5 best players who played for the Lakers that you forgot about
The Los Angeles Lakers have had some unforgettable players represent the franchise over the years. Unlike the majority of NBA teams or even teams in other professional sports like the MLB and NFL, the iconic players that have worn the purple and gold have defined eras in league history.
From legends like George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, who helped set the bar high for the Lakers to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant that took it to another level in Los Angeles. Now LeBron James and Anthony Davis lead the charge for the 16-time NBA champions.
Although there have been plenty of incredibly talented players that have left their mark in Los Angeles, there are some greats that either made a name for themselves elsewhere, became a role player in L.A. on a championship team or played during a transitional period that can easily be forgotten.
Here are five players that wore purple and gold at some point in their NBA careers that you may have forgotten.
5. Dennis Rodman – Past His Prime
As one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the league, Dennis Rodman’s best years came playing for the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. Rodman cemented his legacy as a historically good defender in Detroit, where he helped Isiah Thomas and company win two titles as a part of the Bad Boy Pistons. He then eventually made his way to the Chicago Bulls to form an iconic Big 3 alongside Scottie Pippen, which resulted in three more championship rings for the controversial forward.
Although he’ll always be remembered for his time in Detroit and Chicago, some forget he actually played with Kobe and Shaq in a Lakers uniform during the 1998-99 NBA season. He joined forces with Phil Jackson once again in an attempt to help another team bound for championship greatness, but he only lasted 23 games for Los Angeles, despite averaging 11.2 rebounds per game at the age of 37.
4. Mitch Richmond – Ring Chasing
After successful stints with the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and a short stint with the Washington Wizards, longtime rival Mitch Richmond joined the Lakers for the 2001-02 campaign in what would be his final season in the NBA.
The Lakers had won two titles in a row before bringing in Richmond and were looking for some veteran firepower off the bench. The veteran guard averaged no less than 16.2 points per game during his long career prior to landing in Los Angeles. That changed drastically with an extremely limited role on this championship team in which he played only 11.1 minutes per contest, putting up a career-low 4.1 points.
Although his time in Los Angeles was forgettable, to say the least, Richmond finished his career with a ring and is now a Hall of Famer.
3. Eddie Jones – Kobe Bryant’s Predecessor
The storied Lakers franchise is known for its superstars. The team has had no shortage of them throughout the team’s history, as mentioned earlier. Still, they’ve also had a lot of talented young players that never really got the chance to shine long enough to make a lasting impression before the team traded or parted ways with them in one form or another.
Eddie Jones, who the Lakers drafted 10th overall in 1994, is the perfect example of one of those players. Jones was an incredible athlete that could get it done on both ends of the basketball floor. He was a talented defender, high flyer, and a player that was always a threat with the ball and from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately for Jones, Kobe Bryant showed a lot more promise playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Jones ultimately traded for the next player on this list, and the rest is history as the Lakers went on to win three straight titles.
2. Glen Rice – Championship Piece
Before ultimately being traded to the Lakers in a deal for Jones and Elden Campbell, Glen Rice made a name for himself as one of the league’s best scoring forwards in the game. He proved his worth with the Miami Heat in the first half of his career but took it to another level with the Charlotte Hornets in which he made the All-Star team in three consecutive seasons.
After being unable to get by Michael Jordan’s Bulls during his time in the Eastern Conference, he was ready to compete for a championship as arguably the third-best player in Los Angeles. The Lakers found a veteran player that helped shoulder the scoring load with Shaq and Kobe.
Rice only played two seasons in Los Angeles, averaging 17.5 points in his first year in L.A. and 15.9 in his second, which turned out to be championship squad. He may not be remembered as a Laker great, but he left his mark in his short time in Los Angeles that often gets forgotten.
1. Nick Van Exel – Born Too Soon
In today’s NBA, it is all about three-point shooting and slashing to the basket. One player that would have been ideal for this style of play and was absolutely fearless with the basketball is Nick Van Exel or Nick the Quick as he was famously nicknamed while sporting the purple and gold.
With the Showtime era coming to an end and the Lakers trying to find the right way to rebuild, Van Exel was at the core of their efforts to bring in another young star. He was drafted in the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft and turned out to be a steal for Jerry West and company as he far exceeded expectations coming out of Cincinnati.
Van Exel was pure entertainment on the basketball floor. Not only was he an incredibly talented point guard that could do anything on the court, but he was fiery, clutch, and made Lakers basketball exciting again in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, Nick the Quick suffered from poor timing as the team was ready to build around the Shaq and Kobe duo making him and Eddie Jones expendable. The Lakers basically traded him for nothing, Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue, after he made his first and only All-Star team following the 1997-98 season.
If he was playing in the league today, he might be mentioned in the same breath as scoring point guards like Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving.