Book Review: Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
“Buss, on the other hand, was all about energy, buzz, pizzazz, spark. He ditched the organ and—at the suggestion of Roy Englebrecht, the team’s director of promotions—brought in members of the USC marching band to sit in the stands and blast fight songs. He also allowed Englebrecht to follow his gut on what, at the time, was an unheard-of NBA idea. “The Dallas Cowboys were getting a lot of attention with these cheerleaders in high boots,” Englebrecht said. “I went to Dr. Buss and said I would love to put a dance team together—not cheerleaders, dancers.” Buss gave his blessing, and Englebrecht found four USC dancers and four UCLA dancers. “They spent about a month putting together a number,” he said. “I went to a sporting goods store and bought eight pairs of matching sneakers, and I told everyone to keep it top secret.
“One night we decided, finally, they were ready. We all had walkie-talkies at the Forum, and when I yelled ‘Code red!’ the girls came out. The music starts, the announcer yells, ‘The Laker Girls!’ We had no idea how it would be received. Well, people went crazy, and an idea “was born. We were no longer a basketball game. We were a show.”
Though I was born in 1982, my basketball — especially NBA — knowledge dates back to the start of the 1980s. I know every NBA champion and runner up by season, most of the MVP award recipients, and of course all the big name players and the timelines of their careers. Showtime is an easy choice reading for anyone who loves the NBA and the era the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers embodied.
The book covers the entire era of the fast-paced (both on and off the court) life of the Lakers during the Magic Johnson/Pat Riley/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar period, from Magic being drafted in 1979 to Pat’s inheritance of the coaching job in 1981 through Kareem’s retirement in 1989 and the end of the dynasty with Magic’s HIZ announcement and immediate retirement. The Lakers won 5 championships in the 10-year span under the vision of the late Dr. Jerry Buss, who purchased the franchise, hired good people and pretty much stayed out of the way when it came to basketball – he did have the idea, however, for the Laker Girls (the first and still the most prominent NBA dance team).
Pearlman left nothing out in this long book: the standoffish nature of Kareem towards…. Everyone; Magic’s quick ascension to the top of the team totem pole; Riley’s change from the mild-mannered happy-to-be-here assistant coach to power-hungry, egotistical slave driver coach (the author was not kind to Riley); the don’t-ask-don’t-tell extramarital affairs that all the wives knew about; the practices; and of course the actual games.
Any NBA 80s fan owes it to themselves to read Showtime.