It is difficult to argue that the answer here is anywhere but with the Los Angeles Lakers.
While most would correctly argue that the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss and the subsequent rise of power by the unproven Jim Buss presents a major question mark for the Lakers, the franchise still has the luster of the top free agent draw in the entire league.
Even as the sun sets on Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career and a new chapter awaits, it is the chapters of old that will help attract future generations to Hollywood. A rich tradition and a winning culture is something that is difficult to find in the NBA. While it is true that players could find a similar tradition in Boston, Danny Ainge does not have the best reputation amongst the players who have suited up for him over the years. He does not have the longevity, track record of success or overall respect within the industry that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has and that in and of itself is extremely important.
The market size, beautiful weather, passionate fan base, competent front office and winning tradition make the Lakers unlike any of the NBA’s other markets. If there is one major downside to playing professionally in Los Angeles, it would be the fact that millionaires in California pay more state income taxes than those in many other, including Florida and Texas.
Additionally, with the new generation of NBA superstars, we have seen a propensity to leave a franchise in search of championship glory with a new one. LeBron James left Cleveland, Chris Paul left New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony left Denver, Dwight Howard left Orlando… And they all did so in search of championships that have mostly eluded them.
What that says is that having a superstar that is capable of leading a team to a championship, in this era, makes a particular franchise a more prominent destination. For an example, look no further than Caron Butler.
After being waived by the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler was thought to have been headed to the Miami HEAT and re-join the franchise that drafted him in 2002. Instead, he opted to sign in Oklahoma City, mainly because the thought was that minutes would be easier to come by as a member of the Thunder, but the fact of the matter is that without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook there, there is zero chance Butler would have turned down an opportunity to return to a franchise that he loved to relocate to the midwest.
Ergo, if LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard remain in Portland, if Dwight Howard and James Harden stay in Houston and if Carmelo Anthony opts to re-sign as a member of the New York Knicks, each of those destinations would be amongst the more coveted in the league.
But still, at the end of the day, their 16 NBA Championships and reputation of being a first class organization gives the Lakers a tremendous advantage as it relates to presenting a destination that an NBA player would love to call home.
Even as Bryant begins to unlace his sneakers in preparation for hanging them up for good, rumors abound that the like of Kevin Love and prospect Dante Exum have their eyes set on the Lakers. This is nothing new and will continue to be the case.
After spending the past few decades proudly donning purple and gold, the Lakers have been the gold standard of a prolonged winning tradition. Even with Dr. Buss’ passing, the luster associated with the franchise lives on. It would take years of misfortune and incompetence for that to change, and while it is possible, I am willing to bet that the Lakers land on their feet and find themselves competing for championships again in the very near future.
If I am a young NBA stud looking to make my mark with a franchise that has competent manager, a winning tradition and beautiful weather, if the Lakers came knocking, I would not only listen… I would probably cancel my other calls.
– Moke Hamilton