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*Starred Review* The Los Angeles Lakers--along with the Boston Celtics--represent the best in the five-decade-plus history of the National Basketball Association. Lazenby, author of many sports books including Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant (1999), has written an oral history of the franchise from its incarnation in Minneapolis in the early 1950s through its most recent run of championships under coach Phil Jackson and key players Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
The book is must reading for NBA fans both young and old. Most fascinating are the stories from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Lakers, led by Hall-of-Famers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, reached the NBA finals five times in six years and lost each time. The anguish experienced by West--who has since become the league's most accomplished executive and general manager--over those losses is palpable. A driven individual and as fierce a competitor as the league has ever known, West nearly quit in frustration and entertained thoughts that the losses were some sort of divinely dictated personal punishment. He eventually got his championship as a player and many more as the team's general manager.
Other fascinating eras include the Magic Johnson years and the Bryant-O'Neal and Jackson championships in which the attendant soap opera of clashing egos was as almost as interesting as the action on the court. The best book on pro basketball since Sam Smith's The Jordan Rules (1992).