Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s

Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s

by Jeff Pearlman


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Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman

The New York Times bestselling author of Sweetness and Gunslinger delivers the first all-encompassing account of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of professional sports’ most-reveredand dominantdynasties.
The Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s personified the flamboyance and excess of the decade over which they reigned. Beginning with the arrival of Earvin “Magic” Johnson as the number-one overall pick of the 1979 draft, the Lakers played basketball with gusto and pizzazz, unleashing their famed “Showtime” run-and-gun style on a league unprepared for their speed and ferocity—and became the most captivating show in sports and, arguably, in all-around American entertainment. The Lakers’ roster overflowed with exciting all-star-caliber players, including center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and they were led by the incomparable Pat Riley, known for his slicked-back hair, his Armani suits, and his arrogant strut. Hollywood’s biggest celebrities lined the court and gorgeous women flocked to the arena. Best of all, the team was a winner. Between 1980 and 1991, the Lakers played in an unmatched nine NBA championship series, capturing five of them.

Bestselling sportswriter Jeff Pearlman draws from almost three hundred interviews to take the first full measure of the Lakers’ epic Showtime era. A dazzling account of one of America’s greatest sports sagas, Showtime is packed with indelible characters, vicious rivalries, and jaw-dropping, behind-the-scenes stories of the players’ decadent Hollywood lifestyles.  From the Showtime era’s remarkable rise to its tragic end—marked by Magic Johnson’s 1991 announcement that he had contracted HIV—Showtime is a gripping narrative of sports, celebrity, and 1980s-style excess.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592407552
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jeff Pearlman is a New York Times bestselling author and sports writer. He has worked as a columnist for and, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a features writer for Newsday, and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and He lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt

“Spencer Haywood?”

Excerpted from "Showtime"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Jeff Pearlman.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Part 1 Development of a Dream

Chapter 1 Jack Kent Kook 3

Chapter 2 Of Sand Dabs and the Marlboro Man 11

Chapter 3 The Unlikely Head Coach 26

Chapter 4 Center of Complications 50

Chapter 5 Crash 73

Chapter 6 West Fall 102

Chapter 7 Picture Imperfect 123

Part 2 Dominance

Chapter 8 Riled Up 149

Chapter 9 Clark Kent 171

Chapter 10 Clubbing 194

Chapter 11 The Departed 217

Chapter 12 Earl 243

Chapter 13 Virginal 266

Chapter 14 Worthy of Superstardom 284

Chapter 15 Bring It 306

Chapter 16 Shattered Glass 316

Chapter 17 Motown 333

Chapter 18 Good-bye, Cap 346

Part 3 Demise of a Dynasty

Chapter 19 Undone 365

Chapter 20 Bates 373

Chapter 21 Refreshment 390

Chapter 22 Shock 411

Afterword 419

Acknowledgments 425

Notes 429

Bibliography 467

Index 471

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Showtime

“The Showtime Lakers are the dynasty that forever changed the NBA, transforming a game into an entertainment spectacle. Through his relentless reporting and buoyant writing, Jeff Pearlman has delivered the story in full, from rare insight into Kareem and Magic to what (ital) really (ital) went on after-hours in the Forum Club. Once you start "Showtime," you won't be able to put it down.”
—Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports NBA columnist and author of the The Miracle of St. Anthony 

“An era that redefined the game has found a storyteller more than up to the task. By any measure, Showtime is magic.”
—Mark Frost, author of The Greatest Game Every Played

“Showtime proves to be prime-time literary entertainment. A rocking, roller-coast of a ride it reads like the Lakers of Magic and Riley played – an artistic fast-break of revealing, sometimes shocking tales tinged with sex, drugs and, most of all humanity. You want to know the real story behind a beautifully dysfunctional basketball dynasty? Read this book.”
—Armen Keteyian, 60 Minutes Sports

“The names (Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Riley, Buss) and the games (four championships) have long been studied by basketball's anthropologists. But so much of the story of the Showtime Lakers, THE Team of the 80s, took place behind closed doors. Jeff Pearlman, as is his wont, pries them open and finds … a whole lot of L.A. living.”
—Jack McCallum, author of New York Times best-seller Dream Team

"Pearlman is an indefatigable reporter, and here he provides an all-access pass to one of the game's greatest dynasties, with tales of Kareem, Magic, Riley and Jerry Buss in their heyday. It's a book any NBA fan - any sports fan - will devour, likely in one or two sittings."
—Chris Ballard, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated

Jeff Pearlman, typically, delivers the goods, celebrating them for their achievements, pulling no punches on the subject of their shortcomings. This is a vivid portrait of a great team, in full.”
—Jeremy Schaap, ESPN commentator, New York Times best-selling author of Cinderella Man and Triumph  

"Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that recreates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. Showtime is a great show indeed, full of colorful (and complicated) characters as well as a trove of details that even the most passionate fans will be amazed to learn. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it."
—Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life

Praise for Sweetness

"Mr. Halberstam would have been the first to insist that we not confuse fiction with nonfiction, and that we not mistake biography — the telling of a life — for hagiography — the burnishing of a legend. Which was football's big trouble last week, it turns out, as lots of folks who should know better took exception to a new biography of Walter Payton."
—, "The Sporting Life"

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Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
ricme More than 1 year ago
Pearlman digs in to give the reader insight on the history of the Lakers' run and gun style of play in the 80's. His in depth look at the characters who came up with the idea and the players who carried it out is interesting. Pearlman doesn't pull punches in discussing the personality foibles of players like Kareem and Magic, or the drug and sexcapades of the era. Seems Pearlman spent more pages talking about Magic Johnson than anyone else and this makes sense since Magic was the engine that kept the machine that was Showtime going. It would have been nice to hear from Magic. Seems like most players of the era cooperated with the author--but not Magic. This is a glaring omission but I give the author credit for telling it like it was. Perhaps Magic didn't like some of his past history being dug up and reprinted.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
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 La
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a dieheart Los Angeles Lakers fan.An I cant wait to read it. I would alsao like 2 reccomend Kobe Byrant'sbiography!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was an up-and-down fan of the Lakers in the 80s. Because of how great the team looked on the floor, I always assumed they had a happy locker room. I could not have been further from the truth. For example, the story about Jack McKinney was news to me. And how Pat Riley eventually became a dictator. Or how Kareem was a 100% jerk. Or how many women Magic really slept with. This was a book I could not stop reading. And once you read it, you will be amazed that the Lakers ever won a single title.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being a lifelong Laker fan, I experienced the Showtime-era Laker team as a teenager. My late mother was the biggest Laker fan. Not religious in the traditional sense, her "Holy Trinity" consisted of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & James Worthy, with Chick Hearn being the 4th member. SPOILER ALERT: Why I am almost sorry I read this: having experienced Showtime, I grew up idolizing the players & coaches. Mr. Pearlman does an excellent job of telling the story, complete with painting an excellent portrait of what a bunch of power & fame hungry, drug abusing, womanizing jerks the players & coaches actually were. It really burst my bubble. Still, it was very well written & told the story well, which is why I gave it 4 stars. Perhaps if I hadn't lived it & hadn't idolized these guys, I might feel different & rated it higher.
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