Archives For

A history of celebrations…

1972: I don’t yell much, and I’m not much of a drinker,” West said. “Really, I can’t figure out much that I’ll be able to do except maybe smile a lot.” When they did win, the Lakers were subdued. They drank their victory champagne out of wine glasses, while West smiled as predicted and delivered what were in effect a couple of toasts.

How things have evolved…

1980: Magic was too young for champagne… Trophy presentation 3:30

1982: Trophy presentation 3:40.

1985: “LA’s the Place!”

“Ain’t nothing but a party, y’all.”

1987: “I’m guaranteeing everyone here. Next year were going to win it again.”

Complete with footage from their visit with then president Reagan.

1988: “With 20 seconds to go, we were celebrating like we were champs. I said, ‘Hey don’t celebrate.’ I’m always scared. I’m scared until the final buzzer goes off.” -Magic

Kareem stuffs his towel in Riley’s mouth after Brent Musburger tempts Riley to guarantee another title. 7:50

“We gonna get another one next year. Caaaan yoooooou dig it?”

2001: a hint of things to come…

2002: “It takes Two”

2009: 1-2-3 Ring!

A Great Light

Gatinho —  June 5, 2010

Coach John Wooden, who passed away yesterday at the age of 99, was a father, husband, teacher, and coach.

The lessons he left behind will be mined for their wisdom for ages to come.

He is by far the most decorated college coach in the history of the game, but his legacy is not measured by those accolades, but by the impact he has had on players, coaches, and all who encountered him.

What separated him from the ranks of the ordinary can be summed up in his own words.

“Love has dominated my coaching career”

He eschewed more lucrative coaching offers to remain a teacher of young men.

His love of language led him to collect and disperse all manner of sayings and poems that embodied his philosophy on life. He in turn translated that into his coaching philosophy.

“You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

Although his basketball acumen was unparalleled, it was his strong character that left an indelible mark on those who crossed his path.

“They ask my why I teach and I reply, ‘Where could I find more splendid company?’”

In 2008, I was honored to be Coach Wooden’s escort at a charity event. Here is a recount of a typical moment of Coach touching those around him:

But Wooden’s time with the crowd made us all feel blessed to be in his presence.

The gym fell silent as we all bent an ear to grasp at the pearls of wisdom he was dispensing.

He was asked about a pivotal moment in his life, and he immediately began to talk about his “wonderful father”.

It was his father that gave him a small card at age 12 that contained the basic philosophy that has now become The Wooden Pledge and The Pyramid of Success.

One point on the card was “Be true to yourself.”

Thoughts immediately turned to Polonius’ quote from Hamlet, and before we knew it, he was reciting the passage…

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

He was asked how he bridged the gap between his so-called star players and his role players. His answer spoke to his greatest asset as a man, his profound decency.

“I loved them as people, not just as basketball players.”

Coach John Wooden

Coach Wooden is survived by a son, James, of Orange County, Calif.; a daughter, Nancy Wooden, who lives in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley; three grandsons and four granddaughters; and 13 great-grandchildren.

A Lifetime of Giving

Gatinho —  April 10, 2010

Magic“We are the communities we serve.” -Magic Johnson

On Sunday, April 11th, 2010, The Toberman Neighborhood Center will be presenting Earvin “Magic” Johnson with their Humanitarian of the Year Award.

The event will be held at the Manhattan Beach Marriot.

Magic’s on court heroics crafted many indelible memories for Laker fans, but his off the court work has had an impact that supersedes any rings or honors attained on the 94-foot-hunk-of-hardwood.

The Magic Johnson Foundation is one that is multifaceted and reaches into communities in a multitude of ways, from providing technology for under-served youths through his Empowerment Centers, to organizing job fairs, and providing scholarships, to educating diverse communities on the realities of those most effected by HIV.

Through Magic Johnson Enterprises he has built movie theaters, Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, and TGI Fridays in the communities that were historically ignored by larger franchises.

“I started in business over 25 years ago and have found a way to build on what I’ve learned through every partnership and opportunity. I’ve tried a lot of different things—some have worked out well, some have not—but I’ve stay committed to my goal to develop and grow a successful business and in the process I’ve found a way to give back through the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has meant all the difference.”

Other Laker luminaries and personalities are also expected to be present including Jerry West, Bill Sharman, Gary Vitti, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, and Stu Lantz.

The Lonely Perfectionists

Gatinho —  February 2, 2010

[picappgallerysingle id=”434180″]In recognition of Kobe Bryant passing Jerry West as the Lakers all-time scoring leader…

Jerry West was born the son of a coalmine electrician.

Kobe Bryant was born the son of an NBA journeyman.

…Raised in Cheylan, W. Virginia.

…Born in Philly, raised in Italy from the age of 8 to 14 and returned to the States for high school.

…Drafted 2nd behind Oscar Robertson

…Drafted 13th after the soon-to-be-mentor West saw him workout and crossed his fingers that no one would draft the prodigy before Charlotte’s spot.

Both Gold Medalists.

Both NBA Champions.

“Both are highly athletic scorers who are able to get their own shot any time they want one.”

The Celtics’ Red Auerbach, “You try any number of ways—play him close, loose, keep him away from the ball, and even then he’ll get his 25 or 30 points.” He was talking about number 44, but he easily could have been talking about number 24.

The Logo, Mr. Clutch, Zeke from Cabin Creek…

The Black Mamba, The Golden Child, triple-ocho…

“Most important, they are intense competitors able to battle through the worst kind of shooting night to defeat an opponent with a big shot at the end of a game. Thus, they both are Mr. Clutch.”

Both approached basketball with a fervor that can only be chronicled as an acute intensity.

It is not a great leap to think that GM West saw some of his own uncommon zeal and earnestness in the private workout he held with Bryant.

“Both are perfectionists, who have spent long hours alone perfecting every element of their games. That is why West was so excited to discover Bryant during his workout with the Lakers. The skill level alone revealed him. You don’t just get that as a gift. All the polish has to come with work.”

West was humble to a fault, but “working out his salvation with fear and trembling.” Driven seemingly by the angst surrounding failure. On the privilege of being an NBA player, “It’s hard enough if you take yourself too seriously because you can be a hero today and a bum tomorrow. It’s unbelievable. So you try hard and you hope you do well, and you enjoy it. ”

While Bryant was working to fulfill a destiny that comes to a kid who was born with a silver basketball. As a 19-year-old, he commented on mounting comparisons to Jordan. “It doesn’t bother me, I expect to be that good.”

In terms of year round commitment, they are a GM’s/owner’s/coach’s fantasy, their obsession for honing their craft motivated by something unseen under the surface.

For both “Company Time” was a foreign concept and undying dedication the norm.

“Sometimes. When he’s really keyed up it’s still 4 a.m. before he falls off.” -West’s wife

“You can’t gain conditioning without going through it. You’re going to have to feel some pain, you’re going to have to feel like your lungs are burning, and you know, you want to spit up blood, that sort of thing.” -Bryant in Men’s Fitness magazine

“Then there is the outcome. Kobe was able to experience championship success at a young age. West was teased by fate until the end of his career. That meant that perhaps no player worked in the off-season to improve as much as West pushed himself. Except that Bryant has done that too, which says to me that if West had won at an early age, it wouldn’t have stopped him. He would have found a way to make himself miserable, so that he could keep working on his game.”

If you watch West win his first and only ring after the torturous futility that a perfectionist should not have to be subjected to, there is a minuscule hint of elation on his face. Relief is the more appropriate description.

The Intensity and drive aside, each generation was lucky to watch a player that loves and respects the game deeply. And that is something that resonates with many. Consider yourself lucky to have witnessed these “Lonely Perfectionists”.

-The italicized quotes are courtesy of the author of the definitive Laker’s history, The Show, Roland Lazenby. His new book, Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, debuts on February 23rd. Pre-order your copy today.

Hot Rod

Gatinho —  December 11, 2009


For the next two weeks, while Stu Lantz deals with a family situation, the Lakers will have a new guy beside Joel Meyer helping out calling the action.

“Barhopping, fast-talking, wisecracking West Virginia basketball cult figure of the 1950s.”

“Hot Rod” Hundley played for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers. Known for his flashy play, Red Kerr called Hot Rod, “Pete Maravich before Pete Maravich”

A two-time All Star, he would play with West and Baylor in the nascent stages of their careers and witness the birth of professional basketball in Los Angeles. From 3,000 in the Sports Arena, to seeing Doris Day and Jack Nicholson sit court side for the Finals.

Hot Rod found the ball in his hands in the 1962 Finals with a chance to dethrone The Bostonians. With Baylor and West covered, he passed to sharp shooting Frank Selvy for a baseline mid-ranger.

I still call Frank long distance, and when he answers the phone, I say, ‘Nice Shot, Frank!” and hang up on him. I will never let him forget he missed that shot.”

“The cowhide globe hits home!”

Hot Rod would apprentice under “Old Golden Throat” as a color man until he would become the “Voice of The Jazz”. He would hold that title for 31 seasons and would call over three thousand games. He retired last year, his last game being the Lakers knocking the Jazz out of the playoffs.

It’s great to see the Hot Rod has come home.


Preview and Chat: LAL vs GSW

Gatinho —  November 28, 2009

[picappgallerysingle id=”4318859″]

Lakers: 11-3, W4
Offense: 101.8
Defense: 96.5

Golden State Warriors: 5-9, L1
Offense: 109.3
Defense: 111.5
Pace Factor: 101.3 (1st of 30)

LAL: Bryant, Fisher, Artest, Gasol, Bynum
GSW: Curry, Ellis, Morrow, Moore, Radmanovic

Lakers Coming In:
The biggest worry for fans these days has been the shaky bench play. There may be more developments along that line tonight. The quickness of the Warriors should see Phil giving Farmar and Brown extended minutes against their speedy back court. Gasol and Bynum should have their way often and early in the paint against the diminutive Warriors’ front line. Look to see a bevvy of players posting up their smaller defender.

The primary worry for the Lakers is getting into a track meet with the gritty young Dubs. The secondary worry is defending the pick and roll/pop. Phil has some choices for what kind of lineups he wants throw out. He can stay big, but if the pace is not to his liking he can go small. I predict the mad scientist will show up tonight, throwing out some head scratching lineups.

The Lakers need to control the tempo, stay out of foul trouble, and use their superior inside size.

Warriors Coming In: The Warriors front office continues to be its biggest weakness. The Captain Jack debacle (gaudy unnecessary contract extension followed by a trade demand) now behind them, Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are the future.

Jack is a scorer and he feels like he can take his man 1-on-1 at any time in the game,” Stephen Curry said, referring to departed teammate Jackson. “That’s his style and the kind of play that he’s good at. Things slow down naturally through that, but everyone else on this team plays differently.”

Of late, the Warriors have been looking to move the ball. When they make the extra pass, they have the shooters. Morrow is 3rd in the NBA shooting 54% from beyond the arc. Newly acquired and infamous space cadet, VladRad hasn’t quite settled in, but that won’t last. He has also been a more physical player fighting for rebounds and guarding opposing bigs.

The offense looks to get up shots before the defense is set, but if forced into a half court game, they rely on the speed on of Ellis and Curry or the strength of Corey Magette to drive and dish or get shots close to the basket. Magette’s shot selection is historically suspect, but his ability to get to the free throw line keeps him on the floor. Ellis and Curry will be involved in a lot of pick and pops with Morrow, Randolph, and Radmanovic.

Whoa Nellie: Coach Nelson will miss 3 more games with pneumonia, but Warrior fans feel like his real sickness is apathy. Nelson has been criticized for waning interest and connection to his young team. His big paycheck means he won’t be going anywhere unless asked to do so by the management. Keith Smart, who is coaching in his stead, waits in the wings. Reports are that he already runs practices. Nelson has been giving more and more responsibility to assistants, asking them to actively coach during games. His recent spats with Ellis have been widley reported. Jackson’s trade seems to have galvanized the team, but has it also galvanized them against their coach?

The Walking Wounded: The Warrior have been decimated by injury. They have played with 7 or 8 players over the past few weeks. Astonishingly, they pulled put wins against Portland and Dallas, the Mavs win coming with only 6 players suited up. Monta Ellis went the distance in both of those games and has been scoring points in bunches.

Turiaf will add some needed depth in his return and come off the bench in this one.

Hello Old Friend: Turiaf, Radmanovic, and even Devean George will be wearing the orange and blue tonight.

Blogs and Links: Warrior’s World and Golden State of Mind

I’ll be in attendance, so if anything noteworthy pops up, I’ll look to update.

Remembering Cazzie Russell

Gatinho —  November 25, 2009

“To be able to take over a game and be influential is a great feeling.”

Dubbed “Mr. Two-two-two-points” by legendary Times columnist Jim Murray , Cazzie Russell was a singular talent with a unique set of skills. Cazzie would make his name as a 6th man with a knack for coming in and filling it up. A streak shooter and crowd favorite, his NBA and basketball career would take him through many cities, one of which was the City of Angels.

As a standout at University of Michigan, he led the team to two Final Four appearances and was such a draw for the football-loving fans that the University built a new building. Crisler Arena, dubbed “The House that Cazzie Built” even though he would never play there, would signal the arrival of basketball at a historically football dominated school.

Yet another infamous NBA draft coin toss would decide the first pick in 1966. The flamboyance and spectacle of today’s draft day were not a part of Cazzie’s sojourn.

“I was standing by a payphone listening to the Knicks and the Pistons flip a coin.”

Cazzie would spend the first 4 years of his career with the Knicks, winning a championship in the year that Lakers felt that they might finally break their streak of despair that would define the ‘60’s. To Laker fans, the infamous “Willis Reed Game”, another 7th game heartbreak defeat, would add yet another scar to their so-close-yet-so-far fan experience. Cazzie wasn’t a deciding factor in that game, though he averaged 10 points those playoffs, due to Walt Frazier, the game’s true hero with 36 points and 19 assists, dominating the game. Russell would mark only one field goal presumably stuck to the bench as Frazier would play almost the whole way.

But even though Russell was a player on the rise, the Knicks would trade Russell to the then San Francisco Warriors the following season.

”Cazzie could score on anybody and from all over the floor,” former Warriors teammate Jim Barnett said. ‘‘I never saw anybody shoot the ball with less trajectory yet have so much success with it. It was the most amazing thing. He had a very flat shot but it was the softest shot on the rim I’ve ever seen. He always got bounces.”

Russell would see some more consistent time and contributions and enjoy the new surroundings of Northern California. He would make his only All-Star appearance while playing in the Bay but would be miffed by the Warriors failure to offer him a “no cut” that was becoming so coveted by the nascent free agency that was beginning to define the NBA.

“I was so hurt that the Warriors could have given me a no-cut contract for two to three years, So I opted for free agency. I was one of the first guys to ever go out on the free agent market.”

He would sign with the Lakers and find a team in transition. It was the mid ‘70’s and the shine from the ’72 team’s historic run had dimmed as Cazzie was signed and proceeded to get injured, watching the team have one of it’s worst seasons at 30-52 and seeing them fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

Not only was Russell one of the first to test free agent waters, but his ankle injury would see him make a shift in how he ate and trained, another idea that was ahead of it’s time.”

“He treats his body as if it were something that might leave him if he took it for granted.”

But a new arrival in the form of Kareem the following season would mean the future was bright for Laker fans.

“When Cazzie is hot, he could score from a locked room.”

Cazzie would play three seasons as a Laker, averaging 14.5 pts in 26.8 minutes. His stats would sometimes reflect the production of a player that played triple the minutes. As he checked into a game, the Forum faithful would slide forward on their seats.

“Some nights Cazzie throws in so many points so fast the scoreboard is two baskets behind.”

When Cazzie came in the shots would go up. And this was before the days of the grind-it-out-every-possession-is-precious NBA. It was a fast-paced game and when Cazzie came in the pace quickened.

Cazzie was hailed for 6th man abilities and would define a new type of reserve. He wasn’t in the game to slow the opposing teams top scorer a la Michael Cooper. He came in to “punch a hole in the basket quickly, so that the temporary logjam of air balls isn’t terminal. Cazzie has to come in and get the team out of handcuffs.”

If Coach Sharman wanted offense in he brought in Cazzie. If he wanted defense, he brought in an energetic reserve named Pat Riley or even possibly young guard Stu Lantz.

Cazzie would be a precursor to guys like the Piston’s Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, and we’ve seen the boost guys like Eddie House can give their team.

Cazzie Russell, a pivotal part of the NBA’s history, and a Laker to remember.

“I feel good about what Cazzie has done. I feel good about myself physically and mentally. I feel good that I got to do something I enjoy and get paid for it. I got a scholarship for it, an education.”

LA Lakers at the LA Memorial Coliseum

The genre of the sports list book has received a new addition. This new series that has been released has gone to several of the major sports towns (or at least those with rabid sports fans) and tapped local sports personalities or journalists to create an insiders view of that city’s sports culture. A nice idea, as fans can become agitated by the broad brush strokes that the national media paints a certain town’s fans. In Philly they boo Santa Claus; in New York they are knowledgeable but ruthless; in Boston they’re die hard but eternally pessimistic; in Cleveland they know even when their team is good, at some point they will find a way to lose; and of course, we arrive late, leave early and talk on our cell phones the whole time. (See: “Top 10 Reasons People Say We’re Terrible Fans”) With any stereotype there is a grain of truth, but these books allow the individual city’s to create a more three dimensional view, through guest spots by local athletes and luminaries of the local sports culture.

The authors of the Los Angles book are Matt “Money” Smith and Steve Hartman. Money is the everyman fan in a lot of ways and he’s So Cal to the bone. In his bio at 570 KLAC he lists his favorite sports moment as “Heckling Jim Mcilvaine from the Forum stands and having him try to hop the railing to beat the crap out of me.” He was also an intern at KROQ and is known for breaking “a little band called Sublime.” (It’s also the reason he can sneak in the “Top 11 So Cal Punk Bands You’ve Never Heard of But Should Have” into a sports book.) Steve Hartman is knowledgeable and has a long historic view of sport, but in a lot of ways many see him as insufferable, especially Laker fans who have trouble with his pragmatism and criticism, dubbing him “Hater Hartman”. But for the cause that is the book, they are both good choices.

The book covers all aspects of LA sports: Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, and Kings. For our Laker-centric purposes, we’ll focus on the section that highlights the boys in Forum Blue and Gold.

Top 10 Reasons For A Laker Fan To Own This Book:

1. It will fit nicely into your lavatory library. You can put it into the rotation with Brain Droppings and Nine Stories.

2. It will either enhance your depth of Laker history and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory Lane (Top 10 Greatest Laker Moments) or let the neophytes in on the rich history of the franchise.

3. The folly that is The Clippers.

4. Francis Dale Hearn’s most utilized colloquialisms are included, but you probably could have called that one with Braille.

5. Because FBandG is in it (Best Los Angeles Sports Blogs). Checking in at #4 on the list, and it refers to Kurt as “sound, articulate and interesting”, a spot on assessment to me. But there is a glaring error on this list, and I think I know why.

6. It will help you with your Lakers bar trivia… “Who are the top 10 Johnsons in L.A Sports History?” also known as the “How can we put Magic at the top of another list?” list.

7. You can relive how Jerry West bamboozled the NBA for an extended period of time as G. M. (Mitch has followed in his footsteps with that big Pau Gasol feather in his hat.) But you’ll realize that he did this mostly through his draft picks.

8. Kobe lists his favorite arenas, and many fans are always looking for some insight into who that guy really is, the list is surprisingly nostalgic and emotional. Mentioning the arena’s in Italy, PalaEUR where his dad played, and Philly, “The Palestra is Philly”, as well as being one the guys who played in both the Forum and Staples.

9. “Big Game James” gives us a nice insight into who he felt could have shared his moniker, most of them guys he competed against, but not surprisingly, the top 2 he played with.

10. It will cause/resolve/complicate some good sports related discourse.

I’ll end by quoting the authors…

“Depending on your level of sports knowledge, you will either find this book a great source of information, a great trip down memory lane, or a great reason to insist “these guys don’t know what they are talking about.”

-Gatinho aka Scott Thompson