As the Lakers wait patiently — or not so patiently — on an answer from star Carmelo Anthony as to where he will take his talents for the 2014-15 season, the foul taste left over from a number of other big-name-dud signings over the years comes back to mind. LA’s beaches, weather, celebrity lifestyle and winning tradition have historically made the Lakers one of the hottest landing spots for basketball’s biggest ballers. However, not all of them had the success of Shaquille O’Neal. We take a look at a handful of the biggest of the big-name duds to wear the purple and gold.
3. Karl Malone, 2003-04
By the 2003 season, the Lakers were the undoubted juggernaut of the National Basketball Association. Having just completed their first-ever three-peat in Los Angeles, the Lakers were sure to attract big names to Staples Center. Power forward Karl Malone, who was a 14-time NBA All-Star by 2003, was among these names. The 6-foot-9, Utah Jazz all-time leading scorer was turning 40 when he became a Laker. Having played in 81 games in Utah the year before, Malone limped through just 42 in 2003-04, and managed career-lows with 554 points, 20 blocks, 50 steals, 367 total rebounds (61 on offense), and 193 field goals. Malone retired the following year.
2. Gary Payton, 2003-04
Another expected crowd-pleaser of the 2003 star roster was point guard Gary Payton. After making a name for himself with the Seattle Supersonics, Payton was 35 when he first donned Laker gold. Starting in all 82 games in 2003, Payton’s time in Los Angeles proved to have superior personal statistics to those of Malone, but nonetheless marked the beginning of a decline in all his totals during the twilight of his career, despite the Lakers reaching the NBA championship. Having averaged over 1,700 points per season during the late 1990s in Seattle, Payton put up 1,199 points in LA. His assist total was 449, down from 663 in the 2002-03 season. Payton, a nine-time NBA All-Star, would ultimately leave Los Angeles after his only season as a Laker, and won a final championship with Miami before retiring after the 2006-07 season.
1. Dwight Howard, 2012-13
With the fan-favored Pau Gasol showing signs of age and having signed Steve Nash to a 3-year, $27 million deal, what seemed like the ultimate pickup for the Lakers would prove to be one of the biggest disappointments in Laker big-man history. After the 2011-12 season, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, then a six-time All-Star, stated his desire to be traded. In a three-team deal that involved sending oft-injured and embattled big-man Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, Dwight Howard became a Laker. Having tremendous expectations, the 2012-13 Lakers were favored to make a push for the NBA Finals. The reality, however, would leave Laker fans bitter, beleaguered and even angry at Howard. Starting in 76 games, Howard was rumored to have frequent locker room clashes with Kobe Bryant. Additionally, he had stated that he felt a lot of pressure for a market the magnitude of LA’s to perform well. Despite managing a career-high 694 defensive rebounds, Howard’s numbers in points (1,296), blocks (186), total rebounds (945), field goal percentage (.578) just did not match his All-Star numbers from 2008 to 2010 — not to mention his free throws made Laker fans fondly miss the charity stripe attempts of Shaq. Despite a disappointing season, Laker fans, knowing there was no other option for a young, promising big-man, had hoped he would return. Howard would issue his final disappointment to Laker fans when he signed as a free agent with the Houston Rockets.