The ‘90s didn’t get off to the best start for the Los Angeles Lakers but by the dawn of the new millennium, one of the premier franchises in all sports soared to new heights led by one of the greatest 1-2 pairings in NBA history. This is the ‘90s All-Decade team.
PG: Nick Van Exel – When Magic Johnson announced his retirement due to being HIV positive, he left impossibly large shoes to fill from a basketball perspective. Nick Van Exel isn’t anyone’s favorite Laker all time but as a guiding figure over his five seasons with the team, he never dipped below averaging 14ppg and averaged 8+ assists twice. More than that, his steady presence on and off the court helped hold the team together in even the most turbulent times.
SG: Kobe Bryant – Little did LA know that in 1996, they acquired one of the greatest basketball players of all time in waiting in 18-year-old Kobe Bryant. His early career struggles are well-known but by 1998, Kobe was averaging 20pts while shooting just under 50% from the field. From there, he continued to develop his game, averaging highs of 22.5pts, 6.3r, & 5a on the way to the first of his eventual five titles.
SF: Cedric Ceballos – In three seasons with the Lakers, Ceballos averaged career highs in minutes, points, three-point percentage, steals, rebounds, & blocks. The mid-‘90s wasn’t exactly a rich period for the team but Ceballos’ steady contributions helped keep the Lakers in the playoff mix.
PF: James Worthy – Even late in his career, Big Game James remained an impactful contributor to the Lakers. In the ‘90s, Worthy averaged career highs in points, steals, & assists before finally retiring at the end of the ’93-’94 season. Other forwards would come later in the decade, but they didn’t truly begin to step out of Worthy’s large shadow until the 2000s, solidifying Big Game James’ final appearance on the All-Decades team.
C: Shaquille O’Neal – When the Lakers traded for Shaq in 1996, he immediately made an impact as the most dominant player in the league. Shaq Diesel was 7’1” & 325lbs of unstoppable force and in his first four seasons with the team, he never averaged below 26ppg in a season. Alongside a young Kobe Bryant, the two quickly forged a 1-2 punch that most teams simply could never find an answer for. Since retiring, Shaq is better known for movie appearances, commercials, & other endeavors but watching his Lakers’ highlights is a strong reminder that underneath the joyful exterior, was an on-court killer that simply couldn’t be stopped.
Sixth Man: Robert Horry – Horry may not have become Big Shot Bob until the early 2000s but from the moment he arrived in LA via trade from Boston, Horry was a steady contributor even as AC Green’s backup. His rebounding & shooting off the bench helped build the Lakers’ depth back up after losing players throughout the decade.
The Lakers ended the decade as NBA champions, with the league having no idea how they would ever be able to stop Kobe & Shaq. Little did they know, they wouldn’t have to do much or wait long to see the tandem come to an end.
Next Up: the 2000s Lakers All-Decades Team!