3. Spencer Haywood, Adrian Dantley, and Bob McAdoo
Let’s move along to the 1980s. After all, the decade is what everyone prior to it was rushing towards—at least if you consider the amount of coke being consumed—and it is the decade everyone must acknowledge was great in hindsight.
Spencer Haywood began his career in the ABA, averaging 30 points per game during the 1969-70 season. Then he entered the NBA and played five seasons for the Seattle SuperSonics, notching four All-Star appearances and averaging 24.9 points and 12.1 rebounds during that half-decade stretch. These were good times for Haywood. Perhaps too good. The Sonics traded him for Gene Short, a man who averaged basically nothing during his abbreviated NBA career, and a future draft pick. The New York Knicks were desperate for a star, and Seattle was apparently desperate to rid its roster of Haywood. The Sonics didn’t miss a beat without Haywood, making the Finals in ’77 and winning the title in 1978. Meanwhile, the Knicks missed the playoffs in two out of Haywood’s three seasons with the team.
On Sept. 13, 1979, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Adrian Dantley to the Utah Jazz for Spencer Haywood. Haywood played one season for the Lakers, averaging 20 minutes per game, 9.7 points, and 4.6 rebounds. He was often late and almost always listless. He personified much of the NBA’s off-the-court battles at the time, which is sad in a strange sense given the fact that his professional basketball career began with an anti-trust suit that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was as if his career gave him all the freedoms he had demanded, and his will simply couldn’t handle the agency.
Haywood’s stat line from the 1980 Finals is five minutes stretched over two games. He averaged 1.0 points per game. Everything else is goose eggs and a plane ticket to Italy.
But perhaps Haywood’s value had so depreciated during his one season in Los Angeles that he is memorable in the ways that fathers can be disappointing. In other words, he is coked out melodrama. The man Utah traded for him, however, is rarely mentioned as a Laker.
Adrian Dantley wore several uniforms as an NBA player, having played for seven NBA franchises. He is probably most memorable as a member of the Utah Jazz throughout most of the 1980s and eventually as a member of the budding Detroit Bad Boys. His two seasons in Dallas might also be more readily available to basketball minds than an equal stint in Los Angeles.
Dantley was not a bad Laker. He was never a bad anything, but the chemistry was always off, or at least that’s what was always said. He liked to shoot. He liked to score. He would have four straight seasons in Utah where he would average more than 30 in a season. He just couldn’t be in the right city when the championships were being won. Imagine leaving Southern California the season before Magic Johnson arrived.
Of course, winning championships doesn’t promise everything. Bob McAdoo is a legendary scorer. He is a Hall of Famer. He is somehow a forgotten Laker too. He was 30 when he arrived in Los Angeles. The year was 1981. He was almost a decade removed from a string of 30-plus scoring seasons. He was approaching the age when George Mikan might tell him to pursue other ventures.
McAdoo played four seasons with the Lakers. His per 36 numbers reveal he could still ball, but he was playing behind Kareem on a loaded roster. As is often the case on such talent-laden teams, the contributions of the role players often melt into an amorphous blob or are credited to the stars — or, in McAdoo’s case, to youth.