While the hysteria surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers over the last few months concerned fans following president of basketball operations Magic Johnson‘s resignation, history tells us that their success is all but a guaranteed cycle.
Since 1947, success for the Lakers is 16 championships and the last time they were champions was from 2009-2010 following the Pau Gasol trade. Almost a decade before that, a Kobe Bryant–Shaquille O’Neal tandem led to championships in 2000-2002. Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also won it before that in 1988. The team’s cyclical pattern of success is a tradition that goes back decades.
However, one would not have known or been able to comprehend the team’s stability for success nor championship prowess had it not been for the recent acquisition of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for their entire young core (except Kyle Kuzma) and three first round draft picks.
To start the most important offseason in team history, the Lakers organization and their prospects for success in free agency were in disarray as media reports following Johnson’s resignation described them with words like ‘disorganized’ and ‘dysfunction.’ The impression was that there was no clear leader and the lack of direction was due to amateurish ineptitude of nepotism and neglect.
Whether these reports truthfully represented the actual internal workings of the Lakers organization or not is irrelevant, but the perception was so real that there was a sense that All-Star players would not choose them because of it. This perception was so real that calls began for the Buss family to sell the team.
What the Davis trade represents is the rebranding back to that winning tradition and allure. The trade refocuses and redirects the fans and media back to the 16 championship banners that hang in the Staples Center rafters and changes the narrative that another banner is within reach. It also erases the worst stretch in Lakers history in terms of basketball as well as management perception.
Although player for player, this may seem like a lot to give up but what they are trading for is not just Davis, but rather trading away the stench of being mismanaged, trading away the stigma of being a toxic free agent destination, and the notion of having bleak prospecting of competing in the Western Conference. This trade represents trading away six seasons of missing the playoffs because when a dominant big man goes to the Lakers, championships ensue.
That is why the Lakers were willing to pay a high price. Championship aspirations are the best public relations firm they can ever hire to fix their woes. With Davis, they are getting a dominant big man in his prime and along with that, the same hope that other big men have brought to the Lakers in the past. There is nothing guaranteed in sports. There is no one formula or panacea to build and win championships, but an All-Star big man to the Lakers is as close as it gets.