Developing a championship mentality isn’t an overnight process for teams or players, but instead an experiment in developing the right mix of ingredients, influences and experiences. Players like Byron Scott—a key catalyst on three Lakers championship teams from 1983-1993—are simply born winners.
As the starting guard on the Lakers title squads in 1985, 1987 and 1988, Scott’s persistent energy, long-range proficiency, tough-nosed D and will to win were integral pieces of the team’s championship puzzle. The anchor-like role that Derek Fisher serves on the current version of the Lakers is a role that was similarly perfected by the Inglewood native in the 1980’s.
Though Byron was a talented offensive player in his own right—averaging 14 points in 14 NBA seasons, including a career high 22 in 1987-1988—he was more than willing to give up the spotlight to Hall of Fame teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. In that vein, Scott was the perfect glue guy for those talented Showtime teams. His selflessness was again on display in the 1996-1997 season when he returned to L.A. to mentor a fledgling guard by the name of Kobe Bryant—a mentor/mentee relationship with which #24 still credits to this day for his rapid ascension in the league.
Scott’s value isn’t something that can be measured purely through on-court statistics though, as he has repeatedly proven himself as an impassioned leader in the locker room, both as a Lakers player and in his successful coaching career that has followed. Scott quickly moved up the NBA coaching ranks after starting out as an assistant in Sacramento, earning his first head coaching gig with the Nets and leading them to back-to-back NBA Finals earlier this decade (including a four-game sweep at the hands of the forum blue and gold in 2002).
Byron also nearly led an upstart Hornets team, still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina along with the rest of New Orleans, to within one game of facing the Lakers in the 2007-08 Western Conference Finals. His current task as coach of the now LeBron-less Cavaliers will provide yet another opportunity for Scott to show his rebuilding chops.
With Phil Jackson celebrating his 65th birthday this past week and Brian Shaw as a potential looming successor, Scott’s short—and long term—prospects of becoming head coach of the Lakers remains one of the team’s most divisive topics. Kevin Ding at the OC Register wrote a few weeks ago that Scott’s return to the team probably won’t coincide with an historic streak of championships as will likely be the case once Jackson steps down. Instead, he argues that Byron will once again eagerly swoop in during a moment of need—when his reclamation and leadership skills are best served. It’s a familiar role for Scott and one that has already earned him a slot in the pantheon of great Lakers role players.
Byron talks to Chick Hearn about his on-court success in this classic interview during the 1987-1988 season. What are your favorite memories from Scott’s days with the Lakers?