Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review of "Showtime"

Having not reviewed an audiobook for awhile, I picked one out written by an author that I am growing to enjoy tremendously. Jeff Pearlman is one of the best for detailed research and interviews and this shows in the quality of his work. This book about the 1980's Los Angeles Lakers is a great example.  Here is my review of "Showtime"

Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dynasty of the 1980’s” by Jeff Pearlman, narrated by Malcom Hilgartner

Basketball, professional, history, Lakers, championship, audiobook

Publish date:
October 7, 2014

496 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

The Los Angeles Lakers played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals eight of the ten years of the decade of the 1980’s, winning five titles.  Easily the best team of that decade, their story of dominance is captured in this excellent book by bestselling author Jeff Pearlman.

The time frame covered by the book is from the first championship season in 1979-80 through the 1991 NBA Finals when an aging and slower version of the “Showtime” team lost to the Chicago Bulls and their transcendent star Micheal Jordan.  Between those two bookend seasons, the reader will be taken on an entertaining ride – some of it expected, some of it surprising but all of it easy to read and enjoy.

The story starts with the coash who is often forgotten when one thinks of these Laker’s teams – Jack McKinney.  He lead the team to the 1980 championship with the game’s all time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a rookie point guard from Michigan State, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  From there, these two players were the foundation for the Laker dynasty, with other various players and coaches.

The saga of the head coaching position for the Lakers during this time makes for interesting reading.  McKinney was involved in a horrific bicycle accident which led to assistant coach Paul Westhead getting promoted while McKinney recuperated. He and Johnson had a rocky relationship.  That lead to Westhead’s dismissal and the hiring of Pat Riley.  Riley’s contribution to Showtime and his leadership is explained in fascinating detail – everything from his relationship with the players (great at first, deteriorated to awful by 1990), his wardrobe and his ego.  Even Riley’s successor, Mike Dunleavy, had his story told in great detail.

The two men who owned the team during this time, Jack Kent Cooke and Dr. Jerry Buss, have very different and interesting personalities. While Cooke treated everyone associated with the team badly, Buss not only changed this environment, he led a playboy lifestyle and even constructed a lounge in the team’s arena, the Forum, that was a haven for partying, drugs and sex.  It was stated that players, both Lakers and visiting players, hurriedly showered and changed after games so they could quickly get up to the lounge for the after game parties.

Nearly every player who donned a Laker jersey has his story told and the public images associated with the team’s stars are confirmed for most.  Magic Johnson’s bubbly personality was not an act – he is continuously portrayed as such throughout the book.  The same goes for Abdul-Jabbar’s aloofness and sulking (he is probably the most criticized player in the book), A.C. Green’s spirituality (confirmed by his remaining a virgin until he married, despite the high libidos of his teammates and the owner), and Mark Landsburger’s “stupidity”.

These are just a few examples of how Pearlman exposes everything about each player, whether good, bad, controversial or embarrassing.  He is a master of letting the reader find out as much as possible about these athletes and this book is no different. The narration by Malcom Hilgartner is just as good as the writing.  For those who have heard interviews by these players over the years, the listener will be surprised at how much he sounds like them, especially Magic Johnson.

Pearlman is a master of deep research and interviews to provide the reader with the most information possible on the book’s subject and this book is one great example. Fans of the Lakers and professional basketball will certainly want to read this book.

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