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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.