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50 Years of Lakers Memories – My Showtime

2016 February 7

Here’s a throw-back article to the good ol’ days… When parades were automatic and the universe was purple and gold.

• dEDGE Post Scriptum •

I was fortunate enough to witness an exciting era in Los Angeles Lakers history known as Showtime. It was a special time to be a Lakers fan. Every game was full of excitement, energy, and jaw dropping plays that kept you breathless and unable to blink, for fear of missing the highlight of the night. Superstars Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy were teamed up with perennial All-Stars such as Byron Scott, Norm Nixon, Bob McAdoo and Jamaal Wilkes. And the team featured fan favorites such as Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, AC Green and Mychal Thompson. The Showtime Lakers captured five NBA championships during the 1980s and were rightfully dubbed the Team of the Decade.


Cap leading out the troops against the Celtics.

Cap leading out the troops (James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper) against the Celtics. ©lakersEDGE

It was 1979 and new Lakers owner Jerry Buss wanted to incorporate a collegiate-like feel to the professional game and introduced innovative things such as a live pep band, a choreographed dance squad, and other amenities that enticed Hollywood to attend games. He took out the writers and journalists from the front row and replaced them with courtside seating for those who were willing to shell out large sums of money. He also had a colorful commentator in Chick Hearn so he leveraged his popularity and inked broadcast deals for every home and away game to take full advantage of his broad appeal.

And as the Lakers won, their flashy brilliance on the court also grew in popularity. Each contest was soon filled to capacity, and the prominent courtside and floor-level seats were stuffed with celebrities. A-listers such as Andy Garcia, Dyan Cannon, Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, Don Rickles, Penny Marshall, Walter Matthau, Dustin Hoffman, and the enigmatic Jack Nicholson attended Lakers games in regularity. In later years the Lakers would attract fan favorites Pamela Anderson, Heather Locklear, Mike Tyson, Denzel Washington, Janet Jackson, and LA’s own Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The City of Angels embraced their champions and a game at the Fabulous Forum was the place to be, and to be seen.

A special bonus at the game would be an event that happened off the playing court. Hot girls would strut the courtside catwalk that encircled the playing floor during any break in the action. It was a private runway where beautiful women of all flavors, shapes, and shades would advertise their attributes. It was a performance within a performance and I could hardly wait for each timeout or stop in play. A few brave and brazen young women would actually try to stop game action by meandering by the Lakers bench, casually stopping for a few moments to chat with the boys on the bench. This distraction did not go unnoticed by the fans or the players on the court. Security had to be beefed up at home games simply to keep the girls from interfering with the real game being played.

Jim, our trusty Lakers usher and friend.

Jim, our trusty Lakers usher and friend. ©lakersEDGE

A fellow I worked with also happened to work nights as an usher at the Forum, you know, those guys who wore those ugly plaid shirts with the matching blue vests. And as soon as I found out about his night job, he instantly became one of my very dearest friends, if you know what I mean. Jim would patrol the Forum for us, always on the lookout to see which seats remained empty in his section. We would simply purchase a pair of cheapo seats and wait for his signal. Then we would head our way down from the rafters and occupy whichever seat he escorted us to, down in the high-rent district. By the end of the first quarter, if any lower-level seats were still empty, you were pretty much guaranteed that those folks were going to be a no-show.

And with the view from down low and up-close, did we ever see some spectacular highlights… We even saw some pretty good basketball as well. But the Forum (later the Great Western Forum) was the place to be. If you were anybody, you had to be at the game.

The Laker Girls were hard pressed to keep the Forum's attention during a break in action.

The Laker Girls were hard pressed to keep the Forum's attention during a break in the action. ©lakersEDGE

The Laker Girls were just beginning to get really sexy and had begun to shed their cheerleader persona in favor of a more Hollywood-esque appeal. Besides, they were competing for attention with all of the other girls during each time out. While they were dancing and slithering across the floor, a dozen or more of these really hot girls would start their waltz around the court. Everyone saw this, (except for the TV viewers at home), as even the players from both teams were checking out the goods while trying their best to concentrate on what their head coach was trying to convey. There was a lot of  jiggle going on and more action happening out-of-bounds than on the court. The micro-mini-skirts were so outrageously short and the low-cut tops were ever so revealing, and this Showtime was oh, so fun to watch.

"B" Byron Scott sporting his shades after a Sunday afternoon match-up against the Mavs.

"B" sporting his shades after a Sunday afternoon match-up against the Mavs. ©lakersEDGE

We played up our parts as big-time rollers with our courtside seats (courtesy of Jim), wearing our shades during the game just like Jack. We would stroll through the Forum Club at halftime and after the game acting like we belonged, although I’m pretty sure no one really cared except for us. I recall having a drink at the Forum Club with retired referee, Earl Strom. He was a hoot and a drinker. In fact, he had to be escorted out one night because he was lit up like the airport beacon on the roof that directed the planes to LAX. We would also lie in ambush in the hope of getting an autograph from Magic or James or Cap. But they knew better and escaped to their cars through their secure, underground parking. We did get to hang out a few times with guys like B, Geeter, Wes and Spriggy.

During the 1983 All-Star break, when the festivities were being held in Los Angeles, we were fortunate enough to rub elbows with Mark Jackson, Charles Oakley and Charles Barkley. Chuck was as classy then as he is now. He’s the same on TNT but he’s just got a better publicist and censor now. Oak-tree and Action Jackson had one thing on their minds that night, and that was finding some ladies. We would later run into the pair clubbing in Marina del Rey with Magic and his pals. If you thought game intensity was tough, you should have seen their game faces when they were really trying to score. The 80s were all about partying, playing and having a good time. Everyone wanted to be a part of Showtime, fans and players around the league alike.

Byron Scott looks to inbounds the ball to Magic Johnson in a game against the Celtics.

Byron Scott looks to inbounds the ball to Magic Johnson in another hotly contested game against the Celtics. ©lakersEDGE

As we all know, that lifestyle would later come back to haunt Magic Johnson, but at the time, it was all fun and Winnin’ Time. The actual games played are forever emblazoned in my memory banks; the victories against the hated Celtics, who were the antithesis of Showtime; the back-to-back championships; routing Sacramento 44-4 in the first quarter; destroying the Bad Boys and pushing back the aging Sixers. But it was also a time where I learned to appreciate the game for more than just the sake of basketball. Romps to the Fab Forum became endless nights of excitement and entertainment, and this transcended basketball. As I look back fondly, not one moment was wasted, not a single second lost. It was pure, unadulterated Showtime.

D’Angelo Russell, Welcome to LA

2015 June 26

Video courtesy of MORX5000

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