Apart from being the second most winningest team in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers are known as perhaps the most dignified franchise in all of sports.
Playing under the bright lights of Hollywood, after all, puts every Purple and Gold player under a constant microscope. Thus, everyone tries to carry themselves in a distinguished manner.
However, the public does have a keen eye for player slip-ups especially when they turn to full-blown scandals.
The Lakers have had their share of negative publicity over the years. Let’s take a look back at four of the most scandalous transgressions in LA’s franchise history.
This squabble is arguably one of the most defining storylines of the early 2000s.
The Lakers dynasty achieved the highest of highs at the time, but ultimately crashed and burned when their two best stars had a mutual disdain for one another. Shaq and Kobe, who were both alpha males, have been butting heads since 1996.
From O’Neal’s supposed questionable work ethic to Bryant’s alleged innate selfishness, the list goes on. But it’s easy to let those things slide when you’re constantly winning.
The pair often criticized one another during interviews, which the media and the public ate up. The straw that broke the camel’s back came in 2004, when the Lakers’ star-studded line-up got humiliated by the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. The Lakers eventually picked Kobe and Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat the following summer. The two Hall of Famers eventually buried the hatchet over time. Shaq was even quite vocal of his sorrow following Bryant’s shocking passing last January.
Magic’s positive test
Earvin “Magic” Johnson had to prematurely walk away from basketball at the height of his success in 1991 after confirming he tested positive for HIV.
Having the disease was considered a death sentence at the time, but Magic was able to prevent it from progressing to AIDS since he caught it rather early and had access to great medication.
The NBA Hall of Famer bravely admitted that his previous sexual promiscuity was the cause. He helped raise awareness regarding HIV and made the public understood that heterosexuals were at risk as well.
Johnson’s relationship with fellow NBA great Isiah Thomas soured after the latter reportedly spread rumors that Johnson was gay or bisexual. Thomas denies that claim to this day. The pair have since reconciled following an NBA TV interview in 2017.
Magic was voted as an All-Star in 1992 and played in the match despite protests from some NBA players including Karl Malone. He won MVP honors after putting up 25 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.
Kobe’s sexual assault case
It’s unfortunate to have to bring this up following Bryant’s tragic death earlier this year after a helicopter crash. Sadly, it did occur early in his career, when 19-year-old hotel employee Katelyn Faber accused him of sexual assault in 2003.
The accuser said Bryant raped her at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Eagle County, a night before the Lakers star was set to undergo a knee procedure. Kobe admitted to the extra-marital affair but claimed it was between two consensual parties.
The case was highly publicized, as Bryant had to fly back-and-forth from Colorado for the case to multiple NBA arenas throughout the season. The case was scrapped in 2004 after Faber refused to testify in court.
Both sides privately reached a settlement, while Bryant issued a public apology.
Worthy’s solicitation debacle
This wasn’t as publicized as the previous incidents, but “Big Game” James also found himself in quite a conundrum in 1990. While holed up in a hotel in Houston for a road game versus the Rockets, Worthy was arrested for solicitation of prostitution.
Authorities were reportedly already manning the phone lines of an escort service when they received a call from the NBA star.
Worthy received one-year probation and was fined $1,000 on top of a 40-hour community service mandate.
Interestingly enough, he was still able to re-join his team versus the Rockets following his arrest after posting $500 in bail money. Worthy checked-in the second quarter and helped LA get the W in OT by scoring 24 points.