A thinking fan's guide to the Lakers from a couple of Los Angeles Times sportswriters who have covered the NBA club throughout the 1980's--the period of its greatest success and glamour. Ostler and Springer manage to make a good story well worth the retelling. Through the 1985-86 season, the Lakers reached the play-off finals five out of seven times, winning two championships, including one at the expense of Boston's Celtics in 1985. Led by two of pro basketball's superstars--aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and young Earvin (Magic) Johnson--the flashy, hard-running team has captured the fancy of the Hollywood crowd. Master of these revels is Jerry Buss, a Ph.D. physicist and sometime missile engineer who amassed a real-estate fortune large enough to acquire the Lakers, along with the local NHL franchise and an arena. The complicated megabuck transaction, which involved swapping for Manhattan's Chrysler Building, made the financial as well as sports pages. Despite strong direction, the Lakers did not go from also-rans to the top either effortlessly or harmoniously. Indeed, the authors make clear that there have been false starts, personality clashes, and heartaches along the way. Though not quite insiders, the authors offer accounts that ring true of such erstwhile outrages as the semi-bum rap taken by Magic Johnson for the firing of coach Paul Westhead. The final score: a winning combination of inside detail on a major professional sports enterprise, plus like-it-is profiles of leading players and key front-office personnel. There will be pictures (not seen).