For everything that the Lakers have done right in their history, whether it be in Minneapolis or LA, the team has had its fair share of fails and mistakes that still amaze most basketball fans, casual or diehard. As one of the most storied franchises in all sports, the Lakers have been synonymous with success, capturing sixteen championships in thirty-one trips to the NBA Finals. Twenty-one players who have worn the Lakers colors have been honored in the Hall Of Fame and the NBA Mount Rushmore could easily be filled with Laker greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant.
Up until this summer, the Lakers and the word greatness seemed to be as distant from each other as the earth is from the sun. For the last five years, the Lakers have been absent from the postseason, the longest stretch in team history, and using the term "absent" doesn't do justice to how bad the team has actually been. We aren't talking absent as in, missing out by a game or two, we are talking at best a 35-47 season and at worst, a 17-65 record. Those five years weren't the only difficult times that the Lakers and their fans had to deal with as we visit in our list below. Now with a new management team and the addition of one of the greatest player of this generation, the Lakers are hopefully headed in the right direction.
30 Hiring Rudy Tomjanovich
After Phil Jackson’s first go-around with the Lakers, the team hoped to maintain its status among the elite of the Western Conference by hiring the man who guided the Houston Rockets to a pair of championships. The problem was, those championships came ten years prior and Rudy T was working with a lineup that featured Hall Of Fame talents like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Yes, the Lakers had Kobe Bryant, but we are talking about a Kobe who decided that passing was the second, third and occasionally the fourth option. Tomjanovich would step down from his position with the Lakers with a 24-19 record as a result of health issues.
29 Signing Vlade Divac in 2004
At one point he was a young Serbian big man who suited up next to Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Byron Scott. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's replacement at center, he would quickly become a fan favorite. Seven years later, Divac would be traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant. After two years in North Carolina, Divac would become a member of the Lakers main rivalry by signing with the Sacramento Kings in the summer of 1999. Finally, as part of the Lakers hope to remain relevant following the turmoil of the 2003-04 season, the team would sign the aging and declining Divac.
Unfortunately, Vlade, who signed a deal worth over $10 million for two years, would manage to play only 15 games before calling it a career. First they loved him, then they broke up with him, then they had a bitter hatred towards him, then they loved him again? Sounds like a typical cheesy Hollywood rom-com.
28 The Lakers' 2003-04 Superteam
In the summer of 2003, the Lakers invented possibly one of the greatest super-teams ever. Who would have thought that a team with four Hall Of Fame players would fall to a blue-collar team from Detroit while chasing what would have been a fourth banner in five years? It also would have been the first ring for Karl Malone and Gary Payton, two players who had climbed the mountain but had failed to plant their flag. Signing both players for a combined $6.5 million, the Lakers looked like they had locked up a ring before the season even started.
Then the actual season began and it went downhill from the jump. Kobe’s off-court issues, Malone’s knee injury, GP’s struggles to adapt to the triangle, the Shaq and Kobe drama, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher asked to become bench role players after being starting role players – they all hurt the Lakers along the way. A 4-1 Finals series, a Shaq/GP/Fox trade and a Karl Malone and Phil Jackson retirement soon followed. How could something so perfect end up being so wrong?
27 Trading for Adam Morrison
One of the most unlikely two-time NBA Champions in recent Laker history, the former NCAA poster child became a professional bust. When the Charlotte Hornets drafted Morrison with the third overall pick in 2006, he showed a respectable stat line, not to the level of expectation that many had, but respectable nevertheless. Three years later, the Lakers welcomed Morrison and Shannon Brown to the team in return for Vladimir Radmanovic. Out of the three players involved, Brown proved to be the most valuable to either team as Morrison would see action in only 39 regular season games over the course of two years. The former Gonzaga star would also suit up for two playoff games in 2009-10, totaling thirteen minutes of court time. Although he would be left off the playoff roster the following season, Morrison would still be honored with his second championship ring. Not a bad gig for $9.3 million if you can get it.
26 Sam Bowie and Benoit Benjamin
Sam Bowie and Benoit Benjamin are two players that entered the NBA with the hype that equaled their height but failed to live up to a fraction of the expectations of a second and third overall pick. Drafted in 1984 and 1985 respectively, both Bowie and Benjamin fall into the category of biggest draft busts. The fact that both players suited up for the Lakers and at one point were traded for each other is rather humorous. As the second highest paid player for both seasons where he was with the team, Bowie averaged 5.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG while playing in just 92 games. Benjamin, on the other hand, played less than half a season after coming over from Seattle with Doug Christie for Sam Perkins. The question at hand is, which team came up with the offer to trade these two busts for each other and who actually benefited the most from it?
25 Signing Dennis Rodman
Yes, he may have been coming off of helping the Chicago Bulls to their second championship three-peat, but at 37-years-old and with a number of factors in play, the Lakers signing Dennis Rodman was a huge mistake. A) You were bringing The Worm to Hollywood. B) The Zen Master, Phil Jackson, had yet to become coach. C) Michael Jordan wasn’t there to keep Rodman in line. Sure, it was only a million dollars and yes, the team won nine straight when Dennis was first hit the floor, but in 23 games, Rodman posted the worst numbers of his 14-year career. While Rodman might have been the greatest rebounding forward in the history of the game, he was also one of the biggest distractions on a team that featured Shaq and Kobe.
24 Everything Nick Young
He grew up in California. He went to the University of Southern California. He suited up for the Clippers before he became a Laker in the summer of 2013. While he would have the best four seasons of his career while wearing the purple and gold, not everything went smoothly for Nick Young during his second stint in L.A. Yes, he did provide the Lakers with some timely scoring, but "Swaggy P" was known more for his antics than for his production.
Whether he was getting into mischief off the court with D’Angelo Russell or focusing more on social media and red carpet appearances than his work on the court, Young took on a persona of more than just a basketball player. The question wasn’t so much about Young’s ability to fill the basket, but rather his maturity. Who can forget the time he launched a three-pointer and turned in celebration only to find out that it failed to fall through the mesh or celebrating like they won the NBA Championship when in fact they had only broken a seven-game losing streak?
23 Mike Brown's contract
In 2011, the Lakers needed a bench boss that was used to coaching megastars like Kobe Bryant. Look no further than the man who coached LeBron James. Signing a four-year, $18.25 million deal, Brown had a relatively successful first season in L.A. but would wind up being let go just five games into his second year. While it isn’t entirely unheard of a team moving on from a coach who felt like the wrong fit, the fact that they parted ways after just five regular season games was a concern. Although he was handed his pink slip, Brown still walked away earning $4.5 million for the remainder of the 2012-13 season and approximately another $4 million that was owed to him for the remaining two years on his contract. Yes, that is right, the Lakers paid Brown approximately $8.5 million not to coach.
22 Trading Adrian Dantley for Spencer Haywood
In 1977, the Lakers scored in their trade with the Indiana Pacers, acquiring Dantley for 7-footer James Edwards, journeyman forward Earl Tatum, and a bag of cash. Adding a player with Dantley’s talents to a lineup that featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon, and Jamaal Wilkes seemed to be a no-brainer. While the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward saw a dip in his stats, it would have been expected, joining a roster with the aforementioned players. Although the Lakers would wind up winning the NBA Championship in 79-80, Dantley would miss out as he was traded for a 30-year-old Haywood, a player who averaged less than half of his usual production. Dantley would go on to six All-Star years in seven seasons with the Utah Jazz. Haywood, on the other hand, would be waived by the Lakers a year later amid a series of personal issues.
21 A Not so Magical Coach
March 23, 1994. This date put a bit of tarnish on the Hall Of Fame career of one of the Lakers' greatest players of all-time. Earvin "Magic" Johnson was a former five-time NBA Champion, three-time MVP, ten-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Star and a 5-11 record as a head coach. Now fair play to Magic, the 93-94 Lakers were a 28-38 team at the time he took over the whiteboard and one that would fall short of making the playoffs for the first time in 17 straight years. However, much like his failed attempt at being a talk show host, Johnson, despite all of his greatest on the court leading the team, could not bring the same Magic to the sidelines.
20 Claiming Carlos Boozer Off Amnesty Waivers
Some say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Obviously, this was not the case when the Lakers decided to add former Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer to their roster for the 2014-15 season. Although they were only on the tab for $3.25 million, it wasn’t exactly money well spent. With only Kobe Bryant, Ronnie Price and Nick Young as the only other players on the roster with more than five years experience, adding a 12-year vet would take away minutes of growth. Of the 71 games Boozer played, he started only 26 and instead of the 16.2 PPG and 9.8 RPG that the Lakers had hoped they were getting, they received 11.8 PPG and 6.8 rpg. Eventually, coach Byron Scott saw fit to bring Boozer off the bench, but the result was an unmotivated and uninspired final season for the two-time All-Star.
19 Smush Parker
How bad were things in LA after the Lake Show dismantled? Bad enough that the team ran with Parker running the point guard spot for 164 straight games. If you thought the relationship between Kobe and Shaq was toxic, at least both players could justifiably back up their position as a leader of the team. As for Smush, as bad a player as Bryant made him out to be, the journeyman point guard wasn’t as awful as the Black Mamba portrayed him, at least statistically. While Parker proved to be serviceable, averaging 11.5 PPG, it was his lack of chemistry with the coaching staff and his teammates that led to being let go after two seasons. Throw in an over-inflated ego on a team that already had more than enough, there was no way that Kobe was going to stand for anything from Parker.
18 Trading Away Nick Van Exel
In between Showtime and the Lake Show, there was Nick "The Quick" Van Exel. Drafted by the Lakers with the 37th pick in 1993, Nick The Quick spent five seasons in LA before being traded to the Denver Nuggets in a move that baffled many. As a fan favorite that earned his only All-Star nod during his final season in LA, Van Exel saw his role and production with the team drop with the addition of Shaq and Kobe. While the team needed to keep their two cornerstones happy, swapping the 26 year old point guard for Tony Battie, a forward who actually never suited up for the Lakers, he was quickly moved to Boston to bring back Travis Knight…as said, baffling! The Lakers also added three seasons of backup point guard Tyronn Lue, who averaged less than half of what NVE produced.
17 Trading twos for threes: Eddie Jones for Glen Rice
Long before the three-pointer became more common than a regular layup, teams still needed to expand their offense with three-point shooters, but they were seen as “specialists”. In the spring of 1999, LA traded away 27-year-old fan favorite Eddie Jones for a 31-year-old veteran, Glen Rice. Instead of figuring out how to turn Kobe and Jones into their version of MJ and Pippen, the Lakers felt that their best chance of winning a title was to add outside shooting, hence the trade for Rice. Both players were coming off All-Star seasons, which made this a rare trade, but while Jones would go on to have at least six more productive years before retiring in 2008, Rice would leave L.A. after winning a title in 2000 and finish his career four years later.
16 Wasted 1st Round Picks
What do Danny Green, Jared Dudley, Aaron Afflalo, Aaron Brooks, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, Rashard Lewis, and Latrell Sprewell have in common? Whether they are just glue players who still play a valuable role in the league or All-Stars, the previously mentioned names could have worn the Lakers colors on draft day. Instead, the team decided to go with such names as Toney Douglas, Javaris Crittenton, Sasha Vujacic, and Sam Jacobson, to name but a few. To be fair, aside from 2005, most of their draft picks between 1982, when the drafted James Worthy first overall, and 2014, when they selected Julius Randle seventh overall have been late first-round picks. Finding a quality player that late in the draft is an art, but the fact that other teams had success doing it (see: the San Antonio Spurs) means that the Lakers equally had a chance to bring in a much more valuable player.
15 Mike D’Antoni's Offense
The Seven Seconds or Less offense was a beauty to behold when the Phoenix Suns ran it during the early 2000s. The fact that Mike D’Antoni thought he could run it years later with a much older Lakers roster was a tragic sight. Instead of bringing back Phil Jackson, who was ready, willing and able to return to coaching and had a style more suited to the Lakers roster of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash, L.A.’s front office went with someone who just posted two losing seasons out of the three with the New York Knicks. While D’Antoni did guide the Lakers to a playoff berth in 2012-13, he followed that up with a 27-55 record the next season. Take note that this was a coach that moved Nash off of being the primary ball handler, asked Howard to play the pick-and-roll, and benched Gasol.
14 Dwight Howard Becomes Bizarro Superman
The Lakers had their sights set on bringing in a replacement for Superman (Shaq), but what they ended up with was the Bizarro version. On paper, it wasn’t really that bad, as Dwight Howard managed 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG and suited up for 76 games, third most on the team. He also averaged 36 minutes a night with a bad back and a wonky shoulder. When talks of the multi-team trade that brought D12 to Hollywood were brewing, visions of Kobe and Howard bringing multiple championships to L.A. were filling Lakers fans' heads. Unfortunately, Dwight and Kobe had a worse relationship than Bryant and O’Neal. Lucky for the Lakers, the pieces that they moved in the trade were of little value, except for Andrew Bynum, who didn’t play a game for the 76ers and would be out of the league little more than a year later.
13 Lakers Give Up Draft Picks For Steve Nash
Sadly, the final two years of one of the greatest point guards in history will be remembered for how much he didn’t play than for what he did during his time in L.A. In the summer of 2012, the Lakers were on the verge of having their second Superteam. With Kobe, Pau, Dwight and the addition of Steve Nash, they basically had all the positions covered and could have filled the fifth spot with one of our readers. Yes, the two-time MVP was coming off a season in which he played only 62 games (the fewest of his career, minus the strike-shortened 98-99 season), but he was still a wizard with the rock and teaming with three other All-NBAers would make life even easier.
While the Lakers attempt to swing for the fences ended up being a strikeout on the court, it also hurt them in the future as they gave up two first-round picks and two second-round picks. Luckily for the Lakers, the two first-rounders ended up being Nemanja Nedovic (30th in 2013) and Mikal Bridges (10th in 2018), two players with little impact so far. (Bridges, however, is showing lots of potential as an up-and-coming 3-and-D guy.) Alex Oriakhi (57th in 2013) never pulled on an NBA jersey and Johnny O’Bryant (36th in 2014) has been on three teams in four years.
12 Lamar Odom Wants Out
Lamar Odom may have been battling demons before 2011, but his bond with the Lakers management, teammates, and support system he had in L.A. kept those demons in check. Then came the trade that didn’t happen, as Odom was part of the vetoed offer to bring Chris Paul into the purple and gold. Feeling disrespected and unappreciated for all that he had done, helping the team to back to back titles and earning the Sixth Man Of The Year award a few months prior, Odom asked to be traded. For the Dallas Mavericks, the ability to add a player of Odom’s talents to a lineup of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Jason Kidd seemed like a perfect fit. While the Mavs didn’t get the Odom they were hoping to get, the Lakers equally lost out, as while the multitalented forward would have cost the team nearly $18 million in salary and taxes, the chemistry of the team was immediately impacted without getting a player of equal value in return.
11 Kobe’s Final Contract
Over 20 years, the Lakers handed over 323,312,307 pieces of green paper with George Washington’s face on it to arguably one of the greatest players LA has ever had under contract. For the most part, all of that was well worth it. All, that is, but the final $48.5 million. Leaving the court after only six games in the 2013-14 season, the Buss family offered to pay Bryant what could have only been a “thank you” gift-sized contract for eighteen years of bringing the franchise five championships and countless sellout crowds. Unfortunately, that contract also kept the team from bringing in any sort of decent free agents to help the team from recording the two worst seasons in LA Laker history. Despite leaving the game with one of the most memorable curtain calls in league history, dropping 60 points in his final game, some Laker fans would like to forget his final two years in the league.
10 Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins for Kwame Brown
For the first time since 1994, the Lakers would miss the playoffs in 2004-05, so the team would end up scrambling for answers as to how to get back to the post-season. Trading Butler and Atkins for Brown was certainly not the answer. Still in search of a big man to replace the departed Shaquille O’Neal, adding the former number one draft pick who had failed to match any of the expectations put on him in Washington would not solve the issue at hand. Brown would go from being Michael Jordan's project to Phil Jackson’s whipping boy, as he had two inefficient years in LA before being traded to Memphis. Butler, on the other hand, would go from being the Lakers second-leading scorer to having the three best seasons of his career with the Wizards, two of which where he would be named to the All-Star team.
9 Summer of 2015 Free Agency
Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell were all tagged as young, talented pieces of the Lakers future. With money to spend, LA.. went into the summer shopping spree with a list of targets to help the team move forward. Names like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, and Tobias Harris were all players the Lakers had on their radar. For various reasons, all decided that they would either stay in their current uniform or signed a contract with a different team. Instead of signing a marquee player, the Lakers ended up with Lou Williams (not a signing, just not a star), Brandon Bass, and a returning Metta World Peace.
8 2016 Free Agent Flop 1A: Timofey Mozgov
Four years, $64 million. Would you be willing to pay that for a former NBA champion? Some would be willing to throw $16 million at a player who had a couple of All-Star seasons and maybe averaged a double-double and was, at worst, the third option on a star-studded starting five. The Lakers mistook the serviceable former Cavalier big man Timofey Mozgov for someone who held those credentials. Luckily, Magic Johnson managed to get out from that contract by trading Moz to the Nets as part of the D’Angelo Russell trade, but for the 54 games that he suited up, Mozgov averaged only 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds on a team that won 26 games.
7 2016 Free Agent Flop 1B: Luol Deng
If you thought Mozgov’s deal was horrible, believe it or not, the Lakers managed to spend even more money on a guy who proved to be an even bigger waste of time and money. And long after you read this, he will still be paid $29 million by the Lakers. Playing in just 57 games over two seasons, Luol Deng earned over $600,000 each time he stepped on the court for a minimal amount of time. After 56 games in his first season, the organization came to the decision that it would be more beneficial to give the younger players valuable court time in order to build for the future. This was smart thinking, far smarter than when they signed Deng to such a ridiculous contract.
6 Pau Gasol’s departure
In Gasol’s first two and a half seasons with the Lakers, the team went to the NBA Finals three times and captured two championships. There were times that the Spanish big man was equally, if not more important to the Lakers' success than Kobe Bryant or Phil Jackson. At the very least, both the Black Mamba and the Zen Master wouldn’t have added to their championship trophy case without Gasol. Unfortunately, Jackson would walk away and neither of his successors could find a way to use Gasol properly, and when the losses mounted, fingers started to point toward number 16. Letting Gasol walk away and sign with the Chicago Bulls in the summer of 2014 was as big of a loss as it was a win when they traded for him in 2008.
5 Chris Paul Void Deal
In 2011, the Lakers had put together a deal that would have seen CP3 wear the purple and gold, not the white and red of the crosstown Clippers, the L.A. club he would eventually end up joining. The proposed deal between the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and the Lakers would have seen Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol join new teams as Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Goran Dragic would head elsewhere. Gasol would have ended up in Houston and the Lakers would unit CP3 with Kobe in the backcourt. Depending on the convoluted way that one could look at the deal, it seemed to work out for everyone, everyone that is except the NBA ownership. Rejected by then-commissioner David Stern, the trade that never was may have led to the tailspin of Odom’s career as he would eventually be dealt to Dallas after basically pleading to stay in L.A.
4 Trade Return For Shaq
The trade was inevitable, everyone and anyone who was a basketball fan knew that it was either going to be Shaq or Kobe who would wind up pulling on a different jersey. However, one would think that a player who was the main focus of hanging three straight banners and in dominating fashion, would bring in more than three productive guys who were role players nonetheless and a future first-round pick.
Brian Grant and Caron Butler never really amounted to much in L.A., while Lamar Odom became a valuable component to their championship team years later and Jordan Farmar, the draft pick, was the backup point guard for that same squad. However, we are still talking cogs in the engine, not the engine itself. Yes, looking back at the trade years later it worked out for both teams (Butler would be traded for Kwame Brown, who would be traded for Pau Gasol), but at the time, the haul that the Lakers brought in for The Diesel was a questionable one at best.
3 Giving Jim Buss Control
His dad Jerry was one of the greatest owners in NBA history, and his sister Jeanie has done her best to live up to the bar that was set when he passed. As for Jim Buss, well, it seemed at times like he was doing his best to run the team into the ground. Before he was relieved of his role as the Head of Basketball Operations among other positions that he held with the team, Jim left many scratching their heads as to decisions that he signed off on. Yes, he tried to hit a home run with Howard and Nash, but struck out swinging, mortgaging the future for a win-now deal.
The hiring and firing of Mike Brown after five games and then hiring Mike D’Antoni would add to the list of errors. Add to that the long list of All-Star level free agents that failed to sign with the Lakers for various reasons. The next four years would go down as the worst period in Lakers history, including a 17-65 season. With big brother gone, Jeanie Buss now seems to have the team back on the right track.
2 The Premature Celebration Of 1969
As great as the Lakers history is, there sadly is one team that remains a banner ahead. Fans know of the great Boston Celtics teams from the mid-’50s through the ’60s that rattled off 11 championships in 13 years. Sadly, seven of those championships came at the hands of the Lakers. That number nearly became eight in 1969 when the Lakers sadly fell short of winning an NBA championship with their Big Three of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and the newly acquired Wilt Chamberlain.
With every game of the final series decided by single digits up until Game 5, the Lakers' 13-point victory gave hope to the city of Los Angeles and then-Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke that they would break the Celtics dynasty. After Boston tied the series by winning Game 6, Cooke planned an elaborate celebration for Game 7 with a marching band, iced champagne, and rafters filled with balloons. Somehow, some way, the Celtics heard the word of the festivities, adding fuel to their fire. As we all know, the band never played, the balloons never dropped and the champagne bottles were popped in the visitors' locker room.
1 Not Keeping Kobe and Shaq Together
We talked about Kobe’s contract and we talked about the package that the Lakers received for Shaq, but the fact remains that the Buss family and GM Mitch Kupchak and anyone else in L.A. couldn’t find a way to keep the dynamic duo together. Not since Magic and Kareem has there been a Hall of Fame guard/center duo to dominate the league the way that Bryant and O’Neal did. What if Phil Jackson wasn’t having a rift of his own with the Lakers, would the Zen Master have been able to keep arguably the best one, two punch the league has ever seen together for another ring? Yes, both Shaq and Kobe basically gave management the ultimatum that one or the other had to be moved, with Kobe signing a $136 million contract immediately after Shaq. Eventually, both Shaq and Kobe combined to win three more rings, but the fact that they couldn’t do it together without getting under each other's skin is one of the biggest travesties and compelling stories in NBA history.