The Lakers pre-Showtime had been successful but had fallen on rough times. Players such as George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain had led the Lakers to six championships at that point.
However, the most impactful player was Jerry West. Two years after retiring West was the coach of the Lakers along with being an advisor. Though he was a fine coach, he was an even better GM.
In 1975, the Lakers traded for West’s successor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the clear-cut best player in the NBA at the time. West traded his former teammate, Gail Goodrich to the Jazz for a 1979 first-round pick to the Lakers.
As luck would have it, the Jazz sucked.
The Lakers won the coin toss that gave them Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Arguably the best playmaker in NBA History, the Lakers offense soared winning 5 championships in 8 years.
The Lakers also built a great team with players such as Michael Cooper, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes, and stars James Worthy and Kareem, still a top player in his late 30s. The team was destined for greatness, except there was one team in the way.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers had the fiercest rivalry in NBA history for almost a decade.
The Celtics had solid role players Danny Ainge and Cedric Maxwell along with Hall-of-Famers Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Magic’s arch-rival, Larry Bird.
The Celtics and Lakers were in the Finals together in ‘84, ‘85, and ‘87 with the Lakers taking two of the three battles.
L.A. made it back in ‘88 against the Detroit Pistons and won when Magic tripped Pistons star Isiah Thomas and was called for a foul at the end of Game 7. But that was the last championship of Showtime.
The Lakers got swept by the Pistons the next year and their roster was aging or lost some pieces such as Kareem, who retired after the ‘89 season at age 42.
The Lakers did make it to another Finals in 1991 but were disposed of quickly by the player who overtook Magic as the most popular basketball player, Michael Jordan.
Early the next season, Magic announced his premature retirement due to his diagnosis of HIV. And that was the end of Showtime.
However, a lot more happened off the court.
Photo Credit: NBA