LA Lakers: Kobe Bryant and the 10 Most Despised Players in Franchise History
The Los Angeles Lakers have a storied history of playoff success with NBA titles and great players. But some of those superstars who have donned the purple and gold weren’t all beloved. For every Magic Johnson, there’s a Kobe Bryant.
Some players have been hated even while adored, like Kobe. Others were loved during their time in LA but hated when they left. Others were only loved in LA, by true diehard Laker fans, and hated throughout the league.
The reasons are irrelevant. What they all had in common was that one some level, they were all despised.
So, here are the 10 most despised players in franchise history.
No. 10 Smush Parker
Lost in the post-Shaq fallout was the simple fact that D-Fish was an integral part of the Lakers’ championship success.
Don’t believe that statement? Any evidence to the contrary can be simply answered with the words Smush Parker.
During Fisher’s time out of LA, the starting point guard for LA was Smush Parker. And while he was actually an adequate player at times, he never grasped the triangle offense nor the loyalty of Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.
Parker’s poor play allowed the Lakers to be one of only a handful of teams to blow a 3-1 lead in a playoff series, in 2006 to the Phoenix Suns. That alone will get you on a despised list.
No. 9 Kwame Brown
No other Laker got the fans' hate in the early post-Shaq era than Kwame Brown. And he did nothing to change that perception.
He had butter on his hands during games, as balls slipped through his fingers like jelly. And he even threw a cake at a fan after a night out on the town. Neither his play on the court or his actions off it made him likable in any way.
Most of it was actually a matter of perception, as Kwame played well during his time in LA. He just had a lot to live up to and big shoes (Shaq’s) to fill.
No. 8 Bob McAdoo
A former scoring champ, Bob McAdoo arrived in LA in the twilight of his career. He was a big unknown with a reputation as trouble for both fans and teammates, and the press hated him.
But McAdoo was a consistent bench performer during his time in LA, and in the end, he contributed to a Lakers title in 1982.
He was loved by Laker fans and despised by many other teams, especially his former ones, like the Nets.
No. 7 Michael Cooper
He was a fan favorite in LA but despised elsewhere, especially in Boston. Michael Cooper became famous with his “Coop a Loop” alley-oops from Magic Johnson, but he really made his mark on the defensive side.
He was a thorn in the side of Boston Celtic great Larry Bird, and therefore the entire Green Nation hated Cooper.
We Laker fans loved the guy and still do.
No. 6 Nick Van Exel
During his productive years in LA, Nick the Quick was both fearless and loved. But near the end of his tenure, he’d rubbed new teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant wrong.
His days in LA were numbered at that point. He had tendencies to quit playing hard during games, and that burned Kobe especially.
Van Exel left and handed the reins over to Derek Fisher, who, all these years later, sure did well at the point for LA.
No. 5 Cedric Ceballos
Has there ever been a player who decided to simply take a vacation during the NBA regular season?
The answer is yes, and he was a Laker. Cedric Ceballos actually took games off, supposedly calling in sick but instead going water skiing on Lake Havasu.
That’ll get you on the despised list.
No. 4 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
He never warmed to the press, and that ultimately hurt him in the eyes of fans. Kareem had an issue with the press and nearly avoided them or ducked them as much as possible.
Maybe it was being an introvert or simply having been in the spotlight too long, both growing up in New York or playing at UCLA, but Kareem rubbed people wrong.
And it affected how he was perceived, because in reality, Kareem did nothing but make the fans love him forever.
No. 3 Shaquille O'Neal
He was beloved from the moment he rolled into LA and forever in Laker fans' memories during his MVP season of 2000. He delivered three straight titles to LA but also plenty of drama. And, if we can have one person on this list despise another, it would be safe to say Kobe Bryant despised Shaq, at least back in those days.
But, Shaq is most despised for how he left LA. It wasn’t pretty.
Feuding with Kobe Bryant, demanding more money from Laker owner Jerry Buss, showing up to training camps out of shape—Shaq gave plenty of reasons not to like him as his time in LA wound down.
And to add insult to injury, Shaq went to Miami and won another NBA title with Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Diehard Laker fans could only gulp and picture Shaq and Kobe hoisting that trophy together, not Wade.
No. 2 Magic Johnson
Loved by every Laker fan to this day, he was hated by Boston fans. So much so they relished in Magic’s failures in the 1984 NBA Finals where the bulk of the blame for the favored Lakers losing to Boston were on the Magic Man’s shoulders.
But Magic makes this list as despised by Boston Celtic fans for his play in the 1985 NBA Finals, where the Lakers shook the ghosts of past Lakers teams and won their first championship versus Boston ever on the fabled Boston Garden floor.
Magic then added to the hate of Celtic fans everywhere when he beat Boston single-handedly with his “junior skyhook” to take a pivotal game of the 1987 NBA Finals.
No. 1 Kobe Bryant
There’s been no Laker player more polarizing that Kobe Bean Bryant. He’s been loved by true Laker fans and hated by the rest of the league.
He’s also been the villain inside the same team, the player responsible for the feud with Shaquille O’Neal and forcing him out of town.
And, Kobe's been hated by other players, mostly for Kobe's excellence and the simple fact that Kobe was usually on the winning side of things. Nothing ever displayed the hate of another player directed at Kobe than in 2006 when Raja Bell of the Phoenix Suns committed a clothesline foul on Kobe.
But most of the venom toward Kobe has been completely and entirely misguided and misdirected. And, most importunity, Kobe’s been misunderstood. His personality, his drive, his coldness and even his words (i.e. recent slur) all have added to his non-love.
Kobe’s the player fans hate but are still glad he’s a Laker.