Los Angeles Lakers: Showtime

New PodKast with James Worthy

May, 19, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
During 710 ESPN's recent Lunch with a Legend, I had some face time with one of the all-time Laker greats, "Big Game" James Worthy. Our conversation hit on topics like the Showtime era, the pride of playing with one franchise and the Lakers' current quest to repeat. Many interesting points raised, but one in particular stood out to me.
ESPNLA.com's Andy Kamenetzky sits down with "Lunch with a Legend" honoree James Worthy to discuss Showtime, the end of his career and why it never bothered him playing "third wheel" to Magic and Kareem.
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Worthy's professional career was without question an unqualified success. Three rings. Seven All-Star bids. Hall of Fame. "50 Greatest Players" membership. But he never led a good team as "the guy." Granted, he played with Magic and Kareem, two dudes not just arguably the best ever at their respective positions, but to ever play the game, period. Too many alpha dogs can spoil the stew, so even someone as talented as Worthy sometimes has to take a relative backseat. Still, great players often have great egos, along with great awareness of whatever criticism could taint their legacy, so I asked Worthy if he ever pined to be an elite team's unquestioned alpha dog:

"No, I never really allowed that to enter into my mind, because I knew I wasn't that type of player. I knew that I wasn't the leader that Magic was. I know how to lead by example and hard work, but at the professional level, it takes a little extra and I would have never have been the voice of a team. I didn't have the dominant game like Kareem with the sky hook. I never looked at myself as a player that could carry a franchise.

"That was fortunate for me, being the #1 pick, that I didn't go to the Clippers or I didn't go to a team that would expect their #1 pick to turn their whole team around. I was pretty fortunate to go to the Lakers, because coming from Coach (Dean) Smith, who's so team-oriented and so collective, I could have never taken that position. I was the captain for a couple of years, but I could never take the role of Magic. Having the role I had was perfect."

Not the answer I expected. I figured Worthy would say he appreciated the luxury and fortune that comes with joining a talented, stacked roster. Or maybe, he initially worried about how his career might be perceived in light of being a third option before coming to appreciate the luxury and fortune that comes with joining such a talented, stacked roster.

Option C: I wasn't that kind of player or leader. Didn't see that coming. In particular, the stuff about leadership was striking.

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2