From the storybook debut of a long-time G Leaguer to the arrival of the best basketball player on the planet, there was never a shortage of stories surrounding the Lakers this year.
On New Year’s Eve, we look back on the purple and gold’s top 18 moments of 2018:
Kuz adds to the rivalry (Jan. 23)
In the latest chapter of the historic Lakers-Celtics rivalry, Kyle Kuzma made his presence felt by dropping 28 points to lead the purple and gold to victory by a single point.
Kuzma was in full performance mode, scoring 17 in the fourth quarter alone, while keeping the crowd abuzz with behind-the-back assists, spin moves and more.
Lonzo sinks the Spurs from beyond the arc (March 3)
Lonzo Ball was Mr. Big Shot in San Antonio, leading the Lakers to a 17-point comeback by hitting a season-high six 3-pointers — including three triples in the final three minutes.
Ball hit his patented step-back trey with 45 seconds left to give the Lakers the lead for good, and finished with 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, pushing L.A. to its first four-game road sweep in nine years.
Mamba Mentality movie-making (March 4)
Less than two years after his final game in the NBA, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant already began dominating his next quest, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short for his film, “Dear Basketball.”
Bryant also narrated the film, which was based on the poem that he wrote to announce his retirement in 2015. It chronicled his basketball life, from his childhood in Italy through his career with the Lakers.
Elgin gets the statue treatment (April 6)
There is no greater honor a Laker can receive than a statue outside of STAPLES Center, and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor became the latest in that lineage.
From scoring 61 points in an NBA Finals game to averaging 39 points while serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, Baylor was undoubtedly worthy of the 16-foot bronze treatment.
Andre Ingram’s fairy tale night (April 10)
It took more than a decade of grinding in the G League, but Andre Ingram made his NBA opportunity one to remember. On the night of a lifetime for the part-time math tutor, he scored 19 points — the most by a Laker in a debut in 25 years.
Ingram rose to the moment, hitting four 3-pointers, receiving “MVP!” chants from the STAPLES Center crowd and getting the game ball from his L.A. teammates.
Hart runs the show (April 11)
With the rest of the Lakers’ young core — Kuzma, Ball and Brandon Ingram — all injured, Josh Hart stepped into the spotlight for the season finale and delivered with a career-high 30 points.
Hart, the 30th pick of the 2017 draft, was a complete sharpshooter, hitting seven 3-pointers on only nine attempts. And he joined Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Josh Jackson as the only rookies to score 20-plus points in four straight games.
Kuz makes good on his promise (May 22)
Before the season, the draft’s 27th pick wrote down his goal: “All-Rookie Team.” Eight months later, Kuzma had turned that into a reality, as he was selected to the 2018 All-Rookie First Team.
The honor was no surprise, as he ranked second among first-year players in both scoring (16.1) and 3-pointers (2.1). He splashed 159 total triples on the season — the fourth-most by a rookie in NBA history.
The King chooses L.A. (July 10)
In the NBA’s most ground-breaking movement in years, LeBron James decided to write the next chapter of his career in Los Angeles.
Considered the greatest player in the world, James had just come off one of the greatest playoff runs ever, setting a new act of Lakers history into motion.
Hart dominates the summer (July 17)
The plan was originally for Hart to only play one summer league game, but the 23-year-old lobbied with the front office to participate in the whole event. Hart then proceeded to show the league just how much he had grown by bulldozing the competition and winning Summer League MVP.
Hart averaged 20.1 points in Vegas and put the team on his back in the semifinals, dropping a Lakers summer-record 37 points in a double-overtime win over Cleveland.
Akron’s son gives his greatest gift (July 30)
Thirty-three years after his birth in Akron, Ohio, LeBron gave back to the next generation of kids from his hometown by opening the I Promise School.
James called the opening of his state-of-the-art public school, “one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life.” It will also have major impact on the lives of so many others, as the I Promise School offers its students year-round programming, free meals, guaranteed college scholarships to graduates, and more.
The Grinch steals Halloween (Oct. 31)
You know it’s Halloween when a 7-foot Grinch comes strolling into STAPLES Center. After shedding his custom-made costume, JaVale McGee then went ahead and shredded the Dallas Mavericks.
He racked up 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, guiding the Lakers to a one-point victory thanks to his gritty play, physicality and explosiveness.
Tyson saves the day (Nov. 11)
Just five days after signing with the Lakers, Tyson Chandler won them a game at the buzzer by rejecting Trae Young’s last-second shot attempt.
The Lakers had suffered defensively before Chandler’s arrival spurred them among the league’s elite. And the 18-year veteran was at his best in the biggest moment, pushing L.A. above .500 for the first time this season.
The King passes the Stilt (Nov. 14)
As LeBron resumes his career in purple and gold, he will continue to pass the all-time greats for various milestones. Against Portland, he cracked the NBA’s all-time top five scorers by surpassing Wilt Chamberlain on the list.
He did so with a titanic performance, piling up 44 points — the most by a Laker since Kobe Bryant’s final game two years before — to lead L.A.’s vengeance over the team that beat it in the season opener.
LeBron drops a 50-piece (Nov. 18)
It was the first earth-shattering performance that James provided in purple and gold. Visiting his former home city of Miami, the four-time MVP destroyed the competition by racking up 51 points.
James was simply in game-breaker mode, hitting all kinds of high-difficulty shots, including six 3-pointers. He continued his reunion tour three days later, leading the Lakers to victory in his first game in Cleveland since leaving for L.A.
One last dance between old friends (Dec. 10)
After winning two titles together in Miami, LeBron and Dwyane Wade are more like brothers than friends. And that respect shined through their final game against one another, as James guarded Wade on the final possession of the Lakers’ win.
With Wade’s retirement at the end of the season, he signed his jersey for James, penning: “Thanks for pushing me to be greater than I knew I was.”
Twin triple-doubles (Dec. 15)
It had been 11 years since a pair of teammates dropped triple-doubles in the same game, but it was only a matter of time for the do-it-all combo of James and Ball.
The duo joined Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only Lakers to ever reach that feat, as James (24 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Ball (16, 10, 10) led their squad to a 28-point blowout in Charlotte.
Decking the champs on Christmas night (Dec. 25)
It was a game billed as a rematch between LeBron and Golden State, but it turned out to be a showcase for the King’s teammates. When James suffered a groin injury in the third quarter, his fellow Lakers answered the call.
Ivica Zubac and Rajon Rondo provided double-doubles, as the Lakers routed the Warriors by 26. After the game, Hart declared: “If [James] is down, we’re ready to step up. None of us are scared of the spotlight.”