33March 28, 2013
I was kind of rooting for the Heat to break the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak — or at least to get a couple of games closer than they did.
Still, that Laker team was really important to me; I spent my last months in California (we moved to Louisiana in the summer of 1972) watching them. I saw every game of the streak on TV either live (road games) on on tape-delay. It seems amazing, but in those pre-cable days, it was possible for a suburban So-Cal kid to catch about a 100 Laker games (including play-offs and pre-season) a year on local television. (And you could watch all the UCLA games too.)
And so I remember that ’71-’72 team well — I remember how shocked and disappointed I was when Elgin Baylor retired. I didn’t think they had a real chance after that.
But Jim McMillan, Baylor’s replacement (an undersized small forward — he was probably no more than 6’3”) was a revelation in his second year; an uncannily reliable spot-up shooter whose favorite shot was a baseline jumper from the corner. And Happy Hairston, the other Laker forward, often seemed to be the team’s best — or at least more energetic player. At least, that’s the impression I got from listening to Chick Hearne’s calls.
Jerry West was my idol, but Gail Goodrich was the player I modeled my own game on (well, he and Clyde Fraizer and later Pete Maravich). I’ve always felt bad for Wilt Chamberlain. Pat Riley and Keith Erickson were the first players off the bench. (I consider Erickson the sixth man, but Riley did play plenty.)