LA Lakers History: Early To Mid-1990s a Forgotten Time

Mike B.Correspondent IJanuary 14, 2010

The Los Angeles Lakers have produced two dynasties over the past 30 years—one in the 1980s led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and another in the early 2000s that featured Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.  

Every NBA fan knows a little something about Laker basketball of those two decades, but what about the years between Magic's retirement in Nov. of '91 and the arrival of Shaq and Kobe in the summer of '96?  

Most people probably don't remember those days since the team didn't win any championships or even reach the NBA Finals.

However, the Lakers were still worth watching during that time.

Magic, who had retired from the game after contracting HIV, returned to the team on three different occasions.

The All-Star point guard played in a few preseason games in 1992, but decided to remain retired before the regular season began. 

Later, he coached the team for the final 16 games of the 1993-94 season replacing Randy Pfund.

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And finally, he made an official comeback in 1995-96 appearing in 32 games as a "point forward" off the bench.   

What an amazing performance Magic put on in his first game back. He came close to a triple-double with 19 points points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds. Not bad for a guy who hadn't stepped onto the court for four-and-a-half years.    

The '90s brought some sad moments for Lakers fans as well.

Not only did Magic retire (twice), other key players from the '80s "Showtime" era made their exits from the team also. Future Hall-of-Famer James Worthy retired and both Byron Scott and A.C. Green left via free agency.

The Lakers decided to get younger and rebuild through the draft. Leading the youth movement were Nick "The Quick" Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Anthony Peeler, George Lynch, Anthony "Pig" Miller, and Antonio Harvey.

Both Van Exel and Jones became All-Stars later in their careers, while those other youngsters served as solid role players.  

After Magic's first retirement, many people thought the Lakers would drop off the face of the earth and struggle like the Boston Celtics did following the losses of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.

However, that wasn't the case as the Lakers continued to reach the postseason year in and year out with the exception of the 1993-94 season.   

So why didn't the team crumble to pieces without Magic? Simply because general manager Jerry West made a lot of clever moves.

Other than drafting talented guys like Van Exel and Jones, West wisely kept reliable big men Vlade Divac and Elden Campbell around.

Trading for Sedale Threatt was also a good move. The longtime backup point guard filled in nicely for Magic and actually led the team in scoring, assists, and steals in 1992-93.     

And you can't forget about the acquisition of Cedric Ceballos. The former slam dunk champ averaged 21 points per game in back-to-back seasons and had the team's first 50-point game in over 20 years.      

Without Ceballos, the Lakers might not have upset the highly-favored Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the '95 playoffs.

Yep, those were some great times.

Too bad many fans don't remember them.

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