The Los Angeles Lakers found a way to get Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft, and the rest was history. He slipped to 13th overall, and LA was happy to trade Vlade Divac for the teenager. Jerry West saw greatness in Kobe, and the Black Mamba’s desire, drive, and work ethic made that a reality.
Bryant spent two decades playing for the Lakers where they won five championships. Fans remember Kobe dominating with Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Gasol, but there were plenty of forgotten standout teammates during his run. Bryant is an all-time great and will forever be one of the most iconic Lakers.
The franchise did not always give him the best tools to work with. Kobe has two numbers retired in the Lakers rafters, but there were times when it looked like he was doing things on his own. Let us take a look back at the most regrettable starters over Bryant’s two decades as a Laker with a minimum of 20 starts to exclude players that jumped in for a one-game absence.
Ranking worst Los Angeles Lakers starters of the Kobe Bryant era
24. Luke Walton
Walton was drafted in the second round by the Lakers in 2003 and spent eight and a half seasons with the franchise. He is one of Kobe’s longest-tenured teammates but was only a full-time starter for one year. Walton’s minutes slowly ticked up in his first three seasons before getting a shot to start in the 2006-07 campaign.
It was unquestionably the best year of his career. The 6’8 forward averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.0 steal in 33.0 minutes per game. He shot 47.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent on his 3-point tries. Walton’s minutes decreased in the playoffs, which was the beginning of the end.
He opened the next season as the starter but lasted just four games before being replaced by Lamar Odom. Walton did make 31 starts in 2008 and 34 in 2009, but his minutes decreased each year. The 6’8 forward was a solid backup but was in over his head as a starter.
The Los Angeles Lakers had way worse starters during the Kobe Bryant era, but Luke Walton was worth mentioning for the one year the franchise tried the experiment.