How the Lakers Became "Showtime" by Emulating the Celtics

How the Lakers Became "Showtime" by Emulating the Celtics

Red's Army

How the Lakers Became "Showtime" by Emulating the Celtics

Throughout the early part of the Celtics history, Bill Sharman was Bob Cousy's running mate in the back court.  He was an exceptional shooter, especially from the free throw line.  One of his assets was being able to run with Cousy in Red Auerbach's newly created "Fast-Break" style of basketball.  In the early years of the NBA, there wasn't much running until Red invented the fast break, running opponents off the floor.  This style was a huge reason why the Celtics were able to defeat the Lakers (and so many other teams) year after year.

With Bill Russell anchoring the defense as the greatest defender in the game (and arguably of all-time), he ignited the break and Cousy ran it like a maestro.  Sharman retired just two seasons before Cousy in 1961.  Later on in his career, he would become the head coach of the LA Lakers who were always a contending team with guys like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, but could never win it all.

That year, they reeled off an incredible 33-game winning streak.  It's insane to even think about that happening today, even though the Houston Rockets won 22 consecutive games in 2008.  The best part about that streak was that the Celtics destroyed it by beating them by 20 points in Houston.  Recently, J.A. Adande of attended a reunion of those 1972 LA Lakers and wrote about it.  If you scroll down towards the end and check out Gail Goodrich's comments, you'll understand where I'm going with this:


I've heard Tommy Heinsohn tell this exact story before but to see a bunch of Laker dignitaries discuss it openly can make ANY Celtic fan smile.  I'm pretty sure he did this during Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals broadcast during a cut-away to Sharman sitting in the stands.  The truth is, this type of organizational thinking was the genesis of "Showtime" and Magic's Lakers.  Sharman infused the Laker organization with a method and style that was so successful for those dominating teams in the late 50's and 60's, and it carried them throughout the 80's.

Obviously you need the right players to execute this brand of basketball, but the fact that the Lakers organization, at least the transformation of being a good team to a championship team, is actually colored green, is a fantastic thought to have.  I suggest that you read the entire piece as it details the difference in the NBA back then compared to today.  And while you do, I wouldn't be surprised if you chuckled a bit like Russell would.

(As an aside, and sort of related story, I love how Bob Cousy came out of retirement, as coach of the Cincinnati Royals, in the middle of a game to try and stop the Knicks from beating the Celtics consecutive game winning streak)

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