A comprehensive oral history of the basketball team that forever married the worlds of sports and celebrity.
Michael Jordan may be the greatest basketball player of all time, and the Boston Celtics may have won the most NBA championships, but no team has enjoyed a higher profile on the hardwood than the Los Angeles Lakers. From obscure origins in Minneapolis, where the team first rose to prominence behind the dominating play of George Mikan and Jim Pollard, the Lakers breathed life into the sport by turning basketball into a Hollywood film and its players into stars. Lazenby chronicles the story of the franchise from its earliest moments through its relocation to Los Angeles; relates its titanic, frustrating battles with the Boston Celtics in the 1960s; notes the arrival of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the phenomenon of “Showtime”; and concludes by charting the trajectory of the charmed, then doomed, duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Throughout, the author relies on those who played and coached for the Lakers to tell the bulk of the story; much of the book consists of quotations from familiar names like Elgin Baylor, Rod Hundley, Jerry West, Pat Riley and Chick Hearn, and not-so-familiar ones like Sid Hartman, John Kundla and Gary Vitti. This makes for informative, but stylistically uneven, reading. In addition, since the exploits of the Lakers on the basketball court are so well known, novel insights are confined largely to what happened off the court. Some examples include the comic crash-landing of the team plane in a snowy Iowa cornfield, and the undervalued promotional work of Lou Mohs, who helped the Lakers get their bearings after moving to the West Coast. Sections on the private life of Magic Johnson, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, give the book a few poignantly critical moments, which are otherwise few and far between.
Like a Bible for the Laker faithful, but largely inscrutable for the uninitiated.