LA Lakers: 10 Most Underrated Players in Franchise History
This article will look at the 10 most underrated players in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Most of the players I have selected should come as no surprise, seeing as they fit the stereotype of a player a fan would consider to be underrated.
But I have also chosen some of the upper-tier players who have played for the Lakers, who for certain reasons, I believe can be considered underrated, despite their superstar credentials.
I have tried to sprinkle players from all generations and respective dynasties throughout the slideshow.
Photo courtesy of basketball-kicks.com
10. Rudy LaRusso
Rudy LaRusso was the third banana to Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in the 1960s.
As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, LaRusso helped the team make four NBA Finals appearances and made three All-Star teams.
Between 1960-1967, LaRusso averaged 14 points a contest for the Lakers.
Photo courtesy of projects.latimes.com
9. Eddie Jones
Before Eddie Jones was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Glen Rice during the 1998-99 season, he was one of the team’s most explosive offensive threats.
Jones spent parts of five seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 15 points a game, in addition to being named to the All-Star Team in 1997 and 1998.
Considering the Lakers won the championship with Rice as their starting small forward the following season, the team gets a pass for making what was probably a bad trade.
Jones was one of the team’s best, young players, while Rice was past his prime and ended up underachieving with the Lakers.
8. Rick Fox
Derek Fisher and Robert Horry are considered to be the two best role players from the Los Angeles Lakers’ three championship teams from the early 2000s.
But Rick Fox’s efforts often go unnoticed. Not only did his outside shooting help stretch opposing defenses, but his efforts on the defensive end were his real claim to fame.
At 6’7’’, 230 pounds, Fox was a “big” small forward, who often shutdown opposing teams’ perimeter threats.
I personally remember Fox giving the likes of Scottie Pippen and Peja Stojakovic fits, en route to the team winning three consecutive championships.
7. Bob McAdoo
By the time Bob McAdoo joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 1980s, his best years on the basketball court were far behind him.
But that’s not to say McAdoo was unproductive. In his four seasons with the Lakers, the Hall of Famer won two championships and averaged over 12 points and four rebounds a game.
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6. Norm Nixon
Norm Nixon spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning two championships in 1980 and 1982.
In his six seasons with the Lakers, Nixon averaged 16 points a contest and never averaged less than six assists a season.
In addition, Nixon was the team’s leading scorer during the 1982 postseason, in which the Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers for the NBA championship.
5. Vlade Divac
The one thing Vlade Divac will be remembered for by Los Angeles Lakers fans is being the player that was traded for Kobe Bryant.
But many people forget Vlade was an above-average center for the majority of his seven-year stint with the Lakers. Divac averaged 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists, including being named to the 1990 All-Rookie Team.
Divac is one of six players in NBA history to have recorded 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots.
4. A.C. Green
A.C. Green has the honor of saying he won a championship with both the “Showtime” dynasty of the 1980s and the Kobe-Shaq dynasty of the 2000s.
Green was one of those role players who tended to do all of the little things that often go unnoticed.
Green spent nine of his 16 NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. In those nine seasons, Green missed only three games, in addition to be named to the All-Star Team in 1990.
3. Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper was the designated “defensive stopper” for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s, helping the team win five championships.
Cooper was usually designated with trying to stop the opposing team’s best shooter, which included Larry Bird.
Cooper was named the 1987 Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to eight career All-Defensive Teams (five first team, three second team).
2. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain spent the last five years of his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Given his short tenure with the team and the fact Chamberlain was past the prime of his career when he came to Los Angeles, many basketball fans have a hard time including Chamberlain as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.
That’s exactly why Chamberlain can be considered an underrated Laker.
Sure, Chamberlain wasn’t nearly as dominate as he was when he played in Philadelphia, but he contributed plenty while wearing purple and gold.
For example, does anyone think the 1971-72 Lakers would have won 33 games in a row, won a total of 69 games (second best all-time) or won their first championship since moving to Los Angeles without Chamberlain?
Maybe, but I doubt it.
Remember, Jerry West was considered a “lovable loser” until Wilt helped lead the team to the 1972 championship. Chamberlain was named Finals MVP that season, averaging 14 points, 21 rebounds and three assists in 15 playoff games.
1. Elgin Baylor
I know what you’re all thinking. How could a player who is in the Hall of Fame, averaged 27 points over the course of his career, made 11 All-Star Teams, 10 All-NBA First Teams and won a Rookie of the Year winner be considered underrated?
But Elgin Baylor is more of a tragic figure than people realize.
Baylor made seven NBA Finals appearances with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the team came up short each time.
Even more tragic, he was forced to retire nine games into the 1971-72 season, right before the team went on a still-record, 33-game win streak and won their first championship since moving to Los Angeles.
Baylor was also considered by many to be the Robin to Jerry West’s Batman during the duo’s dominating years in the 60s and 70s
Add all this up, and it’s easy to see why Baylor often gets lost in the shuffle amidst the team’s all-time greats.
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