When Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Lakers, Jerry West took him to the
Staples Center Forum and showed him the retired jerseys hanging from the rafters – including those of Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor and West himself.
Great players tend to find there way onto the Lakers, not out of Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard obviously bucked that trend, but his legacy will now hinge of if he can accomplish anything after leaving the Lakers. There will be plenty of time for Howard to prove himself, but for now, who has had the most success after leaving the Lakers?
Honorable mention: Dick Barnett, Bob Boozer, Caron Butler, Archie Clark, James Edwards, Eddie Jones, Brian Winters
3. Clyde Lovellette
The Minneapolis Lakers drafted Lovellette in 1952 and then waited out Lovelette’s amateur/Olympic career and his time working and playing for Phillips Oil Company in Oklahoma. Lovellette played behind George Mikan as a rookie, and after Mikan retired, Lovellette became the Lakers’ top player. In the next three years, Lovellette averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds per game and made two All-Star games.
But Lakers coach John Kundla said his team couldn’t win with Lovellette and traded him to the Cincinnati Royals.
Lovellette had three more 20-10 seasons with Cincinnati and St. Louis and made two more All-Star games. He closed his career with the Celtics, winning titles in both his years with Boston.
2. Shaquille O’Neal
A feud with Kobe Bryant forcing his ouster, Shaq was traded in 2004 to Miami, where it seemed like a young Heat player named Dwyane Wade might become good enough, with the right pieces surrounding them, to help Shaq win a title.
It turned out – even though Shaq was twice named first-team All-NBA with the Heat – Wade was good enough to lead Shaq to a title. There’s no sin in being No. 2 on a championship team, and Shaq still got the first laugh against Kobe after their breakup by winning it all in 2006 (though, Kobe obviously had the last couple laughs), but Shaq was clearly no longer the league’s most dominant player after leaving Los Angeles.
Shaq spent a few years as strange fits with the Suns, Cavaliers and Celtics as his body gradually gave out, but if expectations hadn’t been raised so high by his Laker greatness, he was still pretty good in those final stops.
1. Adrian Dantley
Dantley came into the NBA with quite a pedigree. He played at distinguished DeMatha High School and then at the even-more-distinguished University of Notre Dame, was pick No. 6 overall in the 1976 draft and won Rookie of the Year. But he bounced around the league early in his career, including a season and a half with the Lakers.
Those Lakers also had Jamaal Wilkes, and, deeming the two forwards redundant, they traded Dantley for Spencer Haywood of the Jazz.
Dantley spent seven seasons in Utah, where he twice led the league in scoring, made two All-NBA second teams and was a six-time All-Star. He also thrived for the Detroit Pistons, who traded him during their first championship season for Isiah Thomas’ childhood friend, Mark Aguirre. Dantley hung around a little longer, playing for the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, but he never won a championship.
Whenever all-time lists are compiled, Dantley is usually underrated. He was a brilliant offensive player in his time thanks to an awesome array of post moves. Dantley ranks in the top 25 in NBA history for points – one spot ahead of Laker great Elgin Baylor, incidentally – and 81 percent of his scoring came after he left the Lakers.