Dwight Howard Leaving Is a Reflection On How Far the Lakers Have Fallen

I've been a Los Angeles Lakers fan from the first day I watched professional basketball on television as a kid. No, I was not supporting the most popular team at the time (the Chicago Bulls), or the best player (Michael Jordan), but I knew that the Los Angeles Lakers were a dignified and highly respected franchise.

I'd never thought I'd see them lose their way like they have in the last couple of years. We've seen signs of it coming, but I never thought it'd materialize like it has.

Dwight Howard's decision to leave for the Houston Rockets was the positive, diagnosis-confirming test result of what's plaguing the Lakers.   

It is a sad reality for the finest professional franchise basketball has ever seen. Including its early days in Minneapolis, the Laker franchise boasts 16 world championships, 32 conference titles, and have missed the playoffs only five times in franchise history. Its rivalry with the Boston Celtics is the most storied in NBA history. And, according to Forbes, the Lakers are the second-most valuable NBA franchise.

They've employed a collection of the most talented and biggest superstars of any era, in every era. George Mikan was the league's first "superstar." Jerry West is the NBA's logo and the only man to win the NBA Finals MVP trophy for a losing team. Elgin Baylor should have trademarked the term "hang-time", because his arrival in the league revolutionized the game from a bunch of slow guys who refused to jump or dunk into an opera of athletic marvel.

Wilt Chamberlain—still the greatest statistical and physical anomaly in basketball history, perhaps in all sports history—teamed with West and Baylor to win a title. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the longest, most enduring career of any NBA superstar and is still the all-time leader in points scored.

The electrifying Magic Johnson was perhaps the most versatile player ever. (In an epic Game 6 perfor...

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