Top 3 Lakers one-hit wonders who faded quickly
Few franchises in professional sports have a more prestigious list of star players to come through their organization than the Los Angeles Lakers.
From the Showtime era led by the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers to the two-headed monster of LeBron James and Anthony Davis today, the 16-time NBA champions have had their fair share of superstars.
With as many perennial All-Stars and Hall of Famers to come through the franchise, the Lakers have also had many disappointments or players that simply didn’t pan out or only saw short-term success before moving on.
Here are three players that had memorable NBA careers, but faded quickly in one way or another.
3. Isaiah Rider – Beginning of the End
Before signing with the Lakers in 2000, Isaiah Rider, or JR Rider as he is also known, had a lot of individual success during his stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, and Atlanta Hawks.
Rider was a scoring machine with incredible athletic ability in the prime of his career. He could light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis while putting on a high-fly act that earned him the distinction as Slam Dunk champion in 1994.
In his final season with the Hawks, Rider averaged 19.3 points per game and was widely considered one of the better scoring guards in the league. However, that 1999-00 season was the last time he’d average over 10 points a game and the beginning of a drastic decline that would result in 67 games with Los Angeles and 10 games in his final year in the league with the Denver Nuggets.
Although talented, the Oakland native never really found his place in the NBA for a number of reasons. Off-the-field played a significant role in his inability to reach his true potential in the league and also a reason for teams simply not wanting to take a chance on him.
Fortunately for Rider, the Lakers were willing to bring him in regardless of his off-the-court troubles resulting in his only title. Even though he was coming off a season in which he averaged almost 20 points a game, Rider had to conform to a bench role at 18 minutes per contest and 10 fewer shots while on the floor.
2. Caron Butler – Bad Timing
In the summer of 2004, the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in a blockbuster deal that still has many scratching their heads in Los Angeles. Shaq teamed up with a talented young star in Dwyane Wade and ultimately won a title in 2006, while the Lakers brought in Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler to begin the rebuilding process around Kobe Bryant.
Although it was the beginning of a painful process that almost ended Bryant forcing a trade to another team, Butler and Odom were promising young players with a potentially bright future in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Odom ended up living that future in purple and gold, helping the team win back-to-back titles. Butler, however, didn’t have the chance to see that future come to fruition while playing alongside his close friend, Kobe.
It didn’t take long for Butler to show the Lakers what he could do. He played in 77 games in his lone season in Los Angeles, averaging an impressive 15.5 points per game, becoming the second-leading scorer on the team behind Bryant’s 27.6 per game. Odom may have been the more well-rounded player averaging 15.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per contest, but Butler showed his worth, which was ultimately enough for the team to start shopping him in trade scenarios.
Despite showing the prospect of a long career in the NBA and being a close friend of Bryant’s, the Lakers traded Butler along with Chucky Atkins in the summer of 2005 to the Washington Wizards in a deal for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit. The deal didn’t seem to make much sense initially, but it ultimately resulted in giving the team the main asset to send to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol a few years later.
Butler may have gone on to have a long and successful career in the NBA, winning a title in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks, but he is one player that many wondered what could’ve been had he stayed in Los Angeles with Kobe.
1. Cedric Ceballos – Too Much Talent in L.A.
Before the Lakers turned into a powerhouse with Kobe and Shaq leading the way, the team was pieced together by quite a few promising young players like Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, and Cedric Ceballos.
These three players led the way for the Lakers before the arrival of O’Neal, which eventually put Los Angeles in the title contention conversation in the late 90s. Ceballos was an All-Star for the Lakers during the 1994-95 season and showed a lot of promise to be a star in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future as a player that could shoulder the scoring load in the post-Showtime era.
However, a lot changed over the next few years with Van Exel and Jones coming into their own and a 17-year-old guard turning out to be much better than anticipated. Eventually, Ceballos, along with Jones and Van Exel, took a backseat to the Kobe-Shaq show in Los Angeles. Each player showed tremendous promise but were ultimately used in trades to bring in players that would help complete a stacked team that went on to win three straight titles from 2000 to 2002.
Ceballos was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Robert Horry in 1997. In 1999, Jones was flipped to the Charlotte Hornets along with Elden Campbell in a deal for Glen Rice while Van Exel was shipped to the Denver Nuggets the previous year for Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue.
The two seasons Ceballos spent in Los Angeles were his best in the league as he earned his only All-Star appearance and averaged over 21 points game in both years. He even dropped 50 against the Timberwolves, which turned out to be his career-high point total.
If Ceballos had the opportunity to play in Los Angeles longer, there’s no telling where his career could’ve gone and if he’d be more of a household name among avid Lakers fans.