Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson always had his team in contention. He instantly became a star after being drafted first overall in 1979, and the Lakers won the championship during his rookie year. LA made the playoffs in each of his 13 seasons, including winning five titles and making nine NBA Finals appearances. Johnson was a 6’9 point guard and one of the best passers in league history.
Magic only played for the Lakers and his life is intertwined with the franchise’s history. He spent 12 years leading the Showtime era before returning as a coach in 1994 and making a comeback in 1995. Magic was the Lakers’ president of basketball operations for two years and continues to be a trusted voice for governor Jeanie Buss.
Despite all the Lakers’ success during Johnson’s time as a player, they still had some forgettable and regrettable starters. The NBA did not keep data on who opened games until the 1981-82 season, so there are no numbers for Magic’s first two years. After that, the criteria was 20-plus starts to make this list.
Ranking worst Los Angeles Lakers starters of the Magic Johnson era
5. Mitch Kupchak
Younger fans only know Kupchak as an executive. He was the Lakers’ lead decision-maker for 17 years and has been running the Hornets’ front office since 2018. Before that, he was a player known for his hustle and grit. The 6’9 forward was the 13th overall pick by the Washington Bullets in 1976. He quickly became a fan favorite and helped the Bullets win a championship in 1978.
Magic Johnson wanted Kupchak to join the Lakers because he viewed the forward as their missing piece. Kupchak did not want to leave Washington, so it took a monster deal to make it happen. The 27-year-old fit right in with the Lakers and was on his way to having a career year before a devastating knee injury altered his playing days.
It was called one of the worst doctors had ever seen and forced him to miss nearly two years of action. Kupchak was never the same player. In his five years with the Lakers, he played just 173 games and never averaged more than 14.2 minutes per game. The 6’9 forward did help them win the title in 1985, but he was limited to a small bench role.
Who knows what could have been if Mitch Kupchak did not suffer that devastating knee injury? It certainly altered his career and put him on this list. He just could not stay healthy, which prevented him from living up to his contract.