Welcome to the first piece of a possible series (depending on my schedule and how well it’s received). Inspired at the suggestion of a Twitter user, I’m taking Bill Simmon’s idea and applying some Laker flavor to it by watching old games and reacting/writing/going on rants about them as I go.
For the first game, we’ll go WAY back to 1987 and watch the Lakers put a total beatdown on the Kings in the first quarter. We’re talking historic beatdown as they hold them to four points across the entire quarter. FOUR. Better yet, they pile on 40 points in the quarter. And yes, this was a real game (well, as real as a game could be against the Kings in the ’80s).
To set the scene, the Lakers entered the game at 34-11. Having been shocked in the Western Conference finals the year before, the Lakers were hellbent on getting back to the NBA Finals this year and were letting little get in their way. They had ripped off a nine-game win streak at the beginning of the year and would have a 10-game win streak after this Kings game as well.
Coming into the game, though, the Lakers were just 2-3 in their last five games and needed to right the ship. What a perfect opponent to do so!
Luckily for all of us, the first quarter of this game can be found on YouTube in two parts:
Since graphics were a bit out of date at the time, I’ll timestamp it with the time marking of the YouTube video.
0:06 – BYRON SCOTT ALERT! And his arms aren’t even folded!
0:39 – Showtime at it’s finest. A.C Green grabs the rebound and outlets to Magic, four guys sprint down the court and the lane opens up for an easy Magic layup.
Can you really blame Jerry Buss for wanting to bring Showtime back by hiring Mike D’Antoni? The way it went down with a reported promise to Phil Jackson that the job was his only to rip the rug out from under him was wrong, but at it’s peak, Showtime electrified both on and off the court.
1:01 – The Kings are now 0-3 from the field after a Kareem block. Their other two shots were open jumpers. You can already tell this is going to end badly for Sacramento.
1:06 – Byron Scott buries a long two-pointer. We should have seen this coming, guys.
1:46 – Magic posts up, draws the extra defender, kicks it out to Byron who pump fakes, dribbles and hits the long two-pointer. WHY DIDN’T WE SEE THIS COMING!!
3:15 – Like, I know the Kings were bad, but out of a timeout they hoist up a contested long two-point jumper, then don’t rebound, then don’t get back on defense leading to a 4-on-1 fastbreak that ends in a Green dunk. The Lakers are now 6-for-8 from the field. And the Kings haven’t even hit the rim on half their shots, it seems.
4:19 – Magic posts up, gets the ball, draws a handful of defenders at the rim, then dumps it off for a Kareem dunk. Magic is playing at another level both in this game and in the season as a whole. Statistically, it’s arguably his best year as he averaged a career-high 23.9 points with 12.2 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He took home the regular season MVP as well as the NBA Finals MVP later in the year.
Bill Simmons tweeted recently his 21st century starting five. In his book The Book of Basketball (which, if you haven’t read it, stop reading now, open up a tab, buy it on Amazon with next-day delivery and start reading it tomorrow. Go ahead. I’ll wait.) he proposes the idea of a group of aliens coming to take over the world. The one chance we have to keeping Earth is to beat them in a game of basketball, but we’re granted the ability to take any player from a single season and use them via time travel.
It’s basically Space Jam, only better.
In this hypothetical situation, my starting five likely looks like:
PG – 2015 Steph Curry
SG – 1990 Michael Jordan
SF – 2008 Kobe Bryant
PF – 2013 LeBron James
C – 2004 Kevin Garnett
Go ahead and yell recency bias or talk about how players “back in the old days” were better, but give me a weakness of this team. Go ahead. I’m waiting. You could MAYBE make an argument for size, but with KG and LeBron, you have two freak of natural athletes. The spacing on this team is insane, the shooting is insane, the scoring is insane, the perimeter defense is insane.
Give me a team that beats this.
5:17 – It only took the Kings trailing 16-0 after turning the ball over on a traveling violation for their head coach to take a full timeout. You think he’s just resigned to the fact that his team is going to get thumped tonight?
6:15 – It took 2/3 of the way through this video before the Lakers don’t score on a possession. Scrubs. But don’t worry. Byron promptly steals the ball in the backcourt and scores to make it 18-0.
6:38 – Chick Hearn has proclaimed that the refrigerator has two doors on it “and they’re both closed.” In the first quarter. With the Kings yet to score, still (Editor’s Note: Chick was the best).
6:42 – This just happened.
The records will say that was a charge. But you can’t take away that beautiful pass. We have it on the Internet forever now. This is probably a rhetorical question, but has there ever been a player more aesthetically pleasing to watch that Magic?
7:24 – Down 18-0, having just turned the ball over for the millionth time it seems, Chick points out that the Kings HAVE NOT EVEN MADE A SUBSTITUTION! That can’t be real. Surely the head coach isn’t that bad? Cross-armed Byron would have yelled at his team for being soft about three times at this point in the game were he coaching the Kings. (Chick corrects himself a second later by pointing out that one substitution occurred, but the point remains).
8:00 – The Basketball Gods are just toying with Sacramento now. A loose ball is picked up and the shot bounces in and out. Kareem outlets, Magic runs down the middle and a ticky-tack foul is called, stopping another Magic-to-Byron highlight play.
9:00 – Hey, it’s the first Magic-to-Byron play that counted. Magic was toying with the Kings at this point.
Best part, though, is Chick begging the Kings to take a timeout. Put them out of their misery, already.
0:25 – After an over-the-back foul, it is unconfirmed if the Kings’ coach has simply began drinking on the sideline.
0:58 – I had watched this video a couple times before, but I didn’t realize this was where 50% of Magic’s highlight reel passes came from. This one is a beautiful drop-off to A.C. Green.
1:25 – The crowd is now noticeably cheering for the Kings to score, groaning on a pair of missed shots by Sacramento.
1:43 – BYRON SCOTT LONG TWO-POINT JUMPER ALERT!
2:08 – For the second possession in a row, the Kings actually score. And for the second possession in a row, the basket is wiped out by a foul. Kings gonna King.
3:00 – Magic has clearly made it a personal mission to humiliate this team. He blocks Eddie Johnson’s wide open lay-up, resulting in a technical foul by Johnson. Why you gotta be so rude, Magic?
4:06 – THE KINGS SCORE! THE CROWD GOES WILD! Standing ovation for the visiting team as they break the 29-0 run to start the game. Chick and his broadcast partner argue what the lowest point total in a quarter is all-time.
5:55 – As the Kings are currently 0-for-17 from the field, Byron’s driving lay-up makes it 33-2. Not a typo.
6:43 – BYRON SCOTT LONG TWO-POINT JUMPER ALERT!!
7:46 – BYRON SCOTT THREE POINTER ALERT!! That’s his first made three with about five made long twos. I’m telling you, we should have seen this coming. This is apparently the Byron Scott game, though, as he has 17 first-quarter points.
9:02 – Laker legend Kurt Rambis cans a free throw to make it 40-4. The Kings did not make a single field goal in the entire quarter. They finished 0-18 and ended the quarter with a traveling violation. I know, shocking, right?
With that, the Kings are put out of their misery for the night as the rest of the game isn’t on YouTube. The Lakers would go on to win by a modest 36 points. The lessons learned tonight, though, are:
- Magic Johnson hated the Kings
- Showtime is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
- Byron really, really, really, really likes long twos. Really.