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50 Years of Lakers Memories – Post Apocalyptic

2010 July 20

• dEDGE Post Scriptum •

Isiah Thomas of the 1989 Champion Detroit Pistons. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Isiah Thomas of the 1989 Champion Detroit Pistons. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

If memory serves me right, Los Angeles Lakers fans had endured close to a decade of unusually quiet June’s prior to the 1999-2000 NBA season. In fact, it dated all the way back to 1988 when the Lakers captured their last championship flag after shooting down the Detroit Pistons in a dramatic 7-game series to conclude their bid as repeat champions in the NBA for the first time in twenty years. But those same Pistons would unceremoniously unseat the 3Peat-minded Lakers the following season, the 20th and last for center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That Finals would forever be remembered as the one that got away as first Byron Scott, then Magic Johnson went down with series-ending hamstring injuries, right along with all of LA’s hopes of sending Abdul-Jabbar out as a winner. The 1990s dawned a new era that brought about tremendous change for the Lakers and for the rest of the NBA.

Pat Riley reluctantly stepped down in 1990, as he was escorted out the front door by a team that had grown weary of his tyrants. Riley hooked up with NBC Sports and instantly became one of their expert studio analysts on their NBA telecasts. For the 1991 season, mild-mannered Mike Dunleavy, a Jerry West favorite, took over the helm. That year, the Lakers started wobbly but quickly grew accustomed to Dunleavy’s coaching style, or lack of one. Magic had run the show for some time now, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let a new coach impede on his style. With the addition of versatile big man Sam Perkins to shore up the post and provide another offensive weapon, the Lakers found themselves back in the NBA Finals against a young Chicago Bulls team powered by Michael Jordan and coached by Phil Jackson.

Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls over the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls over the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

After stunning the Bulls in Game 1 on the road in Chicago Stadium on a Perkins 3-pointer, the Bulls quickly flexed their muscles and took out the aging Lakers 4-1 to claim the first of their six titles. The Lakers were surely competitive in the series, but Chicago had exposed some major kinks in their armor. They could no longer run-and-gun as they once did in their Showtime glory days. The Lakers had become a post team dominated by Magic and Worthy, utilizing their superior veteran savvy over their opponents. But the backcourt was getting up there in age as the middle became softer with the absence of Kareem and the addition of Yugoslavian rookie Vlade Divac. Perhaps that season was an anomaly and the Lakers had simply overachieved their way into the Finals. Regardless, it would be the lone bright spot for many seasons to follow.

1992 saw the abrupt retirement of Magic Johnson and the subsequent death of the entire Lakers season. The Lakers had finally gotten hold of a premiere back-up guard in Sedale Threatt, only to never see this rotation actually take the floor. Threatt was instead inserted into the starting line-up to replace Johnson, while the devastation of Magic’s absence loomed largely over the organization like a black cloud. Magic played brilliantly in the 1992 NBA All-Star game and later in the Barcelona Olympics and vowed to come back the following season. But that was quickly derailed in a preseason game as a small cut on Johnson’s arm sent shivers up-and-down the entire league. Johnson pulled the plug on his comeback attempt before the regular season even got underway. The Lakers were left with a watered down line-up and quickly began dumping salaries as attendance waned.

Magic Johnson went 5-11 in his stint as Lakers head coach. All rights reserved. Copyrights may apply.

Magic Johnson went 5-11 in his brief stint as Lakers head coach. All rights reserved. Copyrights may apply.

The early-90s saw the dismantling of the team as Sam Perkins was traded, Byron Scott left for Indiana, AC Green headed to Phoenix and James Worthy retired. Dunleavy was let off the hook early after Magic had retired and was replaced by Randy Pfund. Pfund lasted a season and a half before giving way to Bill Berka for a pair of contests, only to have Magic return, this time prowling the sidelines. Magic’s uninspiring 5-11 record left him disappointed and vowing never to coach again. It was a new age, one he was unaccustomed to, and unable to cope. The “me” generation had arrived and squarely left its imprint on Johnson’s ego and tarnished aura.

1994-95 saw the Lakers go old-school, with the organization bringing in Del Harris in an attempt to teach the young team a thing or two about the NBA. Harris inherited a talented and cocky group that often played with considerable emotion when things were going right, but displayed little fire or heart when brought to task. It was Harris’ responsibility to mold this team into something that Los Angeles could be proud to call its own. Thus, the Lake Show was born.

5 Responses
  1. Purple_Reign permalink
    July 27, 2010

    I just had a bad nightmare that the Lakers were being coached by Randy Pfund and that Kobe threatened to retire… Thanks a lot Lakers-edge!

    • STEVE-O permalink*
      July 27, 2010

      At least yours was just a bad dream… I had to live through the real thing.

  2. Mike_R permalink
    July 27, 2010

    After Magic, I thought no one could ever replace Air Jordan. He truly transcended the game to a new plateau. Then a kid comes along named Kobe Bryant and takes it to another level and has yet to slow down. Get used to it Lebron, Kobe’s going to be around for a while.

  3. Ocho_to_24 permalink
    July 24, 2010

    I don’t know about you but the Lake Show was all I had. I wasn’t old enough to watch Magic and the Showtime Lakers so my introduction to basketball was through Nick Van Exel and Cedric Ceballos.

  4. Lake_Show permalink
    July 21, 2010

    After Magic retired, came back, retired again, the Lakers brass didn’t know what to expect. Each season they sat on pins and needles waiting for Magic to make another announcement. Everyone would get all excited only to be disappointed again.

    Randy Pfund was the Lakers’ version of Steve Lavin. Just because you have the hair doesn’t mean that you can coach.

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