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“We flunked Andrew Bynum on the physical exam. The kid had a bad skeleton” — Garry Vitti on Bynum’s health issues during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers

Luckily for the Lakers, Phil Jackson insisted on taking things slow with Bynum, contrary to the front office's wishes.
Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum

In 2005, the Los Angeles Lakers had a choice to draft either Andrew Bynum or an experienced college basketball prospect. The Lakers, who at that time were led by Dr. Jerry Buss' son Jimmy Buss, believed so much in 17-year-old Bynum's talent that he opted to use the pick on the high school standout instead — which didn't sit well with Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and Jeanie Buss.

But Jimmy Buss felt that Bynum could take the same route as Bryant did: to come out of high school and transition smoothly to the NBA. Selecting Bynum was also one way for Jimmy to make a name for himself in basketball and prove that he is indeed the right heir to Dr. Buss. Jimmy told the organization that Bynum was his pick and that his leadership would be solidified depending on how successful the 17-year-old big man turned out to be.

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Bynum's health issues

While Bynum showed glimpses of his potential that was difficult for Jimmy to turn his back on, his health issues were known early, even before he stepped foot in the league. On top of his health issues, the big man also had to be taught how to be a professional player, adjust to the physicality of the NBA and the spotlight that Los Angeles offered. Unfortunately, Bynum's first bump on the road was that he couldn't get past the physical exam during his first few days with the Lakers.

"We actually flunked Andrew Bynum on the physical exam. The kid had a bad skeleton," Lakers veteran trainer Gary Vitti revealed in episode 8 of Legacy: The true story of the Los Angeles Lakers documentary. "Even in high school, he already had several knee surgeries at 17 years old. "

Why Phil didn't approve of Andrew

Before winning 2 championships together, Jackson initially didn't like Bynum because he felt he was still too immature to contribute to a team with championship hopes. The Zen Master was proven wrong, but his concerns in 2005 were, at the very least, reasonable. Luckily for the Lakers, they found a way to get the best out of Bynum while they went to 3 straight NBA Finals.

"Phil saw Andrew as a 17-year-old who doesn't know how to be a professional, needs to be taught how to be a professional, that takes time and you have to earn that. Jimmy wanted it faster but I sided with Phil because Phil had been doing it for so long and understood what he went through with his body — two knee replacements, a hip replacement, a spinal fusion, all those things that you can attribute to playing the game of basketball," Jeanie Buss revealed.

Bynum also became an NBA All-Star in 2012 and made a case as the team's best big man in the same year (even if the Lakers employed Pau Gasol then). His career didn't turn out to be a long one in the NBA, but he still proved that he was worth being picked by the Lakers in the 2005 NBA Draft. 

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