Rich History Detailed in Lakers Book

Think you know everything about the Lakers? Steve Springer’s book may surprise you.

By Brandon HENSLEY

If only Steve Springer had waited a little bit longer to release his new Lakers book, he could have included the recent coaching hysteria that has engulfed the team on this young season.

As it is, the story of Mike Brown’s firing and how Mike D’Antoni came to fill his seat, not the presumed former L.A. coach Phil Jackson, isn’t in Springer’s newest release, “100 Things Lakers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” because the book wouldn’t have been put out in time for the holidays.

And really, “100 Things …” makes a suitable gift for any Lakers fan, but especially the young ones growing up today that only know the Kobe Bryant era and not the rest of the Lakers’ storied history. Springer, a former L.A. Times sports reporter and author of several other Lakers books, details an up-to-date list (save for the D’Antoni story, of course) that spans the entire history of the franchise.

In the book, Springer recounts the team’s move from Minneapolis to L.A., and how the Lakers almost became the Oceaneers, but didn’t, how they almost played in Chavez Ravine right next to Dodger Stadium, and how Chick Hearn became the team’s play-by-play man.

Speaking of Hearn, there are several stories about him in the book, which is appropriate. Springer knows more than anyone the importance Hearn had on the franchise, and those younger than a decade – the time since Hearn passed away – should read the pages detailing his personality and effect on Lakers’ coaches, players and fans.

While Jerry Buss has become maybe the most celebrated owner in American sports, Springer writes about Buss’ predecessor, Jack Kent Cooke, a man with a hefty ego and  the one responsible for building the “Fabulous Forum,” the Lakers’ home from 1967 to 1999.

Drama seems to be embedded into the Lakers DNA, and that’s not exclusive to the players. Before Kobe vs. Phil – and even Nick Van Exel vs. Del Harris – Springer chronicles the feuds between Magic Johnson and coach Paul Westhead in the 1980s and Wilt Chamberlain and Butch van Breda Kolff in the ’60s. There’s also the heartbreaking story of how Westhead took over as coach for Jack McKinney, and the fallout between their two families.

As for the “Do” part in the title, that’s dubious. Springer’s list is mostly spotlights on lesser-known players and historical anecdotes (how did the Lakers select Magic No. 1 overall in 1979 when there was no draft lottery and they didn’t have the worst record?). There isn’t a lot he tells fans to do or places to go, the big exception being a place in Iowa which serves as a reminder of an almost tragic event that happened 50 years ago.

The 268 pages are easy enough to read, allowing fans of any age to immerse themselves in all things Lakers, good and bad. Older fans should at least be familiar with most of what’s in “100 Things …” but it’s the most up-to-date collection of stories and trivia, and it would behoove youngsters whose main attire is a jersey with the word “Bryant” on the back to fully immerse themselves in the history of their favorite franchise.