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?
One of my favorite memories as a child came when I met Byron Scott at a mall in Torrance, CA. It the summer after the Lakers beat the Pistons and B.Scott was passing out autographed photos and basketballs. It was very much the first time I was star-struck because Scott was one of my favorite players.
If you want to talk about pull up jumpers the conversation has to include this man!
Craig W. says
My only issue with Byron Scott, as a coach, is that he reminds me of a lesser version of Larry Brown – in that he is extremely demanding you follow his exact formula and he wears on a team after only a couple of years. Sort of like Riley in the late 80’s.
#1 – So true about the pull up that Byron used to go with. Fish’s love of the PUJIT is NOTHING compared to Byron on the break with no rebounders. The difference of course was that Byron seemed to make a much higher percentage!
I’ve been watching a bunch of Showtime games this offseason, and Byron’s game could be a thing of beauty, especially by ’88/’89 or so, when he had really added a legitimate 3 point shot to his arsenal.
Without a doubt (other than championships) my favorite Byron Scott moment was the absolute clinic he put on the Boston Celtics, Valentine’s Day of 1988. 38 points on 15-19 from the field and a *monster* dunk right before halftime that got played over and over … box score: http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/198802140LAL.html ….
my favorite Laker ever! I wore a signed B Scott #4 jersey to game 7 vs. the Celtics…thanks for this post.
Totally random, but Andrew Bynum was at the Dallas Cowboys game today. He sat next to my daughter’s good friend. We forget how young he is, but I wish I were there to hear the 21 year old tell a pretty 17 year old he is “the starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers”.
P. Ami says
Alex, you said it wrong, “the starting center for your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers”… Chicky Baby.
I have very little memory of Byron the player, mostly know him as the coach although I know he played for us & I watched him play.
I keep mixing him up with Byron Russel, too 😉
P. Ami says
Thanks harold for making me feel old. Wait till some kid says something to the effect of, didn’t Lamar Odom play with the Lakers before his acting career.
P. Ami, it’s not that i’m young (which I think I am) but more in lines of not really knowing what to look for & appreciate the game to actually KNOW Byron.
For me, Lakers back then was just Magic and Kareem, it seemed like 🙂