The connection between Hollywood and the Lakers, symbolized by Jack Nicholson and fed by the consistent crush of celebrities through home games is a huge component of the engine driving the team's mystique. While it's hard to picture the Lakers any other way, it wasn't always so. Instead, it grew out of a concerted effort from Dr. Jerry Buss, part of his grand strategy turning the Lakers from simple basketball games into events.
Events even the most famous were willing to pay for, writes Arash Markazi in a very cool feature on how the Lakers evolved into Hollywood's team in the Showtime era:
"By the time Buss bought the team, nearly all the fans at the Forum, even the celebrities, were "paying customers." The days of [former team physician Ernie] Vandeweghe walking to different studio lots with a pile of tickets and asking celebrities to come out to watch the Lakers were long gone.
"One of the biggest differences between the Forum and Madison Square Garden, at least while I was working there, the celebrities at the Fourm were paying for those courtside seats," said [former public relations director Josh Rosenfeld], who was the PR director for the New York Knicks from 1995 to '96. "At Madison Square Garden, they comped celebrities. They had a person that would call and reach out to celebrities to come to games, and they would give them courtside seats. At the Forum, the only person I know of who was comped was John McEnroe, and that was in exchange for playing some exhibitions at the Forum.
"Jack Nicholson has paid for his Lakers season tickets since 1973, never wanting to feel obligated to do anything for the team outside of sitting in his courtside seat near the visitor's bench and cheering for the Lakers."