The Lakers were only halfway through a season that would become the most miserable in L.A. franchise history — a mere 30 wins, the fewest since the team managed to record 25 during their final year in Minneapolis before needing to get out of town.
But this was less than three years removed from the NBA championship in this city. How could the euphoria dissipate so quickly?
Sharman already had a view of the bigger picture.
When owner Jack Kent Cooke hired him prior to that historic ‘71-’72 season, Sharman had been primed for a long-term rebuilding process. The careers of three future Hall of Famers — Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor — were close to ending. By the ‘74-’75 season, all of them were gone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s arrival was an endless summer away.
If not for Sharman, who both as a competitor as well as one of the nicest people you’d ever want to be around, that fiasco of a performance could have much more demoralizing.
Sharman wouldn’t allow it.
As a Lakers ball boy during that “Wonder Years” period of middle-school awkwardness — no wonder the team had job openings, just apply to trainer Frank O’Neal and wait for a quick return call — I was fortunate enough to have some access to how this transition was going to take place. It came mostly from the perspective of looking up to a locker room full of players, some of whom had no idea they’d be far more famous in the coming years later, while others may still not have figured out their best years were behind them. Continue reading