It’s Showtime In Los Angeles Again And Magic Is Still Leading The Way
In 1979, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Magic Johnson. A player known for his glitz and glamour on the court while having a fierce competitive nature, while also having the smile made for the camera. Perfect fit for the LA spot light. It didn’t take Magic long to leave his mark on the NBA, winning a championship his rookie year against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 NBA Finals, defeating legend himself Dr.J. Magic would win Finals MVP after having a performance for the ages scoring 42 points, snatching 15 rebounds and seven assists, all in the wake of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar going down with injury in game six leaving Magic to start at center in the final and decisive game.
This would be the Lakers seventh title, eight years removed from their previous title. The seventh championship wasn’t the only thing Magic brought to LA. With the coaching prowess of Pat Riley and the team owned by the infamous Dr. Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers introduced what would be known as “Showtime”. Fast pace, beautiful ball movement and highlight plays tailored for ESPN top ten. If you missed a shot and they grabbed the rebound, you were almost guaranteed to catch them running the fast break at neck breaking speed. As once described by the Boston Celtics Cedric ‘Cornbread’ Maxwell, they would just run you into the ground, it was so fast!
Imagine this, Kareem grabbing the rebound, finds Magic, and before you can turn to run back down the court Magic is already at half court with Byron Scott or Michael Cooper on the wing, James Worthy later on. Sounds simple, just play the break as you would any other. Only problem is, not even his own teammates knew where Magic was going with the ball. The rule was to just run with your hands up or risk getting hit in the face by one of Magic’s no look passes. All being led by the biggest showmen of them all, Magic Johnson.
Magic had charisma, the skill, the fire and the perfect town for it all. Everything is better when you win, but it’s 100x times better when you do it in a big market. You think of the greats to win titles in the history of the NBA, and you are appreciated when you bring a small town a title, but nothing beats winning in these big markets. Shaq, Kobe, Dr.J(Philadelphia), Willis Reed(New York), Isiah Thomas(Detroit), Larry Bird(Boston), and a host of other players that are considered greats for their achievements in the history of the league in these big markets. Not to dismiss the likes of Tim Duncan, considered the best power forward ever, when winning in a small market like San Antonio, but it’s something about winning in those enormous markets that take your stardom to another level. Consider this, Allen Iverson is a Hall of Fame player, considered to be one of the best players to ever play, yet he never won a NBA title, yet he carried a franchise in Philadelphia that had absolutely no business being in the NBA Finals, and actually got one from the Lakers(their only loss of that playoffs)in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Big market, big name, big winning, big crowds — star studded crowds — and even bigger legacy. Showtime was significant because it was one of a kind at that time in the NBA. Not that teams weren’t scoring a ton of points, the highest scoring game in NBA history was in 1983 between the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons with an insane score of 186–184. Yes, they went into overtime three times, but respectively both teams scored less(in all three overtimes combined) than they scored in any quarter prior to overtime. Insanity.
It was how the Lakers scored. No look passes, full court passes, alley oops, highlight facial dunks and it was spread around so at in given time, any of the five on the court were suspect to scoring.
Indeed, the seasons between 1979 and 1991, were some of the best for the Los Angeles Lakers, accumulating five champions in the process, and appearing in nine NBA Finals.
The Lakers would eventually get back to winning when they gained Kobe and Shaq, completing a three-peat during their time before losing in the 2004 NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons and breaking up. Not even Shaq and Kobe would match just how dynamic showtime was. Though dynamic having the most dominant big man and one of the most prolific scorers, the offense ran through them and though saved by tons of clutch shots i.e. Robert Horry against the Sacramento Kings or Detroit Pistons or Derek Fisher against the San Antonio Spurs, they just didn’t match the explosive edge-of-your-seat play Showtime did.
Fast forward to 2018, eight years since the last Lakers championship run, and it looks like the Lakers are positioned to look similar to Showtime. While not sporting the fancy coach in Luke Walton, member of two championships with the Lakers, but they have the man who engineered the Showtime Lakers previously in Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations. So, of course he knows exactly how to piece it together.
What makes for a replica of the old Showtime Lakers? Players will high skill, players who can score, high IQ players and players who can make plays, not necessarily scoring but even as simple as rebounding or being someone to ignite the break with a great defensive play. As you read this you are probably wondering, “who could you possibly be talking about with this current team?”, let’s take a took.
Magic Johnson may or may not have been solely responsible for getting LeBron James, the best player on the planet, to LA but he’s there! LeBron will essentially be Magic Johnson for this current Showtime. High IQ, best player in the league, makes all the plays (literally does everything), can score and probably the best passer in the league. Magic would go on to add Rajon Rondo, while not someone you would consider to be dangerous when it comes to scoring, he is a pest on defense pressuring other guards into turnovers and starting the break. Rondo has long been known for his high IQ and passing since his days with the Boston Celtics, regardless if he played with three Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, as the point guard he still had to make sure that train stayed on track. Rondo has often been heard yelling for the ball off of a defensive rebound looking to push the break, he will bring that same energy to this team.
While we are on point guards, Lonzo Ball, probably the biggest piece to the puzzle, not named LeBron. Yes, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram are two young scoring studs, but Ball is going to be responsible for taking pressure off LeBron. Ball’s biggest issue was shooting last season, 36% from the field, 30% from three point land, but as seen in many videos that surfaced across the internet, it looks as though he has worked tirelessly on his shot and could improve those numbers drastically. While it’s important to be a shooter on a team with LeBron James because he typically finds anyone anywhere on the floor (it’s ridiculous actually), Ball will be responsible for handling the ball and he himself sees the floor exceptionally well.
I can see a half court pass now leading LeBron into one of his highlight dunks.
I did mention players who can score, right? Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram will now see the most single coverage they will ever see. Both players scored 16 ppg on a team that saw nine players average double figures, those numbers should slightly go up because their pace will be fierce.
Magic wasn’t satisfied with the young core around LeBron, so he added JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley, and Lance Stephenson. Yes, that looks like one big dysfunctional group, but there is no denying they will bring just what this team needs. Lance Stephenson will serve as another ball handler and on ball defender, who once served as someone to pester LeBron in his time with the Indiana Pacers. Beasley will provide another scorer. McGee, though not though of as being key to anything the Warriors did in their championship runs, he will serve as a paint protector and can run the floor well. No, he will not be Kareem or Shaq, but he doesn’t need to be. He will rebound and kick it out to either Rondo, Ball or James. Before you know it two points on the board because they don’t believe in walking the ball up the floor at all times.
This team is too young, too talented (some untapped potential) and led by the best player in the world to not be able to recreate some of that Showtime magic. You can turn on the Lakers on any given night and catch a fast break featuring Ball pushing the rock, Lebron and Kuzma on the wing and Ingram trailing. Ball and James both pass with their eyes closed, Kuzma can stretch the floor as can Ingram. If it’s not them, you will see a less scary but as effective break featuring Rondo, Beasley, Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Josh Hart, who showed last season and summer league he can score with the best of them.
All that being said, where will they land and how far will they go this season? It is the Western Conference and as previously mentioned in the last blog, it’s going to be a crazy race in the West. The Warriors got stronger, Houston may or may not take a step back losing talent, Utah will look to repeat last year’s success and build on it, OKC will be stronger, and San Antonio always seems to find themselves in the playoffs so it will be tough.
I’ll end with this stat, the Lakers now have LeBron James, who has been to eight straight finals. Since 2008 LeBron has only missed the conference finals once…..
LeBron will go down as one of the best to ever touch the ball, but a title in LA, will take him to another level along with the rest of those many legends to come through there. While many can debate who the GOAT is, he undoubtedly holds that title off the court, and you can discuss that with whoever, what can’t be denied is LeBron is one of the best in terms of making those around him better. The Lakers have a young core, talented core, this season expect to see growth out of them.
Showtime might be back(without the short shorts), but will it produce Showtime results?