Forum and Powder Blue

Gatinho —  March 22, 2008

“When the Lakers arrived in Los Angeles in 1960 basketball was very much an unknown factor in the city’s sport’s psyche.”

Roland Lazenby

Over the past 40 plus years the combination of Bruin and Laker basketball has brought the game from a single paragraph in the back page of the Times to the most viewed articles on its website.

The first Bruin drafted by the Lakers was John Green in 1962.

In 1964 the legacies of these institutions would continue their interweaving. That year the Lakers drafted Walt Hazzard from John Wooden’s first UCLA National Championship team. The Lakers used their then territorial rights, which were designed “…to take advantage of the regional popularity of college stars…Teams were given the option of forfeiting their first-round pick and instead selecting, before the start of the draft, a player from the franchise’s immediate geographical area.”

Things wouldn’t work out for Hazzard as a Laker because some guys named Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were already there .

“Getting drafted by the Lakers did him a disservice in some respects. At another place he would have gotten an opportunity to play.” -Jerry West

But Hazzard would return as coach of UCLA in 1984-85 winning 77 games and losing 48.

In 1965 the Lakers would pick another luminous UCLA guard, and he would become the smallest player to have his jersey hanging from the rafters. Gail Goodrich scored 42 points in the 1965 NCAA final as UCLA beat favored Michigan State. As a Laker he would become an All-star, win a championship, and average almost 24 points game.

As UCLA would reach national prominence, and the Lakers were continually making their annual trip to the Finals to be beaten by the Celtics, Los Angeles would begin establish itself as the west coast Mecca.

When Luke Walton’s father Bill attended UCLA, he saw it as the birth of a Golden Age for Los Angeles’ local cagers.

“At UCLA I went to all the Lakers games…I was there from ’70 through ’74 and these were great Lakers years. We were winning 88 straight games… and they were winning 33 straight games… It was phenomenal.”

The Lakers would continue to draft Bruins through the 70’s and acquire Thee Bruin hoopster in a 1975 trade that would have the Lakers sending, among others, UCLA’s Dave Meyers, the second pick in that year’s draft to the Buck’s in exchange for the Captain.

The next chapter in the shared history of the teams came when Swen Nater, the only player ever to be drafted first without starting a game in his senior season, would come to the Forum Blue as part of the trade that would send a suddenly redundant Norm Nixon to the Clippers.

But what is it like to be an Angeleno and accomplish the dream exacta? Play for the Bruins, get drafted by and play for the Lakers.

On draft day…San Antonio and Philadelphia had shown the most interest in me, but when I got the call and heard Jerry West and Bill Sharman on the other end of the line, I thought ‘Wow, I get to stay home.’ Jerry West was my favorite player growing up in the area, and it was just amazing that he was telling me that I had just been drafted by the Lakers. I had the opportunity to play with a young Magic Johnson and a basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and be part of a team that revitalized Lakers basketball. It’s what you dream about doing as a kid.”

If you ask most Laker fans who was drafted in the first round in 1979, they will immediately say…Brad Holland? In ’79 the Lakers had two first round picks, and Holland would go 14th after Magic with a pick that would complete a childhood dream.

The Lakers would sign, Jamal Wilkes, another Bruin as a free agent in 1979. His twenty foot lay-up would be instrumental in that mythical 1980 Finals game 6 win. Jamal would score 37 points and grab 10 rebounds in that pivotal game.

Through the 80’s the connectivity would continue as Lakers and other pros would show up at UCLA’s campus in the summer to run pick-up games.

Overall the Lakers have drafted 9 Bruins and 16 players have worn both blues.

Keith Erickson, Tracy Murray, and Jelani McCoy would contribute in varying ways when they came through L.A. as pros. Toby Bailey would be drafted in the second round by the Lakers but would be traded to Phoenix.

Which brings us to Jordan Farmar. Farmar was a star at Taft High and took the Bruins to the National Champiship game before being drafted by the Lakers with the 26th pick. The current Bruin total would reach two when Trevor Ariza was acquired in a trade.

Farmar has shown a courageous demeanor in his sophomore season and could develop into a consistent offensive and play making guard for a young Laker team with a bright future.

As UCLA has returned to prominence and is a favorite in this year’s current tournament, and the Lakers have formed a young nucleus who could potentially terrorize the NBA once they are all healthy and have time to mesh, we see how far Los Angeles basketball has come. From humble beginnings, UCLA playing at Venice High School and the Lakers fighting for time at the Sports Arena, Los Angeles basketball seems primed to add to the ongoing history of the LA hoops story.