For most of the summer, I tried my best to ignore all of the rumors and opinions surrounding the unhappy Superman in Orlando. And no, I’m not talking about the retired NBA great center Shaquille O’neal who still lives in his Superman-like mansion Orlando, Florida, I’m talking about the Magic’s now-former center, Dwight Howard. Just like O’neal during the summer of 1996, Howard decided to give up wearing blue and black, and went with colors that champions wear. Purple and gold. The Lakers franchise have a rich history of gold you might say with their 16 NBA championships, the second most in league history behind the Celtics who currently are nothing like the Lakers today. And hey, that’s coming from a true Celtics fan. Looking deeper into the history of the Lakers franchise we can see something else that Dwight Howard has to try to accomplish. Something bigger. Not bigger than a championship of course, but something bigger. In all of the Lakers’ NBA championships since 1949, just when the NBA was still 3 years old, the Lakers have always had a dominant big man. And now, they have another one.
Before the franchise made it’s way to Hollywood in the hot summer of 1960, the Lakers were sporting the colors blue and gold as they played for the the city of Minneapolis, currently the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, the original home of the Lakers, and the place where center George Mikan took his talents. We can safely say that the 6 foot 10 Mikan, who wore goggles (more like eye glasses) much like a future Laker big man, was the first NBA superstar. Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to 5 NBA championships in 6 years. After 10 years of playing professional basketball, Big George, would retire and would witness a movement that not only shifted the franchise, but of the NBA itself. The franchise would end up being the first team in NBA history to go out west. Entering the bright lights of Hollywood the franchise would officially be called the Los Angeles Lakers, keeping the team name that already had 5 championships that wouldn’t have been achieved without a dominant big man.
In the late 1950’s up to 1968 the Lakers had NBA superstars in Elgin Baylor and Jerry West and were consistently the best in their conference. However, the Lakers consistently failed in the NBA Finals due to their lack of size and depth as they fell to the NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell and the Celtics. The Celtics being a better team wasn’t the only reason as to why the Lakers would consistently fall, it was simply because they were missing something. Something big. During the summer of 1968, the Lakers would be able to acquire the rights to the best offensive weapon in the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain. And what do you know, he’s a center just like Mikan. Chamberlain, however, would not quickly turn high expectations into championships as the Lakers would lose in the NBA Finals in Chamberlain’s first two years with the franchise. The Big Dipper has already won an NBA championship with his former NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and was hungry to help live up to his expectations. Alongside the logo Jerry West during the 1971-1972 NBA regular season, Chamberlain would lead the Lakers to not only an NBA record 33-wins in a row in the regular season, but also a hard-earned NBA championship. A year later, Chamberlain would retire from the NBA after the Lakers would fall once again in the NBA Finals to the New York Knicks for the second time in 4 years leaving the franchise a big hole.
As the 1970’s came to a close, Hollywood was once again thriving for a championship. The Lakers have already acquired the rights to the best big man in the NBA at the time in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. However, a big man may be a big key to win championship if your with the Lakers, but you still need other players. The franchise would select 6 foot 9 Earvin “Magic” Johnson out of Michigan State University and would quickly find the man that can help Kareem win his second NBA championship. After winning an NBA championship up north in Milwaukee alongside the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Kareem, then known as Lew Alcindor, was hoping to win another one with Magic. However, with the Lakers, he wasn’t just going to win another ONE. Jabbar ended up winning 5 NBA championships including an NBA Finals MVP award in 1985. We can safely say that the Lakers was Magic’s team due to the wonders of Showtime, but Kareem was still a big factor in the Lakers’ title run in the 1980’s. According to Magic Johnson, Showtime wasn’t really just all about team basketball and making the no-look passes or the did-you-see-what-he-did pass, but Showtime was that beautiful skyhook that Kareem would consistently do, and consistently do very well I must add. Unlike Mikan and Chamberlain, who dominated the paint using their size and strength, Kareem just slagged off a little bit and with the ball in his right or left hand, Kareem would just flick his arm forming a half circle and terrorize his defenders. By basically doing that in his entire NBA career, Kareem would play 20 years in the NBA and would go on to score 38,387 points in his illustrious career.
When you think about it, Magic is actually a center. Now I’m not going to go on and say that they should add him to the all time great Laker centers, but I’m just saying that Magic is somewhat of a big man. He isn’t officially an NBA center but he has the length to be one and he played as a center and won an NBA championship. He stands 6 foot 9, while George Mikan stood just 1 inch taller than that. Furthermore, do you guys remember Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals? No? Then click this link -> Earvin “Magic” Johnson Starts at Center and then Forward and Guard in 1980 NBA Finals HD and listen to the commentator clearly state that Magic played center. But anyways, moving on…
As the 1990’s came around the corner, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the darkest era of their franchise. The 90’s would be the only decade that the Lakers wouldn’t win an NBA championship and with Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls dominating the NBA, there was no chance at all that the Lakers could have success. As the Bulls were about to begin their quest for their second three peat with Jordan playing basketball once again for a full season in 1996, NBA free agent Shaquille O’neal was ready to make a bold move from the relaxing city of Orlando, to the glitz and glamor of the city of Los Angeles. Like Kareem, Shaq has already established himself as one the best centers in the NBA at the time and was even awarded as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history at 24 years old. Much like Kareem, Shaq would need someone to help him win a championship and that man would come in the name of Kobe Bryant. In 2000, Shaq was voted as the Most Valuable Player in the NBA and from then on as a Laker, Shaq simply became the most dominant player in the NBA. “Shaq’s the man, the most dominant player in the NBA,” according to teammate Bryant after winning one of three NBA championships. Alongside Kobe, Shaq would lead the Lakers to a three peat from 2000 to 2002 which cemented his place in Laker lure. He became one of the guys. One of the best Laker big men in history joining Mikan, Chamberlain, and Jabbar. However, unlike the previous great Laker centers, Shaq wouldn’t retire in the purple and gold and would leave Los Angeles in 2004 due to conflicts with Kobe and the franchise.
Even though with Shaq gone, the Lakers still had guard Kobe Bryant who would eventually become the face of the franchise. The mid 2000’s wouldn’t be that pretty for the franchise even though they would consistently make the NBA playoffs, a championship was still far. After losing to the Celtics once again in the 2008 NBA Finals the Lakers, led by Bryant’s will to win his first NBA championship without O’neal, the Lakers would reel of back-to-back championships including an NBA Finals win over the Celtics in 2010. The Lakers won those championships with two seven footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but the thought of adding either of them to the list of great Laker big men was never in the minds of critics, fans, and of course the Lakers franchise themselves. Andrew Bynum last season was beginning to make us reevaluate whether or not he should have a nomination at the least on being one of the guys, but in reality, even I must say despite me praising Bynum countless times for being the best center in the NBA, he just didn’t have the IT factor. He didn’t have that IT factor that the other proclaimed best center in the NBA had. Even though I still believe Bynum is a better center than Howard, I feel as though that Howard is the better center to be placed into the BIG list of great Laker centers and also for the Lakers. With the has-been point guard Steve Nash and Bryant entering his final years as an NBA player, the Lakers can’t risk having an injury-prone big man like Bynum anymore and so Dwight is obviously the best option for them.
With Dwight’s optimistic personality and Hollywood’s paparazzi-filled streets, Los Angeles seems to be the perfect city for him. It’s no Disney World, but hey Disneyland is good enough right? With the addition of Dwight Howard and having already acquired former 2-time league MVP in Steve Nash earlier this off-season from the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers in my opinion are now the best team in the Western Conference. By managing to keep big man Pau Gasol and also acquiring forward Antawn Jamison, the Lakers are still one of the tallest teams in the NBA. For their starting five, they have Bryant to do the scoring, Gasol to do the rebounding, Nash to do the assisting, Dwight to do the blocking, and lastly Metta World Peace to do the technical fouls. I’m kidding of course … But seriously their starting five is honestly the best in the NBA, but is their team the best though? I don’t know.
The thought of proclaiming that they’re the best in the NBA is still up in the air as I cannot firmly say that they are better than the defending champion Miami Heat.The Heat have also done their great work in the off-season despite coming off an NBA championship. Miami acquired sharpshooters in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis who will definitely add more firepower to the already “unstoppable” Heat offense led by league MVP LeBron James and the Miami’s Big 3. Boy oh boy, could we finally have a Kobe vs LeBron battle in the NBA Finals? All I can say now is that Mike Brown (Lakers) and Erik Spoelstra (Heat), two of the most highly criticized coaches in the NBA, are two very lucky NBA coaches. Hopefully for them, Hall of Fame coaches Phil Jackson (Lakers) and Pat Riley (Heat) don’t decide on taking over the sidelines once again. Lakers vs Heat? NBA Finals?
Yeah, that would be something cool if it would be real, but for now I’m just dreaming much like a kid in Disneyland.Dwight Howard as well might be dreaming the same thing, but there are still some BIG shoes Dwight must fill in. When Shaq became a Laker he understood that he had some big shoes to fill with Jabbar, Chamberlain, and Mikan setting the bar for him before. With Shaq leaving his mark on the franchise, and also with one of the best centers in the NBA today in Andrew Bynum being traded for him … Dwight definitely has a pretty huge shoe to fill. Hope this decision was the right decision Dwight …
THEONBA will be having a Small Talk sometime soon about how the Lakers match-up in the Western Conference and also about how the other 3 teams involved in this deal came out.