When one talks of “flagship franchise,” it is hard to discuss the National Basketball Association without mentioning the Los Angeles Lakers in that capacity. The Lakers were the first dynasty in the history of the league, stemming all the way back to their original home from which the team name came; the City of Lakes, Minneapolis. All the way back to that era of dominance in the 1950′s through Sunday night, the Lakers have one of the greatest winning traditions in all professional sports. Even just limiting the look back to the last three decades, the Lakers have won 10 championships; which is the most of any team in any of the “Big 4″ North American sports leagues.
In all that time, this franchise has been affiliated with a litany of names which rank in basketball immortality…George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, John Kundla, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Phil Jackson. All those men carved their initials into the championship traditions which live in Laker land, but along with those who are revered, there are those who are reviled.
The trouble is that after the worst defeat that any Laker fan had ever seen, the “reviled” list may now include a few guys who were wearing the purple and gold last night. I’ve been a Laker fan my whole life; my father has a picture in his house with his name on the scoreboard at the old Forum. But if you listened to sports radio in the Southland on Monday, you would think Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum wore turbans and had “bin Laden” somewhere in their names. I’m not here to defend either of those guys; rather I’m here to remind Laker fans that the vitriol for the guys who have found ways to stop Los Angeles from winning should be reserved for those wearing the other team’s colors. To that end, here’s 20 examples of guys more worthy of your ire…if you need to hate on a former Laker, they are noted in purple.
20) Dennis Rodman
Rodman isn’t the only example on this list who wore a Laker uniform at one point, but there are far more reasons for Laker fans to hate him beyond his cameo in purple and gold in 1999. Before all of the tattoos, the multi-colored hair styles, and the wedding dress, Dennis Rodman was a key member of the very same “Bad Boy” Pistons who stole the NBA Title from the Lakers in 1989. Then, he joined forces with the then-hated Phil Jackson and still-hated Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to dominate the league from 1995-1998. Then comes 1999, where Rodman proved more of a hindrance than a help to the Lakers.
19) Sam Jones
NBA fans under the age of 60 may not remember Sam Jones, but true basketball historians can’t forget him. Jones is the second greatest team winner in professional sports history behind fellow Boston Celtic Bill Russell; in his career, Jones won 10 NBA titles. The Lakers claimed Jones back in their days in the North Star state, but Jones went back to school and ended up in that disgusting Celtic green. Jones ended up as one of the premier shooting guards of his era, but to Laker fans he is best known for Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals. In this case, Jones fouled Elgin Baylor away from what would have been a game-winning tip-in, but the clear foul was not called. Jones went on to be a thorn in the Laker’s side for nearly another decade.
18) Ralph Sampson
The single highlight of the 7’4″ Sampson’s career was the incredible shot he hit to knock the Lakers out of the 1986 Western Conference Finals. What could have been a third consecutive year of having L.A. and Boston in the Finals was derailed by a guy who never hit a meaningful shot again.
17) John Havlicek
Yet another Celtic on this list, Havlicek was one of the best all-around players in NBA history. More importantly, as a member of the hated Green, he won eight championships, five of which came at the expense of the Lakers.
16) Don Nelson
Many people forget about Don Nelson and his role in defeating Laker teams, including the ones he played on from 1963-1965, which is hard to imagine considering he a) also played for the Celtics and b) coached every single team in the NBA except the Lakers, and at least 40 or 50 in Europe. He hit a bunch free throws for the Celtics sealing the 1968 NBA Finals, and the next year he hit a game-winning jumper that sealed the 11th career NBA championship for teammate Bill Russell. Not to mention, Nelson-coached teams just pissed me off; with that bullshit “Nellie-Ball, up-tempo, what’s defense?” style.
15) Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen will forever be known as the Robin to Michael Jordan’s Batman. Perhaps the greatest wing defender of all time, Pippen’s versatility proved to be the perfect compliment for Jordan. Yet, it was his play with the Portland Trailblazers that really pisses off Laker’s fans. Known for his dirty play, Pippen nearly helped Portland pull off a huge upset in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, and when the Trail Blazers lost to the Lakers, Pippen acted a lot like Andrew Bynum except without the bush-league foul.
14) Willis Reed
Everybody loves to trot out that 1970 Championship game where the ambulance dropped Reed at mid-court and he single-handedly willed the Knicks to beat the Lakers, cure cancer, and cause a warp in the space-time continuum ensuring the sorry-ass Knicks would always relevant. Lakers fans love to remember the dominant 1971-1972 team which won a record 33 consecutive games, but the Reed-led Knicks won two out of three Finals series against the Lakers between 1970 and 1973.
13) Paul Pierce
For a guy who grew up in the shadow of the old Forum, playing against the Lakers seems to bring out the best in Pierce.; his 26.0 ppg career average against Los Angeles is his highest against any team. Then there is the “wheelchair incident” from the 2008 Finals, where he faked an injury to have his own “Willis Reed” moment and put the momentum back on the Celtics’ side en route to a Finals MVP performance.
12) Isaiah Thomas
God, I hate this little cocksucker. At least history has shown him to be a complete piece of shit, so I’m validated. As the leader of all those “burn-in-hell” Pistons teams of the late ’80′s, its bad enough he pulled that record 25 point performance in the third quarter of Game 6 of the 1988 Finals against the Lakers despite playing on a severely sprained ankle. The following year, Thomas helped lead Detroit to a four-game sweep over an injury-depleted Laker squad, then celebrated on-court as if he had just single-handedly made the entire city of Detroit NOT a third-world shithole.
11) Tim Duncan
Duncan bored that whale to sleep, then scored 25 on it.
The old Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly” should be about Tim Duncan. Known as the “The Big Fundamental,” Duncan is one of the best bigs in the history of the game, but watching him play is like watching concrete harden. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, his reign came during the Lakers dynasty years led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and on more than on occasion he hardened that concrete around the feet of the Lakers and sank them (see 1999 and 2003).
10) Ray Allen
Allen is the best long-range shooter in NBA history, and he has pumped more than one sniper round into the Lakers. In Game 2 of last year’s Finals against LA, he hit a record eight three-pointers. However, Laker fans will always relish his 0-13 debacle a few days later in Game 3. Depsite that, Allen was clutch in Boston’s win over the Lakers in 2008.
9) Kevin Garnett
Similar to the other members of the Celtics on this enemies list, Garnett is know to Laker fans for one distinguishing trait. In Garnett’s case, he is so good at setting a moving screen he should be a pulling guard in the NFL. He also doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for being a cheap-shot artist.
8 ) Bill Russell
Do you see the pattern developing here…another asshole in Celtic green. He got a pass for all the racist bullshit he had to endure in Boston, but Russell was as mean and arrogant as any player the NBA has seen (nobody ever talks about how many fights he started). All in all, as arguably the greatest player of all-time, and certainly the best rebounder and shot blocker of all-time, Russell emerged victorious over the Lakers seven times without a loss.
7) Bill Laimbeer
Here’s a guy who embodied what was wrong with those cheap-ass, punk-bitch Pistons teams of the 80′s. Laimbeer holds a special place in the hearts Lakers fans…actually, he was despised everywhere except Detroit. The Laimbeer model was to absolutely shit-hammer defenseless players, then flop like a soccer player as the slightest breeze.
6) Chauncey Billups
For some reason, Billups is a player that seems to play his best against the Lakers. One shouldn’t be surprised as he started his career with the Boston Celtics. Yet, it was 2004 as a Detroit Piston which earned his place on this list. Billups put up a performance for the ages when he led Detroit to a championship by averaging 21 points per game while shooting 51% from the floor, 47% from 3-point land, and 93% from the stripe.
5) Walt Frazier
Willis Reed’s comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals totally overshadowed Walt Frazier being the MVP of that game. In securing the big win for the Knicks, Frazier poured in 36 points and 19 assists against the Lakers. Then for good measure, he reprised that role in the 1973 Finals win against LA.
4) Karl Malone
Malone was known for years as being a dirty player, throwing elbows and setting hard picks. Along the way, Malone proved himself as the greatest scoring power forward in NBA history. In 1997 and 1998, Malone’s dominant play helped bounce the Lakers from the playoffs. For years, the Lakers wanted to lure Malone to Los Angeles. But, he stayed in Utah until he could finally be a broken down old wreck as a Laker.
3) Michael Jordan
“The greatest player of all time.” That completely fraudulent statement is reason enough alone to hate MJ; but that rant is for another time. There’s no denying he had his moments of dominance against the Lakers; in the 1991 NBA Finals, MJ averaged 31.2 points per game, 11.4 assists, and 2.8 steals, while shooting 56% percent from the field.
2) Larry Bird
Note the blood on Bird's uniform...it ain't his.
The Bottom Line: The greatest player to wear the evil Celtic green during that Magic-Bird rivalry era in the 80′s has to be on the list, and high on it at that. As a leader of the Celtics, Bird represents everything a Lakers fan hates.
1) Kevin McHale
For the longest time, I wanted Kevin McHale dead. And not just dead; I wanted to drink beer out of his hollowed-out skull and piss on what was left of him. But his complete and total failure as an NBA general manager ensured I will never see him as anything other that a talking head. Most Laker fans remember McHale for his clothesline of Kurt Rambis in the 1894 Finals. Had that flagrant foul happened in the NBA of today, he would have been suspended and fined. Instead, this play seemed to help shift some of the series momentum towards Boston, and McHale showed the world yet another Celtics player willing to be a cheap bitch.
Honorable Mention - Phil Jackson
Let’s not forget what Jackson was before his stints as the Laker coach and the 5 championships he won in Los Angeles. Don’t forget Jackson was a key member of the Knicks teams that beat the Lakers in 1970 and 1973. Let’s not forget the six titles he coached the Bulls to in the 90′s. If it weren’t for those five Laker rings, he would have had to be on this list. Maybe he should be anyway…