Lakers Legacy Week 3 Recap: Showtimes Near-Three-Peat – All Lakers
Unpacking the latest episode of “Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers,” which debuted last Monday and chronicles the Showtime Lakers from 1986-1989 and the rise of Dr. Jerry Buss from a childhood in Wyoming during the Great Depression era treated mostly in poverty to make a lucrative real estate career.
Despite some mediocre reviews, you’ve really liked what he’s seen of this show so far.
We begin with the Showtime Lakers, who recall the unusually close relationship between players and staff during that time. The team met en route for group outings, including films and dinners, and various players, coaches, executives and coaches held team meetings when the club played home games during the season.
The documentary then follows Buss’ childhood career and difficult relationship with his stepfather and half-siblings. At 16, Buss left home to pursue various strenuous physical jobs. Jim Buss, who’s really sticking with this long hair-under-a-hat look, offered some solid comments in this section. dr Buss completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Wyoming on a full scholarship within two years of landing. At just 23 years old, he received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from USC. Buss initially worked in the aerospace industry, but soon became a real estate magnate through a series of clever speculative purchases.
Finally, we get to the historical terrain covered by the excellent (albeit somewhat fictional) new HBO series, Winning Time, about the same phase of Lakers basketball: Jerry Buss’s press in court about then-Lakers and LA Kings Owner Jack Kent Cooke. which included a series of overtures at Cooke’s Las Vegas digs. Unlike the HBO series, this one gets to the heart of the actual sale-turned-bargain of sorts – the Lakers, Kings, and their then-home arena, the Forum itself, for the Chrysler Building!
Two former NBA owners were also apparently involved in the sale, as they lent significant coins (i.e., millions of dollars) to Buss and his partner to help them complete the purchase. Who were the owners you ask? Well, you just have to take care of yourself.
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We delve a little into some of the conflicts between the Buss children. Johnny Buss, the eldest, chose to take charge of the Los Angeles Lazers, an indoor soccer club owned by Dr. Buss also heard to give up. Next in line was the second oldest, Jim Buss, although we get a bit of back-and-forth between Jim and Jeanie Buss, who felt that her own talent made her deserve first place to take on Johnny.
After the Lakers lost five games to the Houston Rockets in the 1986 Western Conference Finals, the team felt it needed to step up a little. James Worthy discovered that Dr. Buss had offered the Dallas Mavericks Big Game James for short All-Star forward Mark Aguirre and draft rights for 6’11” tall man Roy Tarpley. In modern day interviews for the Doctor, Jerry West and Pat Riley both insist that they had no idea about the move.
After West essentially threw his body in front of the deal, Worthy and Buss had a talk to clear the air, which Worthy says helped cement their bond. Worthy remained with the Lakers until his retirement in 1994 and now serves as Lead Studio Analyst for Lakers games through Spectrum SportsNet.
The documentary covers arguably the best single season of this crop of Lakers champions, 1986-1987. Los Angeles went 65-17 and 15-3 in the regular season in their run to a fourth title with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Pat Riley’s famous championship save, which guaranteed the team would repeat next season, initially angered his entire squad, but eventually became a goal everyone wanted to work toward. And indeed, they did it, going 62-20 in the regular season to once again earn first place in the Western Conference. Eventually, LA would beat Mark Aguirre, the player Worthy was almost dealt out to in 1986, and the Detroit Pistons in a hard-fought, seven-game 1988 NBA Finals series that Isiah Thomas still swears his bad boys won, if he hadn’t been bad sprained his ankle towards the end of the sixth competition. Worthy won the finals as MVP.
Detroit would retaliate the next season. The 1988-89 Lakers went 57-25, still good for the best record in the West, and they went on to sweep the conference 11-0 in the first three rounds of the playoffs en route to a second straight finals game against the Pistons . Detroit would brutally sweep Los Angeles, though each game was fairly close with an average win margin of just 6.75 points. Fun fact: Pistons reserve big man John Salley would eventually win a title as deep-bank backup on Team 2000.
Despite winning back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988, the 1989 loss saw the Lakers miss their three-peat opportunity. At least until the beginning of the new millennium.
Episode 4 airs tomorrow on Hulu and will likely cover Kareem’s 1989-90 retirement tour as well as the Lakers’ return to the Finals against a very tough new opponent…