In 1972, Jerry West nearly prevented the Showtime Lakers from winning a championship. When he took his talents to LA in 1976, this was not well received by some who felt their team dominance could win without him and that they would never lose again. However, following the three-peat of Magic Johnson’s dynasty and Kobe Bryant’s career years with Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson leading them to two more consecutive championships in 2000 and 2001 (followed up with another one via trade for Pau Gasol), it is clear that Jerry was critical at best when failing to prevent success through superstardom.
Jerry West is a legendary basketball player who has been involved in the NBA since its inception. He was also one of the key players that helped make Showtime and changed the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. Read more in detail here: los angeles lakers.
Magic Johnson is one of the few players who has ever worn the Purple and Gold and screamed “Los Angeles Lakers.” The flashy point guard was the lifeblood of Showtime, a decade-long period that characterized the Lakers.
In retrospect, it seems like LA would not have hesitated to choose Magic in 1979. However, another Lakers star, Jerry West, was urging his beloved club to go a different path.
In 1979, the Los Angeles Lakers had the first selection.
Some people are born with a generational skill as a result of their terrible luck, while others are born with it by chance. The Lakers were in the latter category in 1979.
In 1978-79, LA finished 47-35, reaching the playoffs for the third year in a row. It did, however, have a first-round selection belonging to the 26-56 New Orleans Jazz. That’s because the Jazz had signed Gail Goodrich, a 33-year-old former All-Star and champion with the Lakers, three years previously.
League regulations at the time required New Orleans to trade Goodrich for players, draft selections, or money. Stumpy was signed to a three-year agreement by the Jazz. However, they were forced to give up first-round selections in 1977, 1978, and 1979, as well as a second-round pick in 1980.
The Lakers were on the verge of winning the #1 overall selection with the Jazz’s pick in hand. Only a coin flip with the Chicago Bulls, who had the poorest record in the Western Conference at 31-51, stood in their way. Rod Thorn, the Bulls’ general manager, called heads on April 19, 1979. Los Angeles won the coin toss, putting itself in the driver’s seat to acquire Michigan State’s generational point guard.
Magic Johnson was not Jerry West’s favorite player.
Jerry West, former head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, approximately 1979. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
On the surface, everything in Hollywood seemed to be in order. LA won the coin toss, Magic was the best prospect, and LA selected Magic in the first round. Behind the scenes, though, The Logo had reservations about the self-assured lad from Lansing, Michigan.
West became the Lakers’ head coach shortly after a 14-year Hall of Fame career with the franchise. He sat on the bench for three seasons before departing after the 1978-79 season. Mr. Clutch, on the other hand, stayed with the company as a special consultant in the front office. Of course, this included having a voice in basketball matters, such as the draft.
West voiced concern to owner Jack Kent Cooke about a 6-foot-9 point guard playing in a fast-paced NBA, according to Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. Another name given by the famed consultant was Arkansas forward Sidney Moncrief.
“West made it known to Jack Kent Cooke that he wanted Moncrief. For a short while, there was a strong notion that Moncrief, not Magic, would become a Laker.”
LA Herald Examiner’s Rich Levin (via Jeff Pearlman’s “Showtime”)
Moncrief, who stood 6-foot-3, was the more typical guard. His senior year at Arkansas, the Squid averaged 22.0 points and 9.6 rebounds, earning him Southwest Conference Player of the Year accolades.
The Lakers were changed by Magic Johnson.
West was a respected member of the organization, thus his advocacy on Moncrief’s behalf was not taken lightly. Cooke, on the other hand, was a showman who appreciated glitz and glam (as was the incoming owner Jerry Buss). So the chance to choose Magic, who is 19 years old, was too excellent to pass up.
Johnson gave the Lakers more than anybody could have hoped for, particularly West. Magic was the face of LA’s new fast-paced, high-energy style from the start, and his rookie season resulted in a championship. The All-Star then went on to earn three MVPs and three Finals MVPs while leading the Purple and Gold to four more championships.
Moncrief wasn’t Magic, but he wasn’t a slouch either. Sid was selected fifth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he would become a franchise legend for the following decade. Moncrief’s 11-year NBA career finished with him being named to five All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams, and two Defensive Player of the Year accolades. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame with Johnson and other NBA great in 2019.
Moncrief still wonders what life would have been like if he had been the one in LA instead of Magic now that his number four has been retired by the Bucks.
“If you ask me what would have happened if the Lakers had picked me,” Moncrief told Sports Illustrated, “I’ll be fully honest.” “We could win a championship, but the Lakers will never do to me what they did to Magic.” That team needed one person to bring everyone together, and he was that person. There’s a reason Magic Johnson is considered one of the best players of all time. He was capable of doing anything.”
Jerry West is regarded as one of the top talent assessors in the game’s history. Mr. Clutch, on the other hand, was off the mark when it came to Magic vs. Moncrief.
Basketball Reference provided all statistics.
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