Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What We're Reading - Showtime by Jeff Pearlman.

Having endured their worst season since they were located in Minneapolis (27-55), and having set a franchise low point for most losses in a season this year, both the Lakers and their fans could use a tonic! Jeff Pearlman's current bestseller, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, fits that bill, illustrating what Los Angeles has come to expect from its purple and gold.

Pearlman does an excellent job of moving his story through each season, highlighting successes (the career-making 1980 game six performance of Magic Johnson), championships (five during this run), and failures (the bitter defeat by the Boston Celtics in 1984, the team implosions that led to two playoff series losses to the Houston Rockets). Peppered throughout, Pearlman reveals the players involved--from Magic, Kareem, Worthy and Wilkes to important role players Cooper, McAdoo and Thompson, as well as some entertaining side trips to the more colorful players (Earl Jones, Mike Smrek) who were only with the Lakers for brief times during this decade.

I also applaud how Showtime first starts with the colorful purchase of the franchise by the unconventional Jerry Buss from the perhaps even more unconventional Jack Kent Cooke. While any Laker's fan cannot help but feel nostalgia when reading about the greatest period of the Laker's franchise, do note that the author grounds his story in the reality of the times: 1980s-style sex and drugs. It existed, and the Lakers were enthusiastic participants.

Perhaps two Showtime stories stick with me the most, both equally sad: the story of Spencer Haywood, whose talents seemed perfect to help the 1980 Lakers but who lost himself to the excesses of drugs; and the tale of the architect and true founder of Showtime Laker basketball, Jack McKinney, the coach who laid the platform that Pat Riley eventually had to raise to great heights, because of McKinney's horrendous near-fatal bicycle accident that took him out of the game.

All in all, I found Showtime to be about as much fun to read as watching "Kareem with the rebound, outlets to Magic who passes to Worthy...SLAM DUNK!" For Lakers fans, it is that good.

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