Are L.A. Lakers the Most Star-Studded, Dysfunctional Team in NBA History?

J.M. Poulard@ShyneIVContributor IIFebruary 25, 2013

The Lakers Core 4.
The Lakers Core 4.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ poor play this season combined with their public sniping leads one to believe that they are the most star-studded dysfunctional team in NBA history.

Four of their players will one day be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame, but the Purple and Gold have looked less than respectable so far in the 2012-13 regular season.

Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant were both awarded MVP trophies earlier in their careers while Dwight Howard seems destined to claim at least one of them before all is said and done, but the Lakers are fighting at present time to reach the .500 mark record-wise.

The futility of Mike D’Antoni and his stars is awfully reminiscent of the 1998-99 Houston Rockets.

That Rockets team featured three of the greatest 50 players in NBA history: Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen.

Barkley had joined the team a year earlier, while Pippen came on board prior to the start of the 1998-99 campaign, with many expecting Houston to be a huge contender with their Hall of Fame frontcourt.  

That team failed to live up to expectations and was ultimately eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in a shortened season resulting from a lockout.

This was Pippen’s first season with the Rockets, and also his last.

As training camp approached in the fall of 1999, the former Chicago Bull requested that Houston trade him, given that his squad was an underachieving one.

A disappointed Barkley went to the press and signaled that he had sacrificed financially for the small forward to join the team and obtain the compensation he felt was coming to him. In response, Pippen sounded off to ESPN (insider):

I wouldn't give Charles Barkley an apology at gunpoint. He can never expect an apology from me. If anything, he owes me an apology for coming to play with his fat butt.

The six-time world champion was eventually traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as fans and basketball aficionados were left wondering if the team could have played a far better brand of basketball if not for the shortened season. But then again, the personalities of Pippen and Barkley may have been too combustible.

An argument could be made that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are right on par with the Rockets’ tumultuous twosome.

The Laker superstars have called each other out in the media and considering that Howard is scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, there is a definite possibility that he might flee the franchise after one season, following in Pippen’s footsteps.

The best worst-case scenario for fans of the Lakers would be a situation resembling that of the 1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers.

 NBA players, coaches and general managers heard for years that Julius Erving was quite possibly the best professional basketball player in the land. Unfortunately, the National Basketball Association could never get its hands on him during the time in which he dominated the ABA with the New York Nets.

The NBA finally got a shot at him in 1976 when it merged with the ABA.

The Nets could not afford Erving, and they consequently sold him off to the Philadelphia 76ers.

In his first season in Philadelphia, the iconic dunker played with a flamboyant on-court personality in Daryl Dawkins. The 6’11’’ center was a talker of the highest order, often naming his dunks over opponents.

In addition, the UMASS product joined a 76ers team that already featured former ABA MVP George McGinnis and World B. Free.

In short, that Philly team was loaded with talent, All-Star credentials and swagger. A great recipe for success wasn’t exactly in the cards though.

The 76ers' strategy was simply to roll the ball out onto the court and assume that their superior talent would win out.

Truthfully, it almost did.

That Philadelphia team won 50 games, earned the best record in the conference and made its way into the championship round with Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers ready to take them on.

The Blazers played collectively, whereas the 76ers self-combusted given their over-reliance on their individual talents. Indeed, Philly players operated as if they were worried the ball wouldn’t come back their way, which made for bad chemistry.

The present day Lakers have not yet exhibited any semblance of the type of success those 76ers enjoyed during the regular season, but they have played what can be construed as a selfish type of basketball at times.

Whether it’s Bryant endlessly pounding the ball on the wing to set himself up for a jump shot or Howard setting a soft screen and barely diving to the basket to open up the floor for his teammates, the 2012-13 Lakers have displayed a lot of individual efforts.

The challenge now is to blend all of those talents to form one incredibly difficult team to beat. Otherwise, unlike the 1998-99 Rockets and 1976-77 76ers, this current installment of the Purple and Gold will end up watching the entire postseason from home.

The mere fact that this is a possibility unquestionably makes them the most star-studded dysfunctional team in NBA history.

J.M. Poulard is a featured columnist and he can be reached on Twitter under the handle name @ShyneIV.