The Los Angeles Lakers are among the most historic franchises in the NBA. Since being established in 1947 — then the Minneapolis Lakers — the organization has 16 championships to its name, second only to the Boston Celtics’ record of 17 titles. Lakers championship runs are so common, they’re nearly no big deal.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying that L.A. has not been spared from some dark moments. Let’s take a look at three of the most heartbreaking moments in Los Angeles Lakers history.
Magic Johnson’s HIV Announcement
How could any Lakers fan forget the heartbreaking moment when Magic Johnson announced his retirement from the NBA after testing positive for HIV? This was in 1991, when Johnson was just 31 with a lot of good basketball years ahead of him. To make matters worse, the Lakers were coming off a disappointing loss in the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
HIV was a dreaded virus at that point in time — even more so than it is today. While everyone feared for Magic’s life, he was not only able to battle the illness but also serve as an inspiration to others who have been afflicted by the virus.
The End of the Shaq-Kobe Era
The Lakers have had some of the best pairings in the history of the sport. Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain dominated the 1970s, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the “Showtime Lakers,” and then of course there was Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Together, the Shaq and Kobe tandem achieved a historic three-peat for the Lakers in the early 2000s. They were two of the best players of that era, and nobody was able to match their combined dominance. As destiny would have it, however, the only thing that could bring down this dynasty was none other than themselves.
There were already whispers that O’Neal and Bryant did not see eye to eye, and things blew up following L.A.’s loss to an underdog Detroit Pistons side in the 2004 NBA Finals. This officially marked the end of the dominant duo, with L.A. deciding to trade away O’Neal to the Miami Heat that same summer. The team also parted ways with esteemed head coach Phil Jackson, which further added to the misery of Lakers supporters until Jackson later returned and the club returned to glory at the end of the decade.
Who knows how many more Lakers championship runs would have happened if the two stuck together?
The Passing of Kobe Bryant
This wound will forever feel fresh. A basketball loving planet lost Kobe Bryant to a tragic helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna back in January of 2020. Bryant is arguably the greatest Laker in team history, and to lose him at such an early age (41) in such a heartbreaking manner is unspeakable.
As a matter of fact, not only is this one of the darkest moments in Lakers history, but for the NBA as well. Time has allowed us all to slowly move on from this tragedy, but it will definitely leave a scar that will never totally heal.