It was the ’80s – and The Lakers were The Show. They went on to nine championship series, winning five. Of course, they didn’t just win. They won with sizzle and style. They ran the break like no other. Magic lived up to his moniker. Kareem had that hook. Riley had those threads. With those specs, Rambis was a human ram. It goes on and on.
Prolific author Jeff Pearlman, www.jeffpearlman.com, – author of the upcoming Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre – captures it all in Showtime. He took a few moments to answer some questions.
What inspired you to write Showtime? How did this project come about?
Well, I’m a kid of the 1980s, and I’m a man who is consumed with nostalgia. Ask me to name the roster of the 2016 Mets? I can give you, maybe, 10 guys. Ask me 1986—I’ll name every player and coach. So the 1980s Lakers were right in my comfort zone. Also, they were ripe for a definitive exploration. There had never been a truly all-encompassing book about the team. A lot of quality stuff on years, players. But never the full hug. I’m a hugger.
As for how it came out: My agent, David Black, kicks ass. I put together a proposal, he sold it very quickly. I was coming off Sweetness, a pretty successful book, so that helped a lot. When I got the deal, I ran to Sports Illustrated’s old library, photocopied every clip, media guide page, etc. Thousands and thousands of items. Then started calling.
Sure–Kareem wouldn’t talk, Magic wouldn’t talk, Riley wouldn’t talk. Which seems awful, but isn’t. Because those three guys have been interviewed 100,000 times on the subject, and their words are out there all over the place. I’m all about the guys who were there, but who haven’t spoken on it in years. Gimme Earl Jones, gimme Wes Matthews, gimme Billy Thompson. I’m happy. Did I even speak with Paltz? Can’t remember.
After the book came out, did any players give you a hard time about their portrayal? Norm Nixon? Mark Landsberger?
Nope. None. Zero. Lots of positives.
You’ve interviewed athletes from all sorts of sports. What if anything makes basketball players unique?
They’re the smartest and most savvy, as a collective. They’ve almost all attended college, many have grown up needing street smarts and toughness. They’re my favorite to speak with, because—as a whole—I find NBA players the most open and cool and willing to share. Oh, they’re also tall.
No doubt, there’s enough fodder for a Showtime sequel, chronicling the Kobe-Shaq era. Is that in the works?
Not by me. I enjoyed Showtime a ton, but I like to diversify. But I agree—someone should swoop that one up ASAP.