In the early 1990s, the Los Angeles Lakers were a struggling franchise. The great players of the “Showtime” era were retiring or moved to different teams and a transition era was upon the team. In 1995-96, the team finally started to turn around, posting 53 wins. But, it wasn’t until the 1996-1997 season that the Lakers started yet another run on top.
There were two moves that the front office made that impacted this team so greatly, and I’m sure you can guess what they are. The first move was trading Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant. The second move was signing gigantic free-agent Shaquille O’Neal. These two transactions created a 1-2 punch that could only be replicated by a select few teams.
The results were instantaneous, if not without a little bit of a bumpy start. The Lakers finished the 1996-1997 season with 56 wins and made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. However, Bryant was a rookie and while being capable off the bench, he didn’t make much of an impact until the shortened 1998-1999 season. As that season progressed, it started to show that these two players were going to set the league on fire. The next season was the first of three straight championships and some dominant campaigns.
This article will be looking at the complementary pieces that helped Kobe and Shaq win those titles and have a couple good seasons afterward. So, players from the 1996-1997 season through the 2003-2004 season will be eligible. Some of them kept playing basketball, while some retired early and have moved on to other ventures. We can’t get to everybody, but we’re going to look at where 15 players from the Kobe/Shaq dynasty are now.
15. Tyronn Lue
Tyronn Lue wasn’t used much in his tenure with the Lakers, but he still managed to win two NBA championships in his time there. In three seasons, he only played in 61 games due to a combination of injuries and better players ahead of him on the depth chart. Regardless, Lue still had skills that other players couldn’t match, like his quickness. This quickness helped him excel in the 2000-2001 playoffs when he would guard Allen Iverson in spurts. His strong defense helped the Lakers defeat Iverson and his 76ers for Lue’s second NBA title. He signed with the Washington Wizards after the 2000-2001 season and immediately got more playing time. This trend of more playing time continued throughout his career until his retirement in 2009. Since then, Lue has famously became the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning an NBA title this past season. I doubt Lue’s going anywhere for awhile.
14. Slava Medvedenko
A two-time champion, Medvedenko wasn’t much in the way of a defensive presence, but he logged some decent minutes off the bench with the Lakers. His best season was after he won two titles, in 2003-2004. Medvedenko averaged just over eight points and five rebounds while starting 38 games. After that season, the Lakers saw enough of him and Medvedenko transitioned back to a bench role. For most of his career, Medvedenko was a decent shooter, but his work ethic and defensive skills left a lot to be desired. This was likely the main reason that he was only in the league for 263 games in seven seasons. Since his retirement due to injuries, his love of the game hasn’t ceased. He’s been an assistant coach with the Ukranian U16/17 team and was mentioned as a possibility to coach the New York Knicks in 2014. Though it’s unlikely that Medvedenko will ever become an NBA coach, stranger things have happened.
13. Samaki Walker
He wasn’t the strongest or most valuable Laker, but Samaki Walker played a decent role and won an NBA championship for his efforts. He played for the Lakers during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons and transitioned from a starting role in 2002 to a bench role in 2003. When he was a starter, Walker averaged 6.7 points and seven rebounds per game. Obviously, Walker wasn’t known for his offensive skills, but he was a strong rebounder and still managed to be a solid defensive presence. In 2003, Walker moved into a supporting role, but still was a big help and did well in spelling O’Neal when he was tired. After his stint with the Lakers, Walker bounced around the NBA before playing all around the world. He finished his basketball career in Syria, playing with Al-Jalaa Aleppo in 2011. Recently, Walker mentioned in an interview that Kobe Bryant punched him in the face over $100. He also currently runs a coaching business and moonlights as a basketball analyst on NBC radio.
12. Mark Madsen
Though he wasn’t a large factor, Mark Madsen still obtained two NBA championships in his Laker career. Throughout his career, Madsen mostly came off the bench and his time with the Lakers was no exception. He was mostly used to give some of the more talented Laker bigs a respite from playing. When he was playing, it’s not like the team all of a sudden tanked and gave up their lead. Madsen was a solid shooter and his big body would help on defense when O’Neal was getting a rest. After his tenure with the Lakers, Madsen went to Minnesota where he finished his career in 2009. Since retirement, Madsen hasn’t been able to keep away from basketball. He was an assistant coach at Stanford University for the 2012-2013 season, and was hired as an assistant coach for the Lakers in July of 2013, where he was retained this past July.
11. Devean George
Devean George was a solid, if unspectacular player throughout his Lakers tenure. He showed a lot of promise coming off the bench and constantly hustled and played strong defense. Players like that can have long and prosperous careers, even if they’re not great offensively, and George was another example. Along with coaches being happy, that style of play endeared him to Lakers fans nationwide. He slowly gained more and more trust from the coaches, and played in a ton of games during this dynasty. He won three titles from 2000-2002, even though he didn’t play too much in the playoffs except for 2002. After his Lakers career ended, George spent some time in Dallas and Golden State before retiring in 2010. Afterwards, George announced a proposal for an affordable apartment project in Minneapolis. He and some college teammates captured the Gus Macker 3-on-3 “Next Step Down” bracket title in late 2014. Currently, George continues to develop affordable housing in the Minneapolis area.
10. Brian Shaw
Brian Shaw was used primarily as a backup to Kobe Bryant during his time with the Lakers after being acquired before the 1999-2000 season. Shaw spent the remainder of his career with Los Angeles, retiring after the 2002-2003 season. While he was there, Shaw won three NBA championships. In the 1999-2000 season, Shaw started in game three of the NBA finals in place of an injured Bryant and contributed off the bench in every other game. Known as a consistent player, Shaw gave the Lakers strong minutes each season that the team went to the playoffs. After he retired, he remained in the Lakers organization as a scout for the 2003-2004 season. After that, he was appointed as an assistant coach for the Lakers, and later with the Indiana Pacers. Then, Shaw was announced as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets before the 2013-2014 season. His time at Denver did not go well and Shaw was fired in March 2015. Luckily, Shaw will be back with the Lakers this season as an assistant coach.
9. Elden Campbell
Elden Campbell was one of the players that made up the Lakers in the early 90s. He had to deal with some poor teams before this resurgence, but Campbell was an important part of those squads. He was a strong rebounder and shot-blocker as well as a surprisingly decent offensive threat. He was a great complement to Shaq, and the two of them made a lot of other forwards and centers miserable with their physical play. Campbell showed a versatility that any team would have been happy to have and he was rewarded with some playoff appearances when he was a Laker. After being traded to the Charlotte Hornets for Glen Rice, Campbell put forth some strong seasons before bouncing around the league to finish his career, winning an NBA Championship in 2004 as a Detroit Piston. Since retirement, Campbell has enjoyed a low-key life. In 2014, he sold his Marina del Rey condominium. That’s literally the only news we could find about him, Otherwise, Campbell is just relaxing and enjoying the millions he made.
8. Glen Rice
It’s a shame that Glen Rice only won one NBA championship. He was an excellent player throughout the 90s and a consistent scoring threat. When he was brought to the Lakers before the 1998-1999 season, a lot of fans were sad that Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell were leaving. So, Rice unfortunately received blame for something that he had no control over. While he was a Laker, Rice was a solid third scoring option behind O’Neal and Bryant. Rice was a strong shooter and shot approximately 38% from behind the arc as a Laker. His impressive play continued into the 1999-2000 season when he ended up winning the title with a solid 12 points per game average. Sadly, Rice was traded after the season to the New York Knicks and continued to bounce around the league before retiring. He currently runs a youth basketball camp in Miami.
7. Karl Malone
One of the All-time greats suited up for a season with the Lakers at the very end of their dynasty. Malone was looking for one last chance to win an NBA title and he thought that Los Angeles was the place to go. I don’t blame him at all. The team had Shaq and Kobe, and with the addition of Gary Payton, they looked poised to return to the top of the mountain. Sadly, this team didn’t quite reach the summit. Malone suffered a knee injury midway through the 2003-2004 season and missed 39 games. He was still useful in the games he played, averaging 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He matched those numbers in the playoffs, averaging 11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, but the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the finals and Malone retired after the season. Malone worked as a part-time big man coach with the Utah Jazz in the 2013-2014 season and is currently a spokesperson for the Karl Malone Delivers For You campaign which promotes delivery of high blood pressure medication.
6. Gary Payton
Along with Karl Malone, Gary Payton was a huge free agent signing for the Lakers in 2003. Payton, Malone, Bryant, and O’Neal were supposed to run roughshod over the NBA and easily take home a championship. Though the team finished with a 56-26 record, they weren’t able to grab the title, losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games. Payton had decent stats, but struggled with the triangle offense and seemed to have lost a step on defense. Chauncey Billups dominated Payton in the finals, averaging 21 points on over 50% shooting. After that season, Payton was traded to Boston and later signed with the Miami Heat, eventually winning his first and only NBA championship. Since his 2007 retirement, Payton set up The Gary Payton Foundation, which provides safe places for youth recreation. Payton has also been quite vocal about returning an NBA franchise to Seattle and wants to be part of the front office. He’s also been an analyst for Fox Sports 1.
5. Nick Van Exel
Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones were the rebuilding pieces that the Lakers had before acquiring Bryant and O’Neal. Both of them were young, exciting, and hungry to win championships. Although Van Exel never did win one, he helped mentor Derek Fisher and groom him to be a starting point guard. Van Exel played for the Lakers from 1993 through the 1997-1998 season and was always a scoring option. He was a solid three-point and free throw shooter, and always put up a bunch of assists as well. His dynamic play endeared himself to many Lakers fans. After the 1998 season, Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets and never stood a chance at getting into the playoffs. Luckily for him, he bounced around a few more teams before retirement, making the playoffs with Dallas and San Antonio. Since retirement, Van Exel has been working his way up the coaching ladder and will begin this season as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.
4. Rick Fox
Rick Fox was one of the Lakers mainstays during this dynasty. He came to the Lakers before the 1997-1998 season and immediately provided strong play at the small forward position. After the Lakers acquired Glen Rice, Fox was demoted to a bench role, but still logged good minutes and strong three-point shooting percentages. He was promoted back to a starter in the 2000-2001 season and remained a starter until his retirement after the 2003-2004 season. Throughout his basketball career, Fox had acting roles in Eddie, He Got Game, and the television show Oz. After his retirement, the acting bug bit Fox even harder and he was able to land roles in One Tree Hill, Melrose Place, and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. Recently, Fox has stayed active with roles in Sin City Saints, Shameless, iZombie, and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, along with appearing on Dancing With The Stars. He has also purchased a professional League of Legends team, which branched into other gaming teams. Talk about staying busy!
3. Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones was one of the few players on this list that was with the Lakers before thie dynasty started. In fact, he was actually drafted by them in 1994 and had a couple seasons under his belt before Shaq and Kobe came to town. Once the 1996-1997 season began, Jones blossomed into a scoring threat and a great second option after O’Neal. He was an All-Star in 1997 and 1998 before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets in the middle of the 1998-1999 season. Sadly, Jones never got to win an NBA championship, but he was an excellent role model for Kobe Bryant when he began his career. The two played together during scrimmages when Jones was in college and Bryant was in high school, and the two developed a relationship before the pro ranks. Since retirement, Jones has kept a pretty low profile. He appeared on an episode of Pros vs. Joes in 2009, but has otherwise stayed out of the spotlight. Jones has a wife and three children, and spends his time with them.
2. Derek Fisher
Did you know that Derek Fisher has played in the most playoff games in NBA/ABA history? Well it’s true. He’s played in 259 games, just ahead of Spurs legend Tim Duncan at 251. Wouldn’t you assume that the leader of this category would have been an All-Star at one point in his career? Even though he was never an All-Star, he’s a five-time NBA champion, and managed to win three titles with the Lakers within the parameters of this article. After the 2003-2004 season, Fisher went to Golden State and then Utah before coming back to the Lakers between 2007-2012, where he won his other two titles. Although he might never have been an All-Star or a go-to player, Fisher did his job well as the point guard and had a bunch of clutch shots and moments throughout his Lakers career. Since he retired, he was hired as the coach of the New York Knicks in 2014 and was fired midway through last season. There have also been rumors that he’s considering coming back to play in the NBA, but that seems like a little bit of a stretch.
If an NBA team expresses interest, I'm open to dialogue, but at the moment I have no steadfast plan to play again. (2/2)
— DerekFisher (@derekfisher) August 3, 2016
1. Robert Horry
Similar to Derek Fisher, Robert Horry is yet another Laker near the top of the All-time playoff game appearance leaders. Horry is ranked third with 244 games. I’m not surprised because he made the playoffs in every season of his career. Whoa. For a guy who played in 16 seasons, that’s an incredible accomplishment. Similar to Derek Fisher, he also never made an All-Star game. However, Horry eventually took the nickname “Big Shot Rob” for his clutch shooting. It’s amazing just how often he was able to win games for his teams while still averaging under 10 points per contest. Horry played for the Lakers between 1996-1997 and 2001-2002 and won three titles there. Since retirement, he has been running the Robert Horry Center for Sports and Physical Rehabilitation. He has a son playing college football at Texas A&M, and Horry sporadically makes appearances on ESPN television. Recently he embarrassed Tracy McGrady with his seven championship rings.
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