17 People who turned their backs on the Los Angeles Lakers

These former Lakers did not leave on the best terms.

Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard
Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard / Harry How/GettyImages
16 of 17

2. Dwight Howard

The Lakers took a massive swing in 2012 when they traded for Howard. Their front office dreamed of it being Kobe and Shaq 2.0. Howard was a dominant big man in his prime that was ready to leave Orlando. The Magic had made the playoffs six straight years, including reaching the NBA Finals in 2009, but two straight first-round exits had Superman hungry to chase a championship.

The Lakers thought they would have Howard as their next building block, but he lasted just one season in LA. He averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.4 blocks per game, despite his struggles to mesh with Kobe. Howard had been first-team All-Defense four straight years before joining the Lakers but did not even make the second team.

The franchise had three head coaches, and Bryant tore his Achilles down the stretch as he attempted to will the Lakers to the playoffs. They were bounced in the first round, and Howard bolted for the Rockets in free agency. Instead of being the franchise’s next star, he decided to chase a championship with James Harden in Houston.

Dwight Howard returned to the Lakers in 2019 and finally won his first ring. He turned his back on the franchise, but they were willing to bring him back years later. It was a redemption story for both sides. Still, there will always be the what-if of him staying in LA in 2013.