Drafted by the Lakers out of high school, the 7-foot Bynum helped fulfill the big-man role the Lakers needed in order to challenge for an NBA title following Shaquille O’Neal’s departure from the team.
Selected 10th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, Bynum became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game later that season. Working extensively with Lakers assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bynum showed flashes of potential during his rookie season –- he posted his first double-double in a game against Minnesota in November and recorded 19 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks against Denver in early January.
Bynum’s playing time increased significantly during his sophomore year after starting centers Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm went down with injuries at the start of the season. Bynum, however, missed a significant amount of time during the 2007-08 season when he dislocated his right knee cap after landing awkwardly on teammate Lamar Odom’s foot. He was limited to 35 games and had to have surgery at the end of what was otherwise a strong season (13.1 points per game, career-high 10.2 rebounds per game).
He signed a four-year, $58-million deal with the Lakers before start of the 2008-09 season, but played in only 50 games after tearing his medial collateral ligament following a collision with teammate Kobe Bryant against Memphis in January. Until then, Bynum was playing the best basketball of his career. He averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds per game in the five games before the injury. He returned at the end of the regular season and, alongside forward Pau Gasol, helped the Lakers control the inside game en route to their first NBA title since 2002.
Bynum stayed relatively healthy during the 2009-10 season, starting in 65 games before injuring his left knee during the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City. Despite the pain, Bynum appeared in all 23 of the Lakers’ playoff games.
He was later criticized for waiting until July 28 to have surgery on his knee after it was revealed he would not be ready in time for the start of the 2010-11 season. Bynum returned later than expected after missing the first 24 games, but he quickly refilled the two-way role that made him a valuable contributor during the team's 2010 title run.
Despite playing with lingering pain in his knee, Bynum averaged 11.2 points and a Western Conference-leading 12.3 rebounds and 2.36 blocks per game after the All-Star break. But his 2010-11 season ended on poor terms when he was ejected during the Lakers' final game for his flagrant foul on Dallas guard J.J. Barea, resulting in a five-game suspension the will be served at the start of the 2011-12 season.
March 22, 2012