By Roland Lazenby
This is an excellent book to read, whether you love the Lakers, hate the Lakers, or are indifferent about the Lakers. It is an excellent story about the history of franchise and where it is going.
The book takes place between two time frames: the past and present. The "present" is the 1992-93 season: The season that Magic Johnson staged his first comeback before re-retiring in the pre-season. (The book covers his decision in depth). The chapters alternate from past to present, each progressing in chronological order. This format is unique for a basketball book.
The past begins in 1947 when a young visionary named Sid Hartman convinced a group of investors from Minneapolis to invest $15,000 and buy the Detroit Gems, the worst team in the National Basketball League and who was about to go under. They could have formed their own franchise for cheaper or waited a few weeks and bought it for next to nothing, but Hartman wanted to make sure they got the team. The team was terrible and only had one asset: they were the worst team in the NBL. You see, the Basketball League of America was about to fold and their talent would be dispersed. The Gems (now called the Lakers) had the rights to the first pick and they selected the BLA's best player, George Mikan. The book goes into detail about how they signed the legends from the NBA's first dynasty: Mikan, Jim Pollard, Doogie Martin, Vern Mikkelson, John Kundla, etc. The book goes into the dynasty, the struggle of the mid-to-late 50s, after Mikan retired, the drafting of Baylor and West, the relocation to Los Angelas, the ownership of Jack Kent Cooke and his vision that resulted in the Great Western Forum. It also goes through the repeated frustrations felt from the defeats at the hands of the Bill Russell-led Celtics, the signing of Wilt Chamerlain, the early 70s and the franchise's first championship in LA, the struggling years of the mid-70s, the acquisition of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the selling of the team to Jerry Buss, the drafting of Magic Johnson, the dynasty of the 80s, and the retirement of Magic.
The author did his research: not only from newspapers and books, but also through interviews with the players, coaches, and owners involved.
One of the sad things learned from this book is that after you fall in love with the first dynasty from Minneapolis, you learn that their championship trophies are found in the basement of the Forum. Jerry Buss refused to restore them and display them because he feels the accomplishments of the Lakers before they moved to Los Angelas are not significant. In other words, he thumbs his nose at the early foundation of this proud frachinse without acknowledging that if not for these people there would have been no Lakers to move to Los Angelas.
The book is a walk through the history of the NBA from one of the most consistently successful franchises in its history. Certainly worth picking up and reading. The only question I have is that if the team was formed in 1946 and the book was written in 1993, how does the author come up with the words "50th Anniversary Edition" on the cover? :)
The Lakers: Roland Lazenby. Masters Press. 1993.