Top 5 Free Agent Acquisitions in Los Angeles Lakers History

Who Are The Greatest Free Agents In The Los Angeles Lakers Illustrious History?

A Dream Lakers Fans Never Lived
Getty Images Sport- Andrew D. Bernstein

For a team so focused on free agency these days, the Los Angeles Lakers have never had to rely too heavily on their recruitment pitch. The team's history is rich with Hall of Famers, All-Stars and champions. Most of these players have been acquired via trades and the NBA Draft. Despite recent struggles, the Lakers have made splashes in free agency before, allowing us to take a look back at their five greatest free-agent acquisitions in history.

5. Gary Payton & Karl Malone: Hall of Famers, Played With Lakers From 2003-2004 (1 NBA Finals Appearance)

Gary Payton & Karl Malone Join Lakers in 2003
Getty Images Sport- Stephen Dunn

5. Gary Payton & Karl Malone: Hall of Famers, Played With Lakers From 2003-2004 (1 NBA Finals Appearance)

Gary Payton & Karl Malone Join Lakers in 2003
Getty Images Sport- Stephen Dunn

In 2003, the Lakers brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone to provide significant help to its star duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Four, as they were commonly known, made it all the way to the Finals, despite internal and external turmoil surrounding the team every step of the way. After losing in the Finals, Malone, Payton and O’Neal all left the team, and this Hall-of-Fame team was nothing more than a one-and-done story.

4. Ron Artest: Played With Lakers From 2009-2013 (1 NBA Championship)

2010 NBA Finals Game 7:  Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Lisa Blumenfeld

4. Ron Artest: Played With Lakers From 2009-2013 (1 NBA Championship)

2010 NBA Finals Game 7:  Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Lisa Blumenfeld

In the 2009 offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were coming off a championship victory. They made a risky move by signing Ron Artest, who just two months earlier, physically challenged the Lakers in a contested playoff series with the Houston Rockets. Artest’s signing proved to be a genius move by General Manager Mitch Kupchack, as Artest delivered his best game as a Laker in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

3. Derek Fisher: Played With Lakers From 1996-2004, 2007-2012 (5 NBA Championships With Lakers)

2008 NBA Finals Game 5: Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Stephen Dunn

3. Derek Fisher: Played With Lakers From 1996-2004, 2007-2012 (5 NBA Championships With Lakers)

2008 NBA Finals Game 5: Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Stephen Dunn

Derek Fisher's return to the Lakers during the 2007 offseason was the only bright spot for the organization that summer. His return signaled the end of Smush Parker’s Lakers' run, and brought back a reliable, championship-proven point guard who provided leadership and the ability to command Kobe Bryant’s respect. Fisher’s return eased tension between Bryant and the Lakers, and the team started hot out of the gate, on their way to the 2008 Finals.

2. Jamaal Wilkes: 2012 Hall Of Famer, #52 Jersey Retired With Lakers, Played With Team From 1977-1985 (3 NBA Championships with Lakers)

Jamaal Wilkes Jersey Retirement in 2012
Getty Images Sport- Harry How

2. Jamaal Wilkes: 2012 Hall Of Famer, #52 Jersey Retired With Lakers, Played With Team From 1977-1985 (3 NBA Championships with Lakers)

Jamaal Wilkes Jersey Retirement in 2012
Getty Images Sport- Harry How

A Hall of Famer, NCAA Champion with UCLA, and four-time NBA Champion, Jamaal Wilkes carved out one of the best careers in league history. Wilkes, won three titles with the Lakers, and had his number recently retired with the team in 2012. His contributions always flew under the radar, most notably Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, when Wilkes complemented Magic Johnson’s career game with 38 points of his own to help the Lakers win the championship.

1. Shaquille O'Neal: #34 Retired With Lakers, Played With Team From 1996-2004 (3 NBA Championships, 3 Finals MVPs)

2000 NBA Finals Game 1: Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Andrew D. Bernstein

1. Shaquille O'Neal: #34 Retired With Lakers, Played With Team From 1996-2004 (3 NBA Championships, 3 Finals MVPs)

2000 NBA Finals Game 1: Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images Sport- Andrew D. Bernstein

Like there was any chance it could have been anyone else?

When the Lakers signed Shaq in 1996, it was the biggest free-agent move in NBA history at that time (seven years, 1 million). The Lakers projected Shaq to be the player to take the organization back to prominence, and fortunately for them, they couldn't have been more accurate in their forecast. The team won three consecutive championships with Shaq leading the way from 2000-2002.

Zach Fetaru is a Los Angeles Lakers blog writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @fanforlife1988 ”like him” on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

 

 

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