When Jeff Pearlman began doing research on a book he wanted to write about the Lakers’ “Showtime” era of the 1980s – it involved a two-year-process and about 300 interviews – someone asked him about whether the state of the current Lakers would make any difference in how the project was received.
Meaning, would it be better if these Lakers were pointed toward another NBA title or if they were on a lull and about to miss the playoffs.
“This was right after the Lakers got Dwight Howard (in August, 2012),” said Pearlman, the former Sports Illustrated writer and author of several New York Times’ best-selling books. “My thought was that if the Lakers were playing great, everyone would be celebrating how great this team was, and might overlook the book.
“But, still, I didn’t want them to be this bad. This is kind of ridiculous. It doesn’t seem right that the Lakers are this terrible. It’s hard to watch.
“It’s so funny how a team can go stale so quickly. There’s Lakers jerseys hanging in the store now that look so stale. Even the Kobe jersey looks like something for a retired player, right next to the Steve Nash jersey.”
Pearlman was admitting as much as he sat in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in L.A. Live on Friday night, as fans dressed in their purple and gold – some of them in Bryant jerseys — were heading over to Staples Center to actually witness a game between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings.
Even with the Lakers’ 126-122 triumph, they still trailed the Kings at the bottom of the Western Conference.
So, anyone want to call a time out and relive some “Showtime” now?
For the record, Pearlman does, and did, with an excavation process that would have made the scientists at the La Brea Tar Pits even relive some goose-bump moments.
In “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” (Gotham Books, 482 pages, $30, released Tuesday),” Pearlman polishes off some gems we don’t believe we’ve read before, or couldn’t have known at all had he not traveled around the country to meet up again with those who lived it first hand.
Pearlman explains not just the process, but how the final product produces a whole never level of understanding about that Lakers’ run that produced five NBA titles between the time Jerry Buss took over the team from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 until Magic Johnson’s first retirement in 1991:
Q: How did someone like you, a kid growing up in New York in the 1980s, view the Lakers and “Showtime” from all those miles away? Was it as big as a Springsteen concert would have been during that period in his heyday?
A: I think of Michael Jackson, doing the moonwalk for the first time, and we’re all watching it on some awards show and we’re like, “Oh, my God.” To me, that’s what it more like. Dazzling. The Lakers to me, it’s kinda weird – I grew up in a very white, sheltered town and everyone there like St. John’s over Georgetown, because it was the “white team.” But I was in a very liberal, hippy-dippy house where we could root for the athletes with the big Afros, the colorful names, players like Garry Templeton, Ken Griffey Sr. And the Lakers, to me, were better to root for than the “white” Celtics because they were cool, Magic was the coolest guy ever, a 6-foot-9 point guard, looking right, looking left, passing . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes . . . they were fancy, snazzy to me, exciting, explosive and dynamic. Besides, I was a fan of the New Jersey Nets, and they were terrible. I remember when they drafted Pearl Washington, and that was a big deal. With Otis Birdsong and Darwin Cook and Mike Gminski. Continue reading