Growing up watching Kobe during my college days, he was the closest thing to Michael Jordan. I never expected for him to be gone so soon.
1. Kwame Brown
Kwame is famous for being a draft bust who never lived up to expectations. While Kwame was a high school phenom, he never had the offensive polish and the drive to succeed at the NBA level.
Expectations were high when Kwame was drafted first overall by Michael Jordan. Sadly, he only disappointed. While Kwame lasted more than a decade in the league and was good enough to be in an NBA rotation, he never became the star Jordan envisioned him to be.
Kwame had small hands and this gave him difficulty in catching the ball down low. He also did not have a high basketball IQ.
In his two and a half seasons in a Lakers uniform, Kwame averaged half a dozen points and half a dozen rebounds.
To further add to Kwame's infamy, Stephen A. Smith, an ESPN analyst, would frequently berate the former top selection.
2. Lamar Odom
The former Mr. Khloe Kardashian is best known for his marriage to Kim's younger sister and his time with the Lakers.
The versatile swingman could play both guard and forward positions as he had shooting, playmaking and dribbling skills. He served as a valuable sixth man to carry the offense while Kobe and the rest of the starters took a breather.
Lamar was someone who could easily score 15 points and grab 10 rebounds on any given night.
Unfortunately, when Lamar was traded to the Mavericks, his life started to spiral out of control. He and Khloe separated and he nearly died of a drug overdose.
The infamous Kardashian curse ruined yet another NBA player's career.
3. Rick Fox
Rick Fox is best known as a key role player during the Shaq and Kobe era and as a former husband of actress Vanessa Williams.
He also appeared in movies such as Blue Chips, Eddie, He Got Game and Resurrection.
Rick was in no way a superstar, but he did the little things such as defend and sink clutch shots.
If you would notice Rick's game, he was more like a jack of all trades type of player as he contributed a little in each department without necessarily excelling in one department.
4. Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant were both part of the famous 1996 NBA Draft. Kobe was picked 13th while Fish was picked 24th. This led to a deeply rooted friendship between the two.
Fisher was a steady point guard for the Lakers during his time there. He provided excellent playmaking as well as gritty defense. He was known for taking charges. He was also known for sinking pressure packed baskets.
Fish is best known for his miraculous 0.4 shot during Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals. His miracle basket broke a 2-2 deadlock for the series between the Spurs and Lakers. This permanently shifted the series in the Lakers' favor and they bounced the Spurs in six games.
Fisher was well respected by his peers. He was even the President of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) in 2006.
Fisher is also known for his altercation with Matt Barnes as Fisher was seeing his ex-wife Gloria Govan. The two have since settled their beef and Barnes even congratulated Fisher on his engagement with Govan.
5. Robert Horry
No, this guy is not a taller clone of actor Will Smith. He is seven-time champion Robert Horry.
Robert's numbers may seem pedestrian during the regular season, but he really shined during the playoffs. He is not called "Big Shot Bob" for no reason.
Robert was very smart in his career. After he won two championships with the Rockets, he was able to ride on the championship runs of the Lakers and Spurs.
Horry was able to complete many clutch performances in his career. Among those were hitting a jumper with 6.5 seconds left to lift the Rockets over the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in 1995, a buzzer beating three-pointer in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Kings and another dagger in Game 5 of the 2005 Finals where Robert got a pass from Manu Ginobili with 5.9 seconds left to sink the Pistons 96–95.
6. Ron Artest (Metta World Peace)
While Ron Artest is a tremendous defensive player, he is remembered more for the less savory moments of his.career, such as the Malice in the Palace and pantsing Paul Pierce.
Ron was blamed for ruining Reggie Miller's best chance at an NBA championship. He was also one of the least liked among the league officials because of his attitude. He was not popular among players either because of his brawler-like demeanor and his physical defense.
Fans initially did not like the Lakers acquiring Ron as Trevor Ariza's replacement as he had a negative reputation.
Ron redeemed himself in the biggest stage of them all as he came up big in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals when his staunch defense on Paul Pierce and clutch three-pointer helped retain the Lakers' championship.
7. Pau Gasol
Pau is perhaps the greatest player in Spain's history. He not only led Spain to victories in international competitions, but he also helped Kobe win two rings without Shaq.
Pau was a double-double machine who could easily score 20 points and 10 rebounds on a nightly basis. While Shaq played bully ball, Pau was more of a finesse player who took advantage of his height and soft shooting touch to score over the competition.
The critics were harsh on Pau as he seldom got credit for the Lakers' wins and often got criticism for the Lakers' losses.
Mike D' Antoni entering the organization as coach was the beginning of the end for Pau's days as a Laker. He was forced to be a spot up shooter and was not allowed to play to his strengths.
8. Shaquille O'Neil
Shaq was dominant the moment he set foot in an NBA arena. His coast-to-coast fast breaks and backboard-shattering dunks helped make him a household name. He even helped lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in just his fourth season.
However, the bright lights of L.A. came calling and Shaq decided to go to the Lakers in free agency. He formed an exciting young nucleus with Kobe Bryant, Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. The four were even nominated to the same All-Star squad.
Jones and Van Exel were traded and the Lakers got a new coach in Phil Jackson. Kobe and Shaq soon became the new incarnation of Magic and Kareem. Showtime was back in Los Angeles.
Shaq was a force of nature. He averaged nearly 30 points and nearly a dozen boards a night.
Together, Shaq and Kobe won three rings and made four Finals appearances. They had conflict with each other as they both wanted to be "the man."
In the end, Shaq was shipped to Miami where he won a ring with Dwyane Wade. Kobe, on the other hand, won two more rings with Pau Gasol.
Shaq and Kobe made up in the years to follow and Shaq was very vocal on how Kobe was like a little brother to him upon his passing.
If Shaq and Kobe stuck together longer, they would have maybe won several more championships. But, alas, we will never know.
© 2020 Jan Michael Ong