Top 25 L.A. Basketball Moments

Created: February 14, 2011, 5:20 AM


 
 
  • The image of Magic Johnson walking to center court for the jump ball against Caldwell Jones before the game is still one of the most indelible in Lakers history. Johnson became the first (and still only) rookie to win NBA Finals MVP en route to winning his first of five championships as a Lakers player. It is the moment that stands above the rest when Johnson looks back on his career.
  • Kimble, a right-hander, went to the foul line during every game of LMU's magical run in the 1990 NCAA tournament and tossed it at the hoop the way Gathers, his childhood friend and teammate, would have. During the semifinals of the 1990 West Coast Conference tournament, Gathers collapsed and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. LMU then advanced to the Elite Eight. Kimble shot the first free throw of every tournament game with his left hand, as Gathers would have, and made every single one.
  • Gail Goodrich, an L.A. native who had a storied career at UCLA and with the Lakers, signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Jazz on Aug. 6, 1976. League rules at the time said the Lakers were entitled to compensation for losing a veteran free agent and the Jazz agreed to send the Lakers their first-round pick in the 1979 draft. Goodrich, who was 33 at the time, sustained an Achilles tendon injury early in the 1976-77 season and played just two more seasons in New Orleans. The Lakers ended up with the first overall pick in the 1979 draft. They used it to select a player by the name of Earvin Johnson out of Michigan State.
  • If he had it his way, the Wizard of Westwood would have never moved West. Wooden, who was born in Indiana, played at Purdue and began his coaching career at Indiana State, wanted to stay in the Midwest. But thanks to a winter storm, the Minnesota Gophers didn't get their phone call in to Wooden in time, and he accepted the job at UCLA. The Bruins went on to win 10 national championships; the Golden Gophers went to one NCAA tournament during Wooden's time at UCLA.
  • Magic Johnson retired on Nov. 7, 1991, at a news conference at the Great Western Forum. The announcement sent shock waves around world and raised awareness for HIV and AIDS. Magic closed the news conference with hopeful words: "I'm going to beat this, and I'm going to have fun."
  • Jack McKinney was placed in intensive care after suffering severe head injuries and facial fractures in a bike accident. Paul Westhead took over as Lakers coach and plucked Pat Riley, a former player who had never coached, out of the broadcast booth and made him his assistant. The Lakers won the championship that season and McKinney was let go. The honeymoon period with Westhead ended 11 games into the 1981-82 season, when he was fired after the team's 7-4 start. Riley became the head coach and the Lakers won four more championships during the Showtime era.
  • Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who had never broken the bank to pay for a coach, could no longer afford to leave his roster in the hands of Del Harris and Kurt Rambis. On June 16, 1999, the Lakers inked Jackson to a five-year, $30 million deal.
  • Jerry West is always tense on the job. But West was more than just tense the evening of July 18, 1996, as he sat in the Atlanta hotel room of Leonard Armato, Shaquille O' Neal's agent. The Lakers went to four NBA Finals and won three championships with O'Neal, who was the league's MVP in 2000. "I think if he hadn't have shown up and signed that contract," West later told the L.A. Times, "I might have jumped out of that 60th-floor window."
  • When the Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant with the No. 13 pick in the 1996 NBA draft, everyone knew he would never play for them. The Hornets selected Bryant on behalf of the Lakers in a trade that would land them Lakers center Vlade Divac. The Lakers had their eyes set on signing O'Neal and needed Divac's cap space and position. The trade took 13 days to become official after Divac threatened to retire instead of going to Charlotte, but he eventually agreed. Bryant has become the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, surpassing West, while leading the Lakers to five NBA championships.
  • The Celtics were in control of the pivotal Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the Boston Garden. Johnson took an inbounds pass after a timeout with the game on the line and was forced to the key by Kevin McHale. When Johnson saw an opening, he flicked a running hook (he later dubbed it a "junior, junior skyhook"). It went in and gave the Lakers a 107-106 win and a 3-1 series lead.
  • If he had it his way, the Wizard of Westwood would never have moved West. Wooden was born in Indiana, played at Purdue and began his coaching career at Indiana State, and he wanted to stay in the Midwest. But thanks to a winter storm, the Minnesota Gophers didn't get their phone call in to Wooden in time, and he accepted the job at UCLA. The Bruins went on to win 10 national championships; the Golden Gophers went to one NCAA tournament during Wooden's time at UCLA.
  • The Lakers' 33-game win streak remains the longest winning streak for any team in the four major North American sports leagues. The Lakers finished the season by winning their first title in L.A. and the franchise's first in 18 years.
  • John Wooden's teams won 10 national championships during his last 12 seasons at UCLA, but from Jan. 23, 1971 to Jan. 19, 1974, Wooden's teams were perfect. UCLA won 88 straight games, becoming the only men's college basketball team to post back-to-back undefeated seasons. The Bruins' last loss before the streak came at the hands of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., the same venue, as the luck of the Irish would have it, where the streak ended.
  • It's hard to pinpoint one moment or one call that defined Chick Hearn's career with the Lakers. That's what happens when you call 3,338 games in a row and are the play-by-play man for nine championship teams.
  • There was a time when singing the national anthem before a sporting event was a straightforward assignment. That all changed on Feb. 13, 1983, when Gaye sang one of the most memorable and moving renditions of the anthem before the NBA All-Star Game at the Forum.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the 1971 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks and fell to the Celtics in the seventh game of the 1974 Finals. But he didn't enjoy living in Milwaukee, and after his Hall of Fame point guard, Oscar Robertson, retired, Abdul-Jabbar let management know he wanted out. After months of haggling with teams and amazingly keeping much of it a secret, the Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar and forward Walt Wesley to the Lakers for center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, rookie forwards Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman, and about $800,000.
  • Buss purchased the Lakers, Kings, the Forum and a 13,000-acre Kern County ranch for $67.5 million, then the largest transaction in sports history. The Lakers had won one championship in 25 years before Buss purchased the team. The Lakers would win five championships over the next nine years while advancing to nine NBA Finals in 12 seasons.
  • Everybody figured Cheryl Miller was the best girls' basketball player in the country long before her senior season in 1982. What few could have imagined before she dropped 105 points against Norte Vista was she might be the best high school player in the country, period. Lisa Leslie went on to play for coach Cheryl Miller at USC and became the most decorated women's basketball player since her idol. She won four Olympic gold medals, three WNBA MVP awards, led the L.A. Sparks to two WNBA championships and became the first WNBA player to dunk in a game in 2002.
  • Long before Andrew Bynum dislocated his left kneecap on Jan. 13, 2008, the Lakers had thought about trading for Pau Gasol. A year earlier Mitch Kupchak had heard Gasol was possibly on the market. When he sealed the deal Gasol fit into the Triangle offense seamlessly and the Lakers haven't been the same since.
  • Sometimes the trades you don't make turn out to be the most important. By summer 2007, Kobe Bryant had had enough of the Lakers. His trade demands faded as the season progressed and the Lakers, with Derek Fisher back at point guard, showed they were better than most expected, and the demands disappeared completely when the Lakers traded for Gasol in February to return to the NBA's elite.
  • The Lakers game on Jan. 22, 2006 against the 14-27 Raptors wasn't supposed to be remembered by history. L.A. trailed 63-49 at the half and Bryant scored 26 points in the first half. It wasn't until Bryant scored 27 points in the third quarter and 28 in the fourth that it became legendary. Bryant finished with more points in a game than any NBA player outside of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point night on March 2, 1962.
  • The Clippers' luck may have changed May 20, 2009, when they won the right to draft Blake Griffin, the national college player of the year. If Griffin continues to play the way he has so far in his first season with the Clippers (after missing his actual rookie season with a broken left kneecap) history will remember this as the day the fate of the Clippers changed.
  • The significance of the "Game of the Century" between UCLA and Houston on Jan. 20, 1968, was far greater than the outcome. Houston's 71-69 win over UCLA, which had won 47 straight games, in front of the largest paid crowd (52,693) to see a basketball game at the time, was certainly significant. The "Game of the Century," however, established college basketball as a viable national television product, capable of attracting huge ratings and huge attendance figures.
  • Maybe he forgot he was in the NBA. Maybe he forgot there were 81 games left. Whatever it was, Magic Johnson's ecstatic reaction after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's buzzer-beating skyhook won their 1979-80 season opener 103-102 was a breath of fresh air. It was a preview of what Lakers fans would see over the next decade.
  • With UCLA trailing 74-73 against Missouri in the 1994 NCAA tournament, Tyus Edney took the inbounds pass, zoomed past Missouri's Jason Sutherland at midcourt, turned in the lane and banked in the winning shot over the outstretched arms of Derek Grimm at the buzzer. Edney's shining moment propelled the Bruins to their first national championship in 20 years.