No. 89: Los Angeles Lakers

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 7, 2012, 12:14 PM ET
By Max Klinger | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 56
Title track: 16
Ownership: 44
Coaching: 103
Players: 85
Fan relations: 85
Affordability: 112
Stadium experience: 38
Bang for the buck: 94

What happens when you take the biggest payroll in the NBA, add a multibillion-dollar cable deal, mix in a couple of All-Stars, sprinkle with 41 wins and garnish with possibly the most blindly loyal fan base in all of sports? A recipe for success? Wrong. Too big to fail as they may be, the Lakers still experienced a franchise backslide in our poll (33 spots) that put them in the company of teams on the other side of positive, like the Bobcats and Trail Blazers. It all centered on coach Mike Brown who, stepping out of the giant crater left by Phil Jackson, has yet to solve the calculus of managing the Lakers' gargantuan personalities (coaching: down 100). Then there's team chemistry, which last year tended more toward entropy than order (players: down 29). As if the fans could predict their failure, these poor numbers were collected even before the Lakers' dismal postseason dismissal at the hands of the younger, more cohesive Thunder. Owner Jerry Buss hasn't made it easy by offering the second-most expensive pricing scheme in basketball for tickets and concessions (ownership: down 35; fan relations: down 40). Sure, when Dwight Howard and Steve Nash came up for grabs, Buss didn't quail. But those acquisitions just raise the stakes for a city that has come to expect shiny rings or nothing at all.