The Lakers are one of the NBA’s oldest and winningest franchises. Along the way, their rosters have featured some strange characters you probably forgot about.
The Lakers are a well-decorated franchise. They arrived in Southern California with five titles. They have won eleven more in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. They are, for lack of a riper cliché, the happy ending awaiting everyone’s favorite script. They even have LeBron James donned in purple and gold and riding into the sunset, and not too far behind him is a deputized Anthony Davis.
Outside the Staples Center sit six statues. One is for Chick Hearn’s voice and conscience. Teammates Jerry West and Elgin Baylor each have one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson have theirs. Shaq is represented and one day Kobe will have his too, moving the number to seven.
Does the absence of Wilt Chamberlain statue out front mark ol’ Wilt as a forgotten Laker? It seems strange to suggest such is the case. He played five seasons with the team, lifting the franchise to its first sunny title outside of frigid Minneapolis. But Wilt’s immortality belongs as much to the sport as a single franchise. No, a man as tall and legendary as Wilt cannot be forgotten, at least not in the sense that this list is concerned.
What about James Worthy? He has no statue and played just over a decade — his whole career in fact — for Los Angeles. Could seven All-Star appearances, multiple Finals appearances, and three rings be forgotten? Going back to his stellar days in Chapel Hill, Worthy is an oft overshadowed figure, but to suggest he is forgotten seems a matter of hyperbole. His number is retired, and some years ago, he was named to the league’s 50 greatest list.
Other Laker greats who are not yet bronzed but do have their jersey numbers retired are Gail Goodrich and Jamaal Wilkes. Other players who seem too memorable for this list include Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), and almost anyone of import from the two championships with Kobe Bryant at the helm. From the Shaq and Kobe era, it seems rather silly to include role players such as Robert Horry and Derek Fisher on such a list, just as including Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, or Byron Scott seems equally off the mark.
What about Vlade Divac, though? It seems like being included in the trade for Kobe Bryant earns one some staying power in the franchise tableau, as does the flashiness of Nick Van Exel and the very good but never great abilities of Eddie Jones.
Who then are the most forgotten Lakers? Obviously, these players can’t be good enough to have already been named, and yet if they aren’t good at all, then their names won’t register in any sort of aha or ah yes capacity. Somehow these names have to be forgettable and yet memorable upon mentioning. So here goes nothing. And, if I do forget to mention your favorite forgotten Laker, then, well, I guess that proves your point.