great player who led the NCAA in rebounding, Spencer Haywood was also an Olympic gold medalist. He led the ABA in scoring 30 points and 19 rebounds a game and thus majorly sought when the merger with the NBA went down. Haywood remained a top player for the Supersonics before moving onto a variety of teams. He joined the Lakers in 1979 as Magic Johnson was beefing them up and thus becoming a part of their first NBA title reign. However, Haywood’s drug issues were a major problem as he fell asleep during practice for the Finals and was cut on the spot. He still has a ring and a Hall of Fame spot but Haywood’s personal issues marred what could have been a fine Lakers career.
9 Vlade Divac
In 1989, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finally retired after a long career. To help plug the hole, the Lakers drafted Vlade Divac. At first, it was rough but Divac did end up being a good player. Sadly, he was coming in on the tail end of “Showtime” as the Lakers were sinking, losing Finals to the Pistons and the Bulls and then Magic’s retirement pretty much sunk them for a while.
Divac became more infamous for his outlandish “flopping” than good play and was traded to the Hornets in 1996 in the deal for Kobe Bryant.
He bounced around the league and returned to the Lakers in 2003. However, back problems soon pushed his retirement and thus Divac had the bad luck to be in the low points of the Lakers’ history.
8 Horace Grant
A key part of the first half of the Bulls dynasty, Horace Grant was known for his tough play and one of the better defensive guys in the league. Thanks to his support, the Bulls won three straight NBA titles to dominate the league. After the third title in 1993, Grant left for the Magic, helping them to the 1995 Finals.
He joined the Lakers in 2000, past his prime but still doing well. He was part of the team that won the title but eventually things didn't end well in L.A.
He returned to the Magic but was cut with Doc Rivers openly calling him a detriment to the team. Grant went back to L.A. as a backup to Karl Malone before finally hanging it up in 2004. Thus, while he got another ring, Grant’s Lakers tenure pales next to his work in Chicago.
7 Smush Parker
No one can deny Kobe Bryant's greatness. However, he also had a big ego and that rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way. Among his biggest critics is Smush Parker. After bouncing around the league, including the Pistons, Parker signed with the Lakers in 2005 and it looked like he’d be a great addition. But from day one, he and Bryant clashed with Kobe putting him down and even slamming Parker’s signing as the team being “too cheap to pay for a real point guard.”
Parker replied by refusing to pass to Kobe in games, thus hurting the team. He was finally cut in 2007 and has little good to say about Kobe to show how he rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way in his career.
6 Dennis Rodman
This is amazing to see how easily it’s forgotten. Fans will never forget what a force this man was in his prime, leading the NBA in rebounds and winning five titles between the Pistons and the Bulls. But in 1998, just before the lockout-shortened season, Rodman was among those let go by the Bulls in a huge house cleaning that destroyed that dynasty.
Rodman signed with the Lakers who must have thought they’d be getting the amazing player of the past.
The fact that Rodman’s sister was his agent should have been a tip-off this wasn’t going to work. His play grew complacent and he clearly was enjoying the L.A. city life way too much. At the end of the season, he was cut after just 26 games.
5 Steve Nash
One of the best examples of the infamous “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx” would be in 2012. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard adorned the NBA preview with the line “now this is going to be fun.” In a way it was…much like watching a huge train wreck.
Considered the best player of his time to never win a title, Nash had been terrific with the Mavericks and then the Suns.
Naturally, the Lakers assumed he would be the perfect guy to help them win a title again. Instead, Nash was sidelined by several injuries. Worse, he and Howard did not get along at all. Nash eventually retired after too many injuries, ending a great career on a sour note.
4 Mitch Richmond
The 1990s Sacramento Kings were not exactly a great team. But Mitch Richmond did his best to fix that. The 1988-89 Rookie of the Year with the Warriors, Richmond joined the Kings in 1991 and spent the next seven seasons doing quite well. He was a six-time All Star and MVP of the 1995 All-Star Game as well as winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. But by 2001, Richmond was showing his age and his once amazing shooting was fading away. He signed a deal with the Lakers but used sparingly, only averaging four points a game.
In the 2002 Finals, Richmond dribbled out the clock to give the Lakers the championship. He decided it was best to go out on top and retire afterward.
3 Adam Morrison
It seems so bizarre to call a guy with two championship rings a bust. But considering his work in college, Adam Morrison has to rank as a huge disappointment. At Gonzaga, Morrison was the NCAA’s leading scorer, a fantastic player who was an All-American and won the Oscar Robertson trophy. He started with the Bobcats and was traded to the Lakers in 2008.
There, Morrison was part of the team that won two NBA titles but his contributions were very limited.
He spent more time on the bench than in warm-ups. Morrison is high on the lists of the biggest college stars turned pro flops in NBA history and proof that having two rings does not automatically make you a star.
2 Maurice Lucas
Known as “The Enforcer,” Lucas was part of the 1977 championship Trial Blazers team. In 1985, the Lakers signed him on, expecting him to be a top star and help boost them up. Instead, they got a player who acted like he was the guy on the team with multiple rings and threw fits over not being treated as a star. He acted up so much that Johnson walked right off the court to tell Pat Riley “I can’t play with this *expletive* anymore.”
Lucas was soon traded off and marks one of the biggest mistakes of Jerry West’s tenure and how not everyone in the Showtime era was worthy of it.
1 Karl Malone
“The Mailman” is generally considered one of the greatest players to never have an NBA championship. A two-time MVP, Malone’s 36,928 career points is second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he’s one of the few players to reach the playoffs in every season of his career. He had a long career in Utah, leading the Jazz to two Finals and just had the bad luck of playing in the middle of the Bulls dynasty.
In 2003, with his career winding down, Malone joined the Lakers in hopes of getting that elusive title. However, he missed much of the season with an injury and the Lakers lost the Finals to the Pistons. Thus, Malone never got that title as he retired afterward.