The NBA’s most hectic and busy day is only days away, as 2012 free-agency is ready to get underway. Starting July 1, free agents will get the chance to remain with their current teams or decide to move on and join another franchise. This is also the time for front offices to speak with candidates and try to lure in new players.
The Los Angeles Lakers have done a great job acquiring players through the draft and trades, but they have had some amazing free-agency signings in years prior. The Lakers have the resources to lure in top names and they have made great moves in their history.
Here is our version of the Top 10 Los Angeles Lakers free-agent signings since 1980.
10: Steve Blake
Steve Blake signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2010 and he was hoping to help the team win its third consecutive title. Blake was known for his three-point shooting and he was expected to improve the team from behind the arc. In fact, Blake was a major player in the Lakers’ season opener and he hit a big shot in the final minute.
Although Blake has not been able to win a championship with the Lakers, he has been a nice addition. Blake played a nice role in the 2012 post-season and he made a plethora of big shots.
9: Magic Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s prime with the Lakers was during the mid-1980s, but he made a return to the team in 1996. Johnson signed with the Lakers during January of 1996 and played 32 games for the team. Johnson brought five titles to the Lakers and although he was no longer the player he once was, the franchise made the right choice by bringing him back.
Johnson needed basketball in his life and the Lakers gave him another chance to do that. He did not produce much for the team, but bringing one of the greatest Lakers back to do the team was a nice gesture by management.
8: Kurt Rambis
Kurt Rambis signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 after a 10-day contract with the Knicks. The Rambis signing did not create a lot of buzz or headlines, but he was a major piece to the four of the Lakers’ championship runs.
Rambis was never a player to fill up the box score, instead, he was the hustle man. The coach could always rely on Rambis to grab loose balls and was always on the floor extending plays. Rambis may not ever make it to the Hall of Fame, but the Lakers would not have won those four titles without him.
7: Ron Artest
The artist now known as Metta World Peace signed with the Lakers in the summer of 2009, at the time under the name of Ron Artest. The Lakers were fresh of winning a title and they lost young forward Trevor Ariza that same summer. Artest had a troubled past before joining the Lakers and many expected him to be a downgrade from Ariza.
However, Artest was surprisingly well behaved and he helped the Lakers win another championship that same season. Artest played a vital role in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics and proved his value to the team.
In his time with the Lakers, Artest has averaged 8.9 points and 3.6 rebounds.
6: Brian Shaw
Brian Shaw joined the Lakers in October of 1999 and went on to win three consecutive titles with the team. Just like Rambis, Shaw was never one to put up impressive stats. Instead, he was a reliable player on the perimeter and was always ready to knock down three-point shots.
Shaquille O’Neal always talks about role players and their importance to the team, constantly mentioning the contributions of Shaw. In this time with the Lakers, Shaw averaged four points per game, but for some reason, he hit big shots when they were needed
5: Rick Fox
The Lakers signed Rick Fox in 1997 after spending several seasons with the Boston Celtics. Fox was known for his three-point shooting and tough play, something that intrigued the Lakers.
Fox played alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and eventually won three titles with the team. Championship teams need role players that can produce in important games, and Fox always did that. Kobe and Shaq could always rely on Fox to come up big and that three-peat may not have happened if Fox was never on the court.
4: Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher was a member of that Lakers dynasty that won three consecutive titles, but he eventually left the team. Fisher spent time with the Warriors and Jazz, but he did come back to the team in 2007.
Fisher wanted to be close to his daughter who was battling health issues and the Lakers found it right to bring back their point guard. In his second stint with the Lakers, Fisher was the leader and the voice in the locker-room. The players looked up to their leader and he guided them to two more titles.
Fisher was traded in the 2011-12 season, but he will forever be in the hearts of Lakers fans.
3: Gary Payton
Gary Payton had an amazing career with the Seattle SuperSonics, and no doubt earned a spot in the Hall of Fame. However, he did not win a title in Seattle and wanted to end his tenure in the NBA on top. The Lakers were still title contenders and they wanted to help Payton win that ring.
In the summer of 2003, Payton signed with the Lakers and aimed to win his first ring. Although on paper the Lakers were no doubt the most talented team in the NBA, they could not win their fourth consecutive title.
The Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games, leaving Payton empty-handed again. Payton spent one season with the Lakers and averaged 14 points and five assists.
2: Karl Malone
In the summer of 2003, the Lakers also signed the great Karl Malone. Malone was a dynamic player with the Utah Jazz, but just like Payton, he did not win a ring.
Malone was considered one of the greatest players in the NBA history and he also wanted to get that missing piece from his resume. The Lakers pulled off two great free-agency signings and the pressure to win the title was immense. Their starting five was very well put together, but they could not find a way to beat the Pistons.
Malone made it to yet another NBA Finals, but he fell short again. Unlike Payton, who eventually won a title with the Heat in 2006, Malone ended his career never winning the main prize.
1: Shaquille O’Neal
By far, the greatest free-agency signing in Laker’s history was when they signed Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 1996. O’Neal emerged as one of the best players while in Orlando and the dominant center decided to sign with a team across the country. The Lakers immediately became a better squad and he eventually joined forces with Kobe Bryant.
Kobe and Shaq formed one of the greatest duos in NBA history and those two won the title in 2000, 2001, and 2002. O’Neal won NBA Finals MVP in all of those runs and made a case as the most dominant center in league history. Although the Bryant-O’Neal break up was not pretty, Lakers fans will forever be grateful for what O’Neal did for the team.
In his tenure with the Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal averaged 27.0 points and 11.8 rebounds.