Regular contributor here Chris J. sent this in, a fantastic look back at a team that was a lot of fun, in part because there was no pressure.
Sometimes the most enjoyable gifts we receive are those which we never expected.
When I think back over the 25+ years I’ve followed the Lakers, like any other fan I’ve got countless memories of great teams, great players and great games. Some came with championships or Hall of Fame resumes; others were memorable for the heartbreak they caused.
But in all my years of watching the purple and gold, I’ve probably never enjoyed a non-Finals season more than watching the “Lake Show”-era Lakers in 1994-95. Few, if any, fans expected anything of that team, and perhaps no Lakers team ever delivered more unexpected pleasure than those guys did during that memorable season.
NOTHING TO LOSE
The scene in Inglewood wasn’t pretty in the summer of 1994. After a 63-win effort in 1989-90, the Lakers had posted just one Finals appearance in their past five seasons. Magic Johnson led L.A. to 58 wins in his last full season in 1990-91 before losing to the Bulls in that season’s Finals. And then the losses began to mount.
L.A. won just 43 games in its first post-Magic HIV announcement season, then slipped to 39-43 the following year. In 1993-94, head coach Randy Pfund was fired late in the season, with Magic taking over as head coach for a disastrous final 16 games in which the Lakers finished 5-11. For the first time in 18 seasons, the 33-win Lakers missed the playoffs in ‘94.
Heading into the following season, Sports Illustrated’s annual NBA preview called for a Suns-Magic Finals in June 1995 (which proved to be half correct), and predicted the Lakers would finish fifth in the seven-team Pacific Division, behind Phoenix, Seattle, Golden State and Portland.
SI’s outlook noted the Lakers’ offseason hiring of “low-profile” head coach Del Harris, criticized center Vlade Divac for his frequent outside shooting, and noted the absence of a solid frontcourt rebounder. The story concluded that, “Laker fans can console themselves in these lean times with memories of the Showtime days.”
Unbeknownst to SI, however, general manager Jerry West and the front office had already begun the rebuilding process. That unwanted playoff absence meant a trip to the NBA Draft Lottery, and there West tabbed a winner in Temple G/F Eddie Jones.
In September, West rescued F Cedric Ceballos from the Phoenix bench for a future first round pick, and in October Doug Christie (and his wife’s purse) were unloaded to the Knicks for a pair of future second-round picks. The latter move was pure addition by subtraction.
James Worthy began the campaign on the injured list, and on Nov. 10 retired without playing a game that season. Aside from PG Sedale Threatt, who was entering his 12th campaign, the Lakers were committed to a youth movement. By June, they’d become the youngest team in the playoffs with an average age of just 26.
YOUTH IS SERVED
Behind the rookie Jones, second-year guard Nick Van Exel, third-year SG Anthony Peeler and Divac, who was in his sixth-year, the Lakers featured a versatile lineup which could run, pass and shoot with great proficiency.
The team’s regular season scoring average jumped by nearly 5 points per game from the prior season, while its three-point attempts nearly doubled (in part because the NBA moved the line closer to begin the ’94-‘95 season). The team’s assists also increased by more than one per game.
Beyond the numbers, however, was the team’s unquestioned style. Van Exel was as cocky as they came, throwing shadow boxer’s punches in the air after he knocked down a big basket. Jones was a high-flying act Lakers fans hadn’t seen since Michael Cooper’s heyday. Ceballos had an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, as good a “garbage” scorer as anyone in the league. And Divac was, well, Divac.
The Lakers ended the ’94-’95 regular season with 15 more wins than the prior year. Only Dallas showed more improvement, at +23, thanks in large part to its addition of rookie Jason Kidd.
The “Lake Show” Lakers didn’t quit, coming back from a 13-point or greater deficit to win nine times that season. The “Lake Show” Lakers didn’t back down in close contests, either, taking a dozen games decided by three points or less. They also beat the defending champion Rockets all four times they met.
Key players were hurt, but others stepped up. Jones missed 18 consecutive games in one stretch after straining his shoulder on Feb. 19. L.A. kept rolling. Ceballos, a newly named All-Star, also tore a thumb ligament on Feb. 3 and missed 22 games. Yet L.A. stayed above .500 while those key starters were out.
Other examples: down 16 to start to the fourth quarter in Orlando, L.A. fought back to pull within a basket with 27 seconds to play before falling to the eventual Eastern Conference champions. Three nights later, the Lakers overcame a 14-point deficit at the end of three to top the Bulls on the road – and did so without Van Exel, Jones or Ceballos.
Guys like Divac, Threatt, Peeler, Tony Smith, Elden Campbell — and even rookies such as Pig Miller and Antonio Harvey — found a way to play hard and contribute for Harris. You simply never knew who was going to step up that season.
A POSTSEASON RUN
The Lakers finished fifth in the Western Conference, and the playoffs brought even more fun including a first-round upset of the SuperSonics that featured a memorable 22-minute delay when the lights went out at the team’s temporary home court in Tacoma.
After sending Seattle packing from the first round for a second consecutive year, L.A. met the favored Spurs in the Western Semis. Old-school fans will remember this series for two reasons.
In Game 3, Chick Hearn lost his voice due to laryngitis, and for the first time in 2,781 games a different voice was heard on the Lakers basketball network. (Chick completed the first half, then Stu Lantz finished the game as play-by-play man with Magic taking a seat as Stu’s color guy.)
Game 5 was truly one to remember. First, Van Exel hit a three-pointer with 10.2 seconds to play, sending the game in San Antonio to overtime. Minutes later he nailed a running three with a half-second to go that utterly silence the Alamodome as L.A. won 98-96. In terms of excitement, it was one of the greatest playoff wins I’ll ever remember as a fan, right up there with the Junior Skyhook, Horry’s Sacramento dagger in 2001, Fish’s 0.4 in 2004 and Fish’s bombs in Orlando last June.
In the end, the Lakers failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs, losing to the Spurs in six. San Antonio was subsequently upset by the Houston Rockets, with Hakeem Olajuwon & Co. next moving on to defeat a young Shaquille O’Neal and Orlando in the Finals.
While the Lakers failed to come home with a title, I frankly found that season’s team so much more enjoyable than many of those which did win it all come June. I’ll look back on 2009 with fondness because the Lakers won it all, but the journey was so much more arduous as a fan because there were so many expectations. It was hard to enjoy the journey watching last year’s team struggle against a devastated Rockets squad, for example. Some expected 70 wins, and a romp through the playoffs. Anything less, and we fans were ready to revolt.
Even in the Shaq-Kobe years, the wins came with so much drama, be it the feuding stars, Shaq taking half the season to “play himself into shape or the events associated with Eagle, Colo. Those Lakers just weren’t as easy to love.
But in ’94-’95 there were no high expectations, no unyielding pressure to live up to the hype. Instead, each game had a surprise in store, a young player who’d suddenly mature; an improbable comeback vs. a tough opponent; or guys giving their all to make up for the absence of an injured teammate.
Those little things made watching “Lake Show basketball such a fun experience – we never saw it coming, but oh what a ride it was.
Fate changed the Lakers’ course soon after, and the “Lake Show” wound up with a limited run thanks to Magic’s brief 2006 comeback, an upset Ceballos’ decision to skip out on the squad to go jet skiing at Lake Havasu, and then the fateful events of summer 1996 that brought a new direction – and the high expectations – that came with the signing of O’Neal and trade for Kobe Bryant. Peeler and Divac were traded, and the Lakers were no longer a band of young, overachieving stars.
Shaq-Kobe ultimately brought a title back to L.A. so we can only mourn the Lake Show’s closing to a degree – the goal is still to win it all, and I’ll take a championship season over any other. But part of me wishes we’d see the guys having more fun on the court – that unexpected, basketball joy – like we witnessed in 1994-95.
Perhaps this coming season will be that year.
You mean like the unexpected, basketball joy of the Lebron-aliers? Does not seem like it would bode well with Karma
chris h says
well done Chris J!
I do remember the feeling when Jerry West traded away Peeler and Lynch essentially for nothing but cash relief, thinking, “man, what’s he doing??”
but as you say, in the end, West knew exactly what he was doing, and later we learned how stressful that all was on him, he was playing high stakes poker that year, trading away our only center in Divac for what would be the Kobe pick….and that wasn’t a 31 pick, what was it, 8, or 13?
anyway, great read. and next someone ought to write up how West did plan out what would be that Shaq-Kobe dynastry…
but for now, let’s enjoy what Chris J wrote about, and that team with no expectations.
P. Ami says
I’m old enough to remember the Showtime era but I got hooked to the Lakers with the Lake Show. Nick the Quick, otherwise known as Van Excellent, to me was the heart of that team and I still regret that Shaq deflected the blame of ’99 on him and the “Cancun” crack. I always thought the 2000 team would have been better with Van Exel, Eddie, and Elden there for PJ to work with (yes we can get into discussions of what Harper, Rice, AC and Shaw brought but I guess I figure we could still have had a couple of those key role players and gotten to see Nick and Eddie with a ring).
To be fair, the closest thing we’ve seen to the Lake Show was probably 07-08. Again, few expectations and the only thing that made that season disappointing was that we wound up favored in the finals and lost to the Lepers. So, for those of you who might not remember the Lake Show try to imagine that sort of joy in a different era.
Brian Tung says
Minor tupo: Magic’s last full season was 1990-91, not 2000-01. (That would have been an interesting mix.)
Brian Tung says
By the way, regarding 70 wins and a title: There was a fan post over at SS&R a week or so ago regarding the likelihood of either, both, or neither. Taking the title but not winning 70 games took the poll by a landslide over doing both, with doing neither a distant third, and winning 70 games but not the title bringing up the rear.
I think people are being incredibly optimistic; history shows us that winning 70 games is ridiculously hard, and I don’t think that people would be that optimistic if the Lakers were still the record-holders at 69 games. Everything has to break just right. The Bulls going 72-10 was a perfect storm–ability and execution were only two of a large array of factors.
Winning the title is easier–at least someone does that every year–but it’s still hard, and only a homer thinks that the Lakers are odds-on favorites.
@chris h (8:27 a.m.): West traded Divac for the rights to Kobe, who had already been picked by the Hornets, if I recall correctly, with the 13th pick. He might have felt he could wait until Kobe had already been picked because he had already shown a lot of interest in playing for the Lakers.
great post chris j!
i grew up on this era’s team even if I don’t have a lot of specific memories. I’ve even become friends with someone through our mutual dislike of elden campbell. I used to think sedale threatt was the best thing since sliced bread and i thought eddie jones was the nicest guy on the team. I always wanted him to do well wherever he went after the Lakers.
I’m with ya, loved those teams (and reminds me of the Phoenix series that we nearly won). Loved Peeler’s quick smooth lefty jumper . . . Jones’ unassuming speed and talent . . . Divac’ passing and easy attitude always a pleasure (and “no longer irritating”) . . . Nick was a guilty pleasure – – inefficient and a little -too- cocky, but irresistibly dangerous and exciting. Elden “Seldom” Campbell, well, no love lost there 🙂 Sorry Elden. I’ve read that he was a nice guy, but just frustrating as hell. Those teams were a lot of fun.
Buck Fitty says
Does anyone know where I can get video of that Van Exel buzzer beater 3 against the Spurs in the 95 playoffs? That was like my favorite Laker moment as a kid.
I’ll always remember Nick’ buzzer beating turn around corner 3 to beat the Celtics. Van Exel had swag.
I remember really falling in love with the Lakers when they had both Kobe and Eddie Jones. Two young guards who could take people off the dribble and jump through the rafters.
Lakers Nation says
Van Exel really carried that team. AP, Eddie, Elden, Ced, and Vlade . . . Pig Miller! man . . only the loyal remmeber players like Pig Miller! hahaha
Gary in Big D says
This team looks a lot worse in the rear view than it did at the time, as key players Van Exel, Ceballos and Seldom Campbell turned out to be such goofball losers. Luckily we moved them all out, albeit not quick enough to get the dynasty started earlier.
Here’s the Celtics buzzer beater:
I guess there is no video of the Spurs shot.
I loved this team so much that I actually was pissed we traded Eddie Jones and kept that young punk named Kobe Bryant. lol. Like nomuskles wrote above, Eddie continued to be one of my favorite players even after he left.
Nick Van Exel, top five Laker of all time for me. Loved his half spin, complete carry-over dribble that would fake everyone out. His half court bombs. His celebration of pushing the floor down after big shots. Talk about a man who perfected the midrange game. All those floaters and high-arcing bank shots.
Great post and thanks for the trip down memory lane! Many 80s babies were too young to truly appreciate or even remember Showtime. This team was the team that really got us excited about the Purple and Gold…and they didn’t even come close to a championship.
I completely agree with this. I’m a huge Laker fan (from Ohio, now living in NYC), and I just recently (for some odd reason) found Laker blogs, and have been consumed ever since.
I’m 31, and the first real championship I can remember pretty well was ’88. I remember seeing them winning in ’85. I was in an airport with my father. I remember wanting them to win in ’87, but I really knew nothing.
I enjoyed ’00-’02, but like the write penned, I was expecting it. They HAD to win. And they never felt like a tight team.
This year, I’m finally old enough, and in my mind, experienced enough watching basketball (you really don’t appreciate the game until you’ve been playing or watching for 20 years) that I could enjoy every second of this last season.
That’s what made it so great. And even with all of this “enlightenment,” one season cuts through all the BS.
That team with Sedale Threatt. I remember loving watching them because they were just a young upstart team. That Miami team with Dwayne and LO reminded me of that Laker team. Just out running the floor, dynamic guards and wings. Elden blocking shots. Vlade being Vlade.
They were a blast to watch. I smiled the entire time I read this.
Think this team was fun to play on???
Despite Nick’s flaws (and they were MANY, lol) he had that thing that want to see when the game is on the line. Kind of like Fish, but with more offense.
Eddie was my guy, though, I thought for sure our backcourt of the future was gonna be Eddie and Kobe stopping people at the perimeter, and Shaq back there to erase any mistakes. I too was bummed when Eddie got shipped out.
This articlee brought back some great memories of times in alt.sports.basketball. la.lakers…we used to REALLY get into it with the Seattle fans, and knocking them out of the playoffs that year gave us a solid summer of “SCOREBOARD” replies to those losers… 🙂
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I really loved that Lake Show team. I always liked Eddie Jones (too bad he didn’t get a ring as a Laker).
As much fun as Showtime and the Lake Show were to watch…
the past two seasons have been the most enjoyable for me as a fan. Due in large part to this blog.
Thank you Kurt and all the regulars.
Off topic: Coming next Tuesday, a first ever contest (complete with prizes) coming to FB&G. This is going to be fun. Get your Celtics stories ready….
Chris J says
1- God, no… I want nothing like the Lebron-aliers.
Call my a cynic, but the crap Cleveland was pulling last season — especially those stupid pregame photo poses — just wreaked of a bunch of young pouesers who had designs on getting on “Sportscenter.” It was very telling that the Cavs’ vets like Szczerbiak, Wallace and Ilgauskas took no part in that garbage; they recognized how unprofessional it was and wanted nothing to do with it.
Conveniently overlooking Pau’s Team Spain gaffe (with the slanted eye pose) in Beijing, I’d like to think the current Lakers are too mature to pull anything like that, nor would Phil or his staff (or Kobe, for that matter) allow it to go unchecked. But Mike Brown and Danny Ferry were too scared to tell LeBron to cut it out, lest he pout and threaten to sign with the Knicks or Nets in 2010.
Just my observations, but the “Lake Show” guys were just being who they were, and more importantly, they did so during the flow of the game. Nick’s punches after a big basket seemed to be an emotional reaction, not a pre-produced gimmick to get TV time. Vlade was just a big goof. And I think it’s hard for young teams that surprise even themselves to fake their enthusiasm; that’s probably why fans liked that season as much as we did.
3 – I share your curiosity as to what might have been had the Rice trade not occurred. I think Eddie Jones and Kobe could have played together well for a long time and I never quite understood the thought process that those two played the same position so one had to go. In my mind they were both versatile enough that they could have run together as a shooting guard/small forward combo under Phil, had that trade with Charlotte not occurred.
Nick was traded in summer ’98, so he was long gone before Phil arrived. I personally don’t think he would have worked under the triangle, nor am a sold on the idea that Elden Campbell would have fit well in that system. But the idea of Kobe and Eddie on the wings, wreaking havoc like a poor man’s version of Jordan and Pippen – I’m with you there, P. Ami. I would have liked to have seen how that worked. 2000’s championship aside, Rice certainly was a bust in L.A. But hindsight is 20/20, and at the time a lot of people felt a gunner like Rice was what L.A. needed most.
I also agree that 2007-08 was similar to ’94-’95. Despite that thrashing by Boston, fans couldn’t be too upset because no one expected anything of that team at the start of the season. We were more worried about losing Kobe, not dreaming of a Finals berth, so those Lakers brought way more than anyone would have expected of them (at least until June).
4 – Good catch. You’re correct that Magic’s last season was 1990-91, post-HIV “comebacks” excluded.
As for video of Nick Van Exel’s playoff bombs against the Spurs, my memory of that game was listening to it on the radio. I don’t recall if that wasn’t the game TNT chose to air that night (seems unlikely it wouldn’t have been on, but who knows?), but for whatever reason I was listening and not watching that evening.
If it in fact wasn’t a national TV game, that could explain why no one has an old tape lying around who could put that highlight up on YouTube. I’d love to see it again, myself. The silence was deafening – and there are few things better than shutting up a Spurs fan, let alone thousands of them.
Van Exel was the man. One of my favorite players ever.
He executed the scoring point guard role so much better than guys of today like Francis or Marbury. And Eddie Jones deserves props, too bad he wasn’t in LA when the titles started to come.
http://www.NBATradeRumorsCentral.com – Latest Rumors
Chris J says
Forgot to mention I still own a purple No. 25 Eddie Jones jersey, which I wore again at Staples at the one game I was able to attend last season.
James Worthy’s always going to be my favorite Laker, but Eddie’s right up there (and it doesn’t hurt that we share the same last name).
Craig W. says
The Charlotte trade was planned in advance, but couldn’t be announced. Charlotte drafted Kobe because West wanted him and would not give them his starting center unless they would follow through. The trade was then announced after the draft.
West took a big chance, but had to have the cash to make an offer to Shaq.
Thanks for the great post and trip down memory lane. My favorite part about Nick’s last second three against the Celtics (if I remember correctly) is that it was the last time the Lakers played the Celtics in the old Boston Garden.
After all the history between the two teams on that floor, and with so many Laker seasons ending in defeat at the Garden, it was so sweet to have the last game there end on Nick’s game winning three.
I felt like the ’07-’08 team had that same sort of sense of fun on the court and feeling of continually defeating expectations. I remember going into the season thinking, “well, if Drew develops, maybe we’ll make the second round of the playoffs… and if Nash gets hurt, then there’s the Pacific Division”. Instead, we ended up with the 1st seed in the Western Conference and a trip to the finals.
Add to that the not-entirely-expected developments in players like Sasha, Drew, Jordan, and Ronny (and, well, basically everything about Ronny), and the electricity of the trades for Trevor and Pau, plus Kobe maturing into the MVP, and you’ve got one magical season.
I liked Eddie Jones as well, but he always disappeared in the playoffs… Van Exel on the other hand was the man.
I remember that year of the Lakers. That was when I officially became a fan, not to just the Lakers, but to sports period. Thanks for this piece it really brought back a lot of the joyous memories I had back then watching the Lake Show.
As several posters already mentioned. . 07-08 reminded me a great deal of that “Lake Show” season.. just one of great joy, growth and surprises.
One thing that will always bug me about that San Antonio series is that I felt the Lakers big me were being called tighter than the Admiral.
I recall Vlade and Elden playing huge and getting lame calls against them.. made me mad!!
Thanks for the memories!!
Nick was the coolest, with the permanent chip on his shoulder and his crazy shaved eyebrow. Too bad about Cancun.
I was at the Magic game when they came back and almost won. It was St. Patrick’s Day (Jack was wearing green creepers) and Van Exel missed a pull up three at the buzzer that would have won the game.
That Celtics buzzer beater was the last game played in old Boston Garden. Notice one Rick Fox of the Celtics stunned look after he hits the shot.Van Exel closed the joint down!
“They’re young and cocky and have no respect for nobody,” Phoenix’s Charles Barkley said. “I love that.”
“He plays because the 37th pick in the draft usually doesn’t – he plays for the sound of nothing but net…he plays for Prime Sports”
Brian Tung says
@Craig W (12:56 p.m.): That’s basically what I recall, but my point was that the trade was not for the pick, but for Kobe. Whether it was arranged in advance or not, it would not have been executed had Kobe already been taken before that point, isn’t that right?
So Bowen finally hangs em up. In some ways I’ll miss that little pest.
Chris J says
Not to try to one-up a team that won it all, but imagine this lineup in 1999-00.
Had the Jones/Rice trade not occurred, these guys could have all conceivably been playing together during the Lakers’ first season at Staples.
PG – Ron Harper
SG – Kobe Bryant
SF – Eddie Jones
PF – A.C. Green
C – Shaquille O’Neal
Bench: Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Ty Lue, Elden Campbell and Devean George.
(I suspect West probably wouldn’t have added John Salley if Campbell had still been in the fold.)
Seriously, how deep was that 1999-00 team? If you sub out Rice for Eddie and Campbell, that’s basically the actual roster that season.
The first four guys off of the bench were all key contributors, starters even, on Finals teams at some point in their careers.
Even Elden Campbell played on two Finals teams, the 1990-91 Lakers and ironically, the Pistons team that ended the Shaq-Kobe dynasty in 2004.
Craig W. says
You are right. However, there wasn’t much chance of Kobe being taken earlier.
High schoolers weren’t so well scouted then and GMs generally wanted big men, not guards – who were supposed to take longer to develop. Things have kind of turned around at this time so you have to put on a different hat to remember the mindset of people in 1996. All the previous high schoolers drafted before that time (Garnett, Willowbee (sp??), and the other firsts were big men).
16) great clip. those dunks were NASTY! I didnt think Eddie could top the hammer dunk over Shawn Bradley, but then he takes off from the free throw line for a fast break dunk? Eddie Jones made the Lakers my favorite team on NBA live 98. Him and Kobe we unstoppable on that game.
that 97-98 team was easily the team that really hooked me into the lakers with shaq kobe nick and eddie jones
This was up a while ago so people have probably already seen it, but Chris Sheridan agrees with Kurt on Rubio:
I can’t remember if those are the same reasons Kurt predicted 3 years, but once again, Mr. Helin is ahead of the game.
Great post Chris J, yeah that was a fun time to watch the Lakers. I remember Peeler being taken at 15 and thinking at the time that was a high pick for this team and really liked his shot. Lot’s of good memories in my mind with this Lakers team over the decades for different reasons. A nomuskles sighting, where have you been…
Kobe and Eddie were good friends on that Laker team and they would have been fun to watch. Interestingly, Eddie and Trevor Ariza were similar in temperament to each other.
Between Trevor and Eddie which of the two complimented Kobe better?
Being an Eddie Jones fan with his defensive abilities, finishing around the rim and improving three point shot, my vote goes to Eddie and Kobe, they would have been a formidable duo for years.
I recall that Eddie Jones was traded because Shaq didn’t like him and wanted his three point shooting friend from the Magic either Nick Anderson or Dennis Scott to take his place. I believe that it was Scott but he could not pass the physical, so the Lakers got Rice instead.
Van Exel was traded to Denver because, Shaq thought that Van Exel did not get him the ball enough (boy, how many times has that been said in Shaq’s career). Van Exel was moved to give Fisher the starting point position so that he could give Shaq the ball more often. I was outraged because I thought that Fisher was a good pg to have on the bench but not a starting point for the Lakers.
Fisher worked on his three point shooting while he was on the injured reserve with a leg injury and came back shooting at a high rate of efficiency, and thus winning me over. And consequentially, manning the pg position through numerous Laker championships.
I am an old timer, so I remember those fun Lakers. I still kept some of those games on tape. I remember how they beat the heavily favored Suns on their home court for the Christmas Game. They were bunch of kids who seem to play for the sheer joy, not for fame or huge contract.
That was one team when they did loose a game, you felt for them, because they were trying so hard.
Anthony Peeler though forgotten deserves all the credit for playing hard even he was squeezed out of starting role by new comer Eddie Jone.
That in itself was class and sportsmanship. Something Allen Iverson or Stephon Marburry could never even come close to.
39 – I’d say Eddie and Kobe, hands down. Eddie could do everything Trevor can, I’d argue he was even better defensively, much more diverse offensively, and unlike Trevor (who shot accurately and played well for a season or two), Jones did it for years. And he didn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective, so I agree – Kobe and Eddie would have been awe-inspiring as perimeter players surrounding Shaq in his prime. But of course, egos always get in the way..
Craig W. says
Today the speculation is much different than it was in the summer of ’04. Then it was Kobe who was the villain and Shaq the guy we should have kept.
Funny how we all have selective memories, based on how things turn out.
Shaq’s personality and ego haven’t changed all that much over the years. It’s just that he is such a lovable teddy bear with the media – oh I forgot – don’t make him mad.
chris h says
craig, brian, my point was that West traded Vlade for the 13th pick, (I don’t know for a fact that Kobe was a lock, but he expected it to be).
my point was that West traded our starting center for a pick, and West was in discussion with Shaq’s agent but it was NOT a lock at that time that Shaq would come, it was a tedious negotiation, and highly stressful for West.
in the end, it all worked out perfectly, getting both Shaq and Kobe and the Laker dynasty had begun.
but for a while there, Jerry West was playing very high stakes poker, and it was such a stress, it led to him eventually retiring from the Lakers.
Craig, for these reasons, I don’t believe West had the option of canceling the trade if Kobe was not available, it was just not an option he could take.
thus, raising the stakes.
When did we begin to believe that behemoth men were teddy-bears? I can think of two,
Hoss on Bonanza and Rosie Greer the knitting defensive lineman.
Even though Shaq marketed himself as a smiling, happy go lucky guy his actions have portrayed him otherwise. While Kobe was seen to be taciturn, minus the Colorado debacle, Kobe’s actions have been mild in comparison.
The ’94 team is the reason I first became a Laker fan. I am 28 now and back then only liked baseball. That team made me fall in love with basketball.
Shaq gets along with the media. They love him. So, he’s never painted in a bad light. He has done some very prickish things, but he knows how keep the bobbleheads from blasting him.
Imagine some other player constantly complaining about touches, not coming into the season in shape, talking extension all of the time, stealing other teammates business ideas, or making fun of teammates when you move on?
Gabriel R. says
That game 5 against the Spurs in the playoffs with Nick hitting those two threes bring back memories.
I was sitting in a lazy boy type chair when he hit that first dagger of a three and I leaped out of my chair and came down on it with excitement. Then when he did it again to end the game, I went to leap again and came back down screaming and broke the lazy boy chair.
Talk about unexpected excitement. I think it was just fun because anything you got from THAT team was just a bonus because you knew they weren’t championship material at the time.
Somebody should tell FoxSportsWest to show that game on one of their Sunday home game broadcasts after the game. Just cause it didn’t get us a ring doesn’t mean I don’t want to see different games.
Don’t forget to include ripping ex coaches in that list too wondahbap.
When I think of the lake show all I can hear is that clip they used to play…
when i say eddie, you say jones… eddie! jones! lakers! go!
Does anybody remember the game against the Sonics in Seattle in which Nick hit an off-balance right handed three late in the game and he ran around the court hushing the crowd? I can never forget that, but I’d love to see a replay now.
That’s right. The list is so long that I was bound to forget something haha.
One thing I forgot to mention about the Lake Show team….
It’s teams like the Lake Show Lakers, or the Kwame/Smush/Kobe Lakers that forge true fans. The Shaq/Kobe 3-peat and the Kobe/Pau/LO Championship meant so much more because of everything that built up to those Titles. It was fun watching those teams because of the potential we knew they had. Getting to see them have a great game, or season, or make an unexpected run in the Playoffs feels so good as a fan, because we feel like we’re the only ones who really know. Like a underground band about to blow up.
When Nicky V knocked down dagger after dagger, we knew it all along. When Eddie Jones locked someone one up, we knew it all along. Even though those two weren’t here when we made it back to the Top, it watching those teams gradually progress into Champs that made it that much sweeter.
That’s why I can never understand when so called “fans” (like “Joe”) spend the whole season doubting their team. Even if my team stunk, I see what positives they have to give them a chance to be good. When they make it over the hump, I knew it all along. If you never believed, how can you enjoy It?
Funky Chicken says
Lotsa revisionist thinking going on here. Nick was a loser with a bad attitude and was not coachable; Eddie was incredibly inconsistent; Ceballos was a space cadet; there was no power forward to speak of; and Vlade was one of the softest centers in the league.
I view that era as one of the nightmares in this organization’s history (exceeded only by the more recent Smush, Luke, Cook, Kwame foursome). Thank God we are past the days of getting excited about a group of guys like these.
barry g says
agree w/ wondahbap’s thoughts re: true fans. it’s easy to cheer for a 60+ win team (everyone loves a winner), but there’s something truer about your fan-nessticity when your team is sub-500 and you still know every player’s name and mark game days on your calendar.
Revisionist thinking like this is a luxury only the Lakers can have. Our nightmare teams still made the playoffs. Ask the Celtics if they reminisce about the Pitino era.
Chris J says
51 – I’d counter that you’re guilty of revisionist history if you’re suggesting this group had no merits simply because things didn’t end well. They were very entertaining for a time, before things went south.
Nick did indeed become a cancer, and Ceballos’ jet skiing antics the following season were inexcusable, which is why he was traded for Robert Horry.
But this was a single-season recap, and the issues you cited didn’t really come to a head until later on.
If you choose to look back on that era as a down period in Lakers history, your point has merit if your criteria are winning championships. The “Lake Show” didn’t deliver any.
But for one season that began with all signs pointing toward a crappy year, that team overachieved and was surprisingly a helluva lot of fun to watch.
Getting back to chearn’s question of Eddie Jones or Trevor Ariza, I think Funky Chicken raises a good point: as much as I enjoyed Eddie, I can only recall him showing up strong in two playoff series while he was in L.A. (vs. Seattle in 1998, and vs. Houston in 1996).
Ariza essentially offered more notable playoff contributions last season alone than Eddie did in his career as a Laker, so for that reason my vote in that debate swings in Ariza’s favor, if only slightly.
However, the great unknown is whether Eddie would have grown into a better post-season player given more experience, and more importantly better coaching.
Keep in mind that before Phil arrived, Kobe’s playoff “highlight” reel included three airballs in Salt Lake City in 1997, as well as missing two free throws that would have put the Lakers ahead of the Spurs in the last seconds of a playoff game in 1999. He choked, and the Lakers went on to swept out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Kobe dealt with the adversity and improved dramatically under Phil, and by the following year he was making real playoff highlights such as the alley-oop to Shaq vs. Portland, or his “Relax, I got this” close-out of the Pacers in Indiana after Shaq had fouled out and many expected the Lakers to collapse.
Who’s to say Eddie’s playoff output wouldn’t also have improved under Phil, as did Kobe, Pippen, even Jordan?
We’ll never know, of course, but it’s not crazy to wonder…
As to barry g’s point, I agree — with one exception.
By the end of the 2004-05 Rudy T./Hamblen fiasco, watching the Lakers suck had become so maddeningly frustrating that I couldn’t watch them for a time. Mainly because a Finals team had essentially niked itself, and there was no sign of hope on the horizon.
That was the only time in my life when watching the Lakers made me feel like I do when watching the Raiders.
Chris J says
nuked itself, I meant to type
Brian Tung says
@Funky Chicken (3:35 p.m.): No revisionist thinking here. I was always a fan of Nick the Quick. I also thought he got done wrong by Del Harris, who is a perfectly competent coach, but not really properly equipped to deal with superstar egos. He did have a chip on his shoulder, but that also was what made him able to hit clutch shots, not just on the Lakers but some of his other teams, too–I remember one year when he was with the Mavs when it seemed like he was the only one who wanted the ball at the end of the game. (Toward the end of his career he was clearly a shell of his former self.) Someone like Phil, ironically, would have been able to manage him pretty darned well, I think.
Eddie was consistent. Until the playoffs, alas. Still pretty exciting to watch.
Ceballos was a bit aloof, but he didn’t come close to RadMan territory. Not sure RadMan’s head was ever really into the game.
But hey, you’re free not to get excited about those guys. I can see that. Different strokes. Not too cool to drag the rest of us along with you on that, though.
Funky Chicken says
Well, I agree that this is something unique to the Lakers, but don’t make the mistake of understating the bad times. Some of our bad teams did not make the playoffs, and others who did were miserable. The rebound from then to now is simply fantastic, but some of us are still scarred by the experience.
Also, I suspect the Celtics will soon look back on the Pitino days with fond feelings. They are a year or two away from becoming a lottery team, again.
Funky Chicken says
Brian Tung, I’m not trying to bring anyone down. Just trying to instill a sense of reality. It is easy to think highly of players and teams now that we’ve got a virtual hall of fame starting five, but I recall some real bad times.
My recollection of Eddie is that if you average his scoring over a 4 game span, he’ll be remarkably consistent. Of course, if you look at his performance in any one of those games, he was likely to end up with 5 points. Kind of like Lamar, whose numbers are remarkably consistent over a season or a career, but fluctuate wildly from game to game.
Man, I had actually written Radman off to the outer reaches of my mind. Now YOU are bringing ME down….
They were interesting, but I kind of found the 96-98 years more interesting in terms of losing Lakers teams. Kobe’s athleticism was unparalleled, and Shaq could still jump. I miss Eddie Jones the most out of all the players you mentioned, but those pre-dynasty years were exciting because you could smell the championships right around the corner.
Funky Chicken, some of us are capable of enjoying a basketball game where the Lakers lose, enjoying a season that does not end in a title. It is about the journey, not the destination. It is about seeing players you like succeed in steps, about a team that is not capable of winning a title overachieving and, in this case, starting to set the stage for what was to come. Maybe that is not you, and for that I pity you.
The Dude Abides says
Someone mentioned one of the games we lost in San Antonio in the 1995 playoffs and how our big men, especially Elden, got screwed by the calls in crunch time. That was an enjoyable season, but that one game was so egregious that it almost marred the season for me.
Those calls were on strips…Elden kept stripping the MVP cleanly as the Admiral was in the process of going up for his shot. This happened three or four times in the final two minutes, and the TV station kept showing the replays. All ball every time. Foul every time. You could even hear it on the TV set a couple times, the sound of Elden hitting the ball hard.
The same thing happened at the other end, I think two times, to Elden. He went up for a shot, Robinson tried to strip him, and got all arm. Obvious foul, plus you could see the ball going up toward the basket a few feet instead of being driven down into the floor and bouncing up. No call each time.
The TV commentators (national, I think) remarked how this is what happens when you’re the league’s MVP. I became a huge Houston Rocket fan the next series because I developed an unnatural hatred for David Robinson. Seeing Hakeem school him in the next series gave me great pleasure. All those two-minute Hakeem highlights that we see on ESPN or TNT now are from that series, when he made the Admiral look like the current version of Eddie Curry.
That 1994-95 season, along with the 2001-02 season, was probably the most extreme example of talent disparity between the Western and Eastern Conferences. Houston was the 6th seed and dominated #1 Orlando in the Finals. And in 2001-02, I remember that the 8th seed Portland in the West was probably a better team than #1 New Jersey.
I remember hearing the rumors in Feb 1999 that Jerry West coveted Glen Rice, and that Eddie Jones wasn’t working out. I was in a constant state of dread, even during that ten-game winning streak. I still believe that if we hadn’t made that trade, we could have beaten the Spurs that season. We sure would have had a higher seed, as Rodman played great basketball for us until the trade happened, upsetting the team’s chemistry. Kobe was playing a great SF, Eddie was playing a great SG, Fish was a solid PG, Rodman was playing great defense, and Shaq was Shaq. On the other hand, if the team had made the WCF or even beaten the Spurs in the 1999 playoffs, they may have never hired Phil.
61 – Now that was a series. Hakeem’s performance in that semifinals is one of the all-time greatest individual series performances. I wish there was complete video (instead of highlights) available somewhere.
Sorry for the off-topic note, but I guess I missed this article when it came out in June – I had no idea Hollinger had last year’s Finals team ranked 9th all time (“but he hates the Lakers!” cry the masses). For those who don’t spit vitriol every time Hollinger writes:
Different strokes for different folks. To pity someone is pretty extreme. For me my favorite Lakers team was the team that lost to the Celtics in the Finals a year ago. I was so used to watching great Lakers teams for so many years and then we were missing the playoffs and/or barley getting in with an 8th seed. Then sure enough out of nowhere the Lakers go from an 8th seed to a 1st seed behind break out star Andrew Bynum capped with a beat down of the pesky Suns on Xmas day.
What made that first half of the season so fun is the Lakers didn’t do it by any trade or signing. It was their young guys (Bynum, Farmar, Sasha, and Turiaf) who grew before our eyes. To go from legendary Lakers teams of Shaq and Kobe to not making the playoffs made me appreciate what I had… and then to get back up to championship level basketball made it all the more sweet.
Chris J says
61 – Nice guys usually get a pass on my fan hatred scale, or at least a toned down version of disdain since they’re not doing things that would obviously make other teams’ fans hate them. It’s hard to hate a Chris Paul or a Yao, for example, whereas it’s easy to hate a Garnett or Laimbeer or Gary Payton. It’s all about how they carry themselves.
But I’ve never hated a “nice guy” player more than David Robison. That guy was the phoniest stat padder ever, but when the chips were down and his team needed him to step up, he folded like a wet noodle. Every time.
He was like Elway — a very good player who couldn’t win it on his own but later roade the coattails of another star to a title, and fans who don’t know better see them as champions.
Elway couldn’t win without Terrell Davis, and Robinson was a playoff loser until his TD (Tim Duncan) came on the scene.
I too was disgusted by the star treatment he received against Vlade and Elden in ’99, and I too wholly enjoyed watching Olajuwon take Robinson to school in ’95.
I’d say David Robinson is arguably be the most overrated player in NBA history.
Chris J says
I should edit before I type… the star treatment vs. Vlade and Elden was in ’95, obviously.
What some people believe to be an instillation of “realism” in the minds of others, those others view that as being the turd in their toilet. And nobody likes it when someone poos on their parade.
I for one don’t proscribe either perspective, but I do feel some semblance of pity for those who cannot enjoy a game for what it is, no matter who wins or who loses, similarly to the way I feel about those who cannot enjoy themselves if they are not winning or first or the best.
Those late 90’s Laker teams grew from their losing experiences. Kobe grew from his airballs in Utah, Shaq grew from his struggles in Orlando and subsequent struggles in pushing LA over the top, quite similarly to the way our team grew from the loss in 2008 to Boston. In a way, it was the losses that we had against Detroit, Philadelphia, Indiana, Orlando, Denver, and even Sacramento, that made our team grow up the most, that contributed the most to our winning the championship.
I loved those “Lakeshow” team for two distinct reasons:
1). They just had a swagger. I loved NVE and how he played with that chip on his shoulder. Some players truly benefit from being snubbed in the draft and I think Nicky Van was one of those guys.
2). It was great to have a good and exciting team again. After Magic retired and then watching Worthy age and the natural drop off that comes with the end of a dynasty, this was the team that made it really fun again. As a die hard fan, you’ll follow and support your team through thick and thin. But the Lakers had just seen some lows that they had not experienced in so long – then this team came along. They weren’t built for post season glory, but in some ways they were like a poor mans “Showtime” team that fast-breaked and wowed the crowd.
Thanks for the nostalgia Chris.
The Dude Abides says
Chris, agree for the most part on Robinson (way overrated), but I’m going to have to disagree re Elway. That guy was an all-time great. He did almost single-handedly lead his team to three Super Bowls before they got Davis. They just ran into superior teams in that final game. And while Davis was Super Bowl MVP in January 1998, Elway himself was the MVP in the next year’s Super Bowl.
Craig W. says
As The Dude Abides said, Elway was more like Kobe – in that he literally carried mediocre teams, not only into the playoffs, but to the Super Bowl multiple times. There is no other QB in history you can say that about. The guy was an amazing athlete. It is just that he, along with Wilt, personifies the ‘can’t win alone’ adage.
It’s hard for me to agree with the statements that Elway carried his team when he was surrounded by several Pro-bowlers that include a 2000 yard rusher and a half of fame tight end. Elway was amazing, there’s no denying that, but let’s not go overboard and say that he did it all alone. He was surrounded by great players as well.
I clicked on this article purely because of the headline
“Merriman accused of choking girlfriend Tequila”
Then I thought to myself, “wait wha? Shawne Merriman is dating Tila Tequila?” only afterward thinking, “wait, they just referred to her as ‘Tequila’ like it was actually her name or something.”
Gabriel R. says
57: I know I’m a little late to the party on this comment, but there is LITTLE comparison to the Lake Show vs. the Kobe/Smush/Kwame era other than neither team didn’t win a championship.
The Lake Show was a team that you knew had a chance to win any given game because they played hard, maybe not full of the talent we needed, but they tried. And tried HARD.
The Kobe-Smush-Kwame team was equivalent to a one-man circus that was very luck at times.
That team NEVER had a real chance of winning, despite Kobe’s all knowing basketball greatness.
Gr8 Scott says
Thanks for the write up. That Lake Show team restored my fandom with the Lakers. I was 16 at the time and still had memories of the back2back years when I really first grew to love basketball and the Lakers (not necessarily in that order). After Magic’s HIV, the retirements of older players, it was tough to root for our team (much like ’06). Thankfully Jones, Van Exel and Ceballos helped make us relevant again. I always lamented that Eddie didn’t get to hang around one more year to help us get that ring in 2000. I remember seeing him play one of his last games in San Antonio and wearing my purple #6 jersey (he wore #25 his rookie year only?) and thinking that this was it. Several days later he was traded. A sad ending, but he helped plant the seeds that grew into a championship rose.
Tila Tequila’s still relevant?
The Super Bowl Broncos were hardly mediocre. Very good defensively, very good receivers, mediocre running game prior to Davis.
Chris J says
Some good points Re: Elway.
I’m admittedly biased as a (sadly) Raider fan, so don’t take any of my cracks against the horse-toothed used car salesman as anything more than my own bitterness.
That said, those two Super Bowls he did win were more on the shoulders of TD than Elway, despite his past accomplishments. Yet when people think of those Super Bowls, the casual fans tend to associate them with Elway — it’s like he gets credit for past success or something.
At least in the Spurs’ case, I believe most basketball fans recognize that those titles had more to do with Duncan than Mrs. Robinson.
Texas Rob says
Snoop, ….was she ever really relevant?
No doubt she’s loving the free publicity from this.
77 – Haha she shouldn’t have been, but considering she had her own reality show and many people tuning in, I’d say she kinda was…
For that matter, if we’re talking talentless morons who’ve done nothing to deserve fame, we can add Paris, the Kardashians, and the entire cast of the Hills to the group.
I love these BDL Top 10 lists. And look which of our guys (and former guys) made the cut…
Gotta say, I’m surprised Scola and Mo Williams didn’t make it. I’ll cut KD a break, it’s the offseason.
Chris J says
That BDL second round story has a photo of Monta Ellis that makes him look eerily similar to Isiah Thomas.
Anyone wanna bet the Warriors front office saw that shot and went out and hired a sexual harassment defense attorney, just in case?
Joel R says
Snoopy (#79) reminded me by raising the spectre of the Kardashians … and unless I missed it, I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else yet:
Was anyone here aware that Lamar is now apparently dating Khloe Kardashian, aka Kim’s somewhat man-ish sister?
I feel like Lamar is letting down the side a bit on this one.
Dwyer’s lists have been alright, but some have been really bad. Especially the Top 10 Best Teams to Not Win the Championship this Decade.
He either loves Lebron/Cavs too much or has a really short memory.
He thinks the best teams to not win it all were:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2008-2009)
2. Sacramento Kings (2001-2002)
3. San Antonio Spurs (2003-2004)
4. Portland Trail Blazers (1999-2000)
5. Dallas Mavericks (2006-2007)
6. Los Angeles Lakers (2003-2004)
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (2003-2005)
8. Phoenix Suns (2004-2005)
9. Detroit Pistons (2005-2006)
10. Miami Heat (2004-2005)
Now, I think a lot of those teams up there could have won the title, but putting last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers is baffling. As a Laker fan, I can admit that the 2001-2002 Kings team was a hella lot scarier and better than the 2008-2009 Cavs team. Sure the Cavs has LBJ and won 66 games. However, that 2002 Kings team was not shabby either. That team also finished with a league-best record of 61–21, winning 36 of 41 games at their home (kinda like the Cavs winning the majority of their games at home too), yet they took the 2002 Lakers team to 7 games that were too close for my Laker fan’s heart for comfort. That same Kings team featured a lineup of Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson that would have easily taken the 2009 Cavs team (even with LBJ and Mo Williams on it). Sure 66 wins is a lot, but then that would mean the 67 win 2007 Mavs team should have been #1, not the Cavs. Anyway you cut it, that 2009 Cavs team is a lot worse than most of the teams on that list.
I’m sorry man, but did you just put Eddie Jones in the same sentence as Kobe, MJ and Pippen? Seeing that the last three are 3 of the top 25 players in history, 2 of them definitely in the top 10 and 1 of them the top player in basketball history? Oh yeah, also the 3 in question have 16 NBA titles between them! Not to mention Kobe was 17-18 years old before Phil got here, not a fair comparison between an Eddie in his prime.
New post up, and a contest where you can win a pair of Converse.
Thanks for posting this! I was in 5th grade when the Lake Show emerged and they MADE me a fan of the NBA! I still remember Van Exel nailing a three-point buzzer beater to crush the Celtics in their last game in the original Garden… one of my favorite memories. I actually lost interest after they signed Shaq. Despite the rings that came later, the fun was gone. The drama was one thing, the other side was that it seemed too easy with the big man. I loved cheering for the underdogs, which the Lakers rarely are. Even after they were gone, I was a fan of Nick and Eddie for life.