Saturday, July 08, 2017

The "Showtime" LA Lakers Were the Golden State Warriors of Their Era

The Golden State Warriors are objectively one of the best NBA teams of all-time.  But there are salty hoops fans who hate them for being a “super team” – for being ridiculously stacked.  Indeed, their “death lineup” is invincible.  Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are basketball superstars at their primes, while Andre Iguodola is still a first-rate basketball stud, only two years removed from being Finals MVP.  Then they are surrounded by solid players like David West, who had been an All-Star in his prime, and Shaun Livingston, who could be a starting point guard in other NBA teams.

I understand that successful NBA teams tend to be hated by other fanbases.  Still, equating this “super team” to the distasteful Miami Heat team from a few years back is invalid.  This Dubs team isn’t made up of the top free agents of the off-season deciding to band up in order to have an easy title run, and then act as if they had won it all already before the season even started.  This Dubs team was assembled organically, by luck and design, as cornerstones Steph, Klay, and Dray all came from the draft.
Most of the hate is probably centered on Kevin Durant deciding to join them last year.  But, seriously, he fought side-by-side with Russell Westbrook for seven years.  It’s not like he didn’t try.  Nothing was really happening.  It was time to move on.  Though it might appear as a weak move to join the Dubs, he still did it.  Why?  Because it made the most sense!  Among all the teams courting him in that offseason, was there a more perfect fit for him than the Dubs’ system and roster?  None.  They had this opportunity to create something special.  It couldn’t be passed up.

And, indeed, KD gelled marvelously with the team.  The Dubs became significantly more awesome to watch than they already were.

So with their core intact for the next season, it’s all but certain that they will dominate it once again.  They will probably have a few more titles down the line.

With this in mind, I imagine they will be this era’s “Showtime” Lakers.
The LA Lakers were the Golden State Warriors of the 1980’s.  They were unstoppable in transition and they were stacked with stars.  They had two of the top 10 NBA players of all-time in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  In addition, this duo also got surrounded with some of the greatest players that ever played the game.

They had Norm Nixon and future Hall of Famer Jamal Wilkes.  Having Norm and Magic in the backcourt was like having the Splash Brothers, only instead of three-point barrages, they racked up tons of dimes.  He was traded early in the decade for Byron Scott (who became an important contributor to the Lakers), but not before helping the Lakers win two titles.  Meanwhile, Jamal “The Silk” Wilkes was an athletic, smooth scoring forward who thrived from Magic’s playmaking.  Both Nixon and Wilkes were All-Stars during their time with the Lakers.

Then there’s James Worthy.  He started out as a bench player but soon became a starter, developing into a bona fide superstar.  He became the 1988 Finals MVP, and was named, like Magic and Kareem, to the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History” selection in 1996.

There’s also Bob McAdoo, who served as a sixth man for the Lakers from 1981-1985.  Not only was he a former All-Star, but he was also a former MVP!  Though he was already in the twilight of his career during his time as a Laker, he was still capable of putting up huge numbers off the bench.
Other notable Lakers in the 1980’s were Michael Cooper, a tremendous lockdown defender and shooter who earned multiple All-Defensive Team selections as well as one Defensive Player of the Year award; sharpshooter Byron Scott, who led the team in scoring and steals in 1988 (a championship year); solid big man backup Mychal Thompson (father of Klay Thompson); rebounding machine A.C. Green, who became a one-time All-Star in 1990; and fan favorite garbage man Kurt Rambis.

Among these players, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Norm Wixon, and A.C. Green were Laker draftees.

Their biggest rivals in the 80’s, the Boston Celtics, were also a stacked “super team.”  But Boston only won three titles in that decade.  On the other hand, the Lakers went to the Finals eight times and won the title five times.  There’s an argument to be made that, alongside the coaching and culture, the reason why the Lakers were dominant then was because of their star power.
Truly, it’s not hard to see parallels between the Showtime Lakers and the current Golden State Warriors.  Both are stacked championship teams with remarkable systems and great visionary coaches (Pat Riley and Steve Kerr, respectively).  And if this Dubs team actually manage to replicate the long-term excitement and success of the Showtime Lakers, then the next years in the NBA are going to be extremely fun.

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