“Showtime,” throughout the 1980s, was the term coined to most aptly describe the flash that was the playing style of the Los Angeles Lakers. With a run and gun style offence that redefined the fast break, it was a Laker era that (along with a strong Boston Celtic team in the East), revitalized the National Basketball Association. It was undoubtedly a Laker dynasty whose sole focus rested on two mantras: winning and the team. Conversely, in the present age of huge contracts and a stat-driven NBA culture that seemingly focuses on the individual, the notion of winning for and as a team now appear as archaic philosophical concepts, yet that is, by and large, where the NBA finds itself.
Where would Kobe Bryant fit on a Laker team that had Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Scott, and A.C Green – and Cooper coming off the bench? The short answer is you could plug him anywhere, it’s Kobe, he’s awesome, and simply a better baller than some of the aforementioned, but that’s not really the point. Ability and numbers aside, Kobe, Mello, Howard, etc., etc., all represent a very different type of NBA player, with a different mindset and a very different definition of success.
The end of that Laker dynasty, and the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird swan song that was the 1992 Dream Team, marked a significant change in what it means to be a player in the NBA and what it means to be a Los Angeles Laker. The following are the Top 15 Worst Players in Los Angeles Lakers History.
15 Dwight Howard
Astonishingly, Dwight Howard will earn, correction, will be be paid, $22.3 million by the Houston Rockets this upcoming season. In 2012-2013, his one year in Los Angeles, Howard’s numbers can be described as decent – 12.4 rebounds and 17.1 points per game, which are in reality his lowest numbers while playing the center spot for a full season. At the end of the day, as a Laker, Howard claimed he wasn’t getting the ball enough and he had ongoing lime light issues with Kobe Bryant’s ball possession and shot attempts. The Lakers did make the playoffs in 2013, but were swept 4-0 by the Spurs and Howard was gone after a single year, costing the Lakers their 2014 first rounder and players, not to mention his huge salary.
14 Steve Nash
The argument for Steve Nash and “worst Laker” in the same sentence has more to do with timing, than it does with his career overall. Nash’s back-to-back MVP awards place him in very select company, and categorically, with 10,335 career assists, shooting .904 percent from the line, and .428 percent from beyond the arch, he is unquestionably headed for the Hall of Fame. However, his time in LA wasn’t good. Plagued by an ailing back, age, and other Laker players, whose approach to the game was just philosophically different, the stars were crossed during Nash ‘s time with the Lakers, as he averaged a career low 6.4 assists per game with the team.
13 Gary Payton
“The Glove “signed with the Lakers along with “The Mailman” in 2003-04 in an effort for the two of them to finally claim an NBA title in the twilight of their careers. And with Phil Jackson at the helm, along with Shaq and Kobe, it seemed like money (and a lot of it!) in the bank. That Laker team made it to the NBA Finals that year, only to fall to the Pistons and Gary Payton would move on at season’s end. Payton then went to Boston, then to Miami, where he eventually won a title. With the Lakers, he only averaged 5.5 assists per game, his second worst season as a starting point guard in the NBA.
12 Karl Malone
Unlike Gary Payton, Karl “The Mailman’ Malone never won an NBA title. After spending most of his career with John Stockton, who retired in 2003, Malone went to the Lakers to win a championship before the sun set on what was an amazing career. His one season with LA wasn’t what he had hoped for, as a knee injury sidelined him for almost half of the campaign. All said, the Mailman, with his two MVPs, his 1992 Dream Team selection, and his overall numbers, is one of the best NBA players of all-time, but also one of the worst Lakers. He only averaged 13.2 points per game with the Lakers, the worst number of his illustrious 19-year career.
11 Ron Artest
Under the erroneous delusion that he, in some way, transcended the game that he was being paid to play, or that he was far more influential off the court than he actually was, Ron Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace while a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. For that, he makes the list. Also, in terms of how he played with the Lakers during his time there, his numbers dipped significantly, as he averaged 9.9 per game and 4 rebounds per game, which is far below what he averaged in his previous stops. That being said, World Peace has recently been working out with the Lakers and may make a return to the lineup; he has inked a one-year deal for 2015-16.
10 Sam Bowie
Not exactly remembered for having a stellar NBA career or his time with the Lakers, Sam Bowie's name is only remembered for being the number two pick in the 1984 NBA draft – Michael Jordan was number three. The reality of Bowie’s career was that he was likely injured for all of it, burdened both in college and the NBA with leg injuries. His time with LA was in many respects emblematic of his career overall – playing just 25 games in his first season as a Laker and leaving the league altogether of after his second. When he was on the court, he averaged a paltry 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
9 Henry Parker
“Smush” Parker played with the Lakers for two seasons in 2005 to 2007 boasting lackluster numbers and an attitude to boot. For the most part, Parker is remembered for his feud with Kobe Bryant, whom he claims refused to talk to him off the court. For whatever reason, Parker was under the illusion that, maybe since he was the point guard, the Lakers were his team. Wrong. Kobe and the Lakers made that very apparent when they let him go and he only lasted one more year in the league after that.
8 Luke Walton
Quoted as saying “isn’t this how it’s supposed to happen? Retire, win a championship, lead assistant then. . .head coach?” Is Luke Walton charmed or what? He’s presently the interim head coach of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. A mediocre NBAer and Laker, Walton rode the family name for 11 seasons, winning two NBA titles along the way. His career numbers: 4.7 points, 2.8 boards and 2.3 assists per game. It's simply astonishing that he made $5 million a year doing that.
7 Isaiah Rider
To be clear, J.R. could play, just not for the Lakers. Isaiah Rider played just one season for the Lakers and, despite being a pure scorer during his career, was left off the team's playoff roster in 2001. The Lakers went on to an NBA title that year and Rider was given a ring after playing in 67 regular season games. And his poor season, where he averaged a career worst 7.6 points per game, Rider went to the Denver Nuggets for 10 games the following year before calling it quits.
6 Kwame Brown
A first overall pick out of high school in 2001, Kwame Brown’s career supports the notion that, in most cases, it’s better not to draft players out of high school. While playing in the NBA, the word “potential” seemed to always be attached to Kwame Brown’s game. Brown himself obviously believed what was being said about him as he said no to the $30 million that the Washington Wizards offered him after his third year in the league. After failing with the Wizards, he was moved to the Lakers where he spent two and a half years, averaging a terrible 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
5 Dennis Rodman
If Dennis Rodman doesn’t bumble into Isiah Thomas in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals, maybe Magic Johnson and the Lakers don’t win back-to-back championships. “The Worm” was one of the most hated members of that Pistons team dubbed “The Bad Boys,” and came to the Lakers with no clear reason why, other than that the Chicago Bulls were basically done with him. Rodman only played 23 games with the Lakers, averaging well below his career averages for the team.
4 Spencer Haywood
Now you have to go back in time to remember Spencer Haywood, but this guy was a remarkable player. He averaged 30 points per game for the Denver Nuggets in his only year in the ABA, led the U.S. to an Olympic Gold Medal in 1968, and averaged a Double-Double in points and rebounds for his NBA career. The only glitch in Haywood’s record was his only year with the Lakers, where he averaged just 9.7 points and 4.6 boards. This, for Haywood, was largely the result of an unfortunate cocaine addiction, which resulted in his discharge from the team.
3 Chuck Nevitt
Chuck Nevitt: 9 years in the NBA (two with the Lakers), 155 total games, and a career average of just 1.6 points per game. At a remarkable 7’5", Nevitt could literally dunk without leaving the hardwood, yet ranks not only among the worst Lakers of all time, but the worst NBAers in general. During his stint with the Lakers, he managed to be worse than his career average, putting up a terrible 1.5 points per game and using his huge frame to bring down a grand total of 1.8 rebounds per game.
2 Wes Matthews
A somewhat forgettable member of the Lakers back-to-back NBA Championship teams of 1987 and 1988, Wes Matthews rarely saw the court as a Laker. His two years in LA were the lowest in his career in the minutes per game category. In Matthews’ defense, playing the point position on the same squad as Magic Johnson would make any player forgettable Regardless, during his time in LA, he managed 4.9 points per game, the worst average for any team he played for in the NBA.
1 J.R Reid
Before becoming a Laker, back in 1996, J.R. Reid was fined $10,000 and suspended for two games by the NBA for elbowing Laker great A.C. Green. The incident also resulted in A.C. losing a couple of chicklets. Reid eventually came to the Lakers for one season in 1998-1999, underperformed (5 PPG and 4 RPG), and was gone the following year. Any wrong done to Magic, Kareem, Scott, Worthy, A.C., or Cooper, makes you the Worst Player in Los Angeles Lakers History.