The Los Angeles Lakers are one of North America’s preeminent sports franchises. They have won 15 NBA championships, are the second most valuable team in the league, and no franchise has made the playoffs more than the Lakers. They have had some of the most iconic players in NBA history and ones that are known by just a single name: Magic, Wilt, Kareem, Kobe, Shaq, etc... The Lakers star power has even transcended sports as no team in the world can boast the array of celebrity fans that the Lakers can. They were founded in Minneapolis in 1947, moved to L.A. in 1960, and truly became Hollywood when Jerry Buss bought the team in 1979.
Even with their nearly-unparalleled success; it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for The Lake Show. From players to coaches to owners; the Lakers have been embroiled in controversy for as far back as one can remember. Teammates fighting, allegations of drug use, sex parties, and even a planned murder-for-hire are deeply embedded in the Lakers history. Everyone knows that Magic contracted HIV, Kobe cheated on his wife, and the Buss Children hate each other; but there are many other seedy details about the Lakers organization that have come to light over time. The team and the NBA have done their best to keep these secrets hidden; but you can keep the truth concealed for only so long. Here are the 15 things the NBA doesn’t want you to know about the Los Angeles Lakers.
15 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Hated Fans
Former SI writer Jeff Pearlman once said that the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, treated fans like ‘liquid crap’. Back in the 1980s teams didn’t have chartered flights and used to fly commercial. Fans would approach the Lakers and ask for autographs and most were happy to oblige. Even some of the guys who were at the end of the bench and rarely played loved the attention they were getting. However, Kareem did everything possible to avoid fans in airports. He would even go as far as to hide in bathroom stalls, sit on the toilet, and just read a book until the flight was ready to depart. Kareem was known to have a surly attitude and a bad relationship with the media, but who knew he also had that relationship with fans?
14 Kobe Bryant Started Dating His Wife When She Was 17
Remember Kobe Bryant the rapper’s debut single? Me neither, but it was allegedly titled K.O.B.E. and featured Tyra Banks. While working on his debut album (which would never be released), Kobe met a 17-year-old background dancer who happened to be performing in a music video being shot in the same building as the recording studio. Kobe, then 21 years old, began dating the teenage model, Vanessa Laine. Six months later, and right after Vanessa turned 18, the two became engaged. Less than a year later the two would get married but Kobe’s parents did not attend the wedding because they disapproved him marrying so young and also because Vanessa was not African American (she’s half Mexican and half Irish).
The Lakers never said anything publicly about their young star getting hitched but not a single one of Kobe’s teammates attended the wedding either. Despite ups and downs, including infidelity form Kobe; the two are still married today.
13 Team Owner Jack Kent Cooke Had An Eventful Marital History
Cooke was the team’s owner prior to Jerry Buss and he also owned the Washington Redskins and L.A. Kings. While Buss had many girlfriends, Cooke had many wives. Five to be exact, but two of his five marriages were to the same woman. His first marriage lasted 45 years but resulted in the biggest divorce settlement in history when his ex was awarded $42 million. His next marriage would last all of 10 months while his third marriage would last just 10 weeks. But that was still long enough for the then 75-year-old Cooke to become a father again as his then-31-year-old third wife gave birth to a girl.
Cooke’s fourth (and fifth) wife, Marlene Ramallo Chalmers, clearly was the crown jewel. She was once arrested for trafficking cocaine and Cooke first divorced her after she was popped for drunk driving with a man on the hood of her car! Cooke and Chalmers would remarry two years after the divorce; however, Cooke would later cut her out of his will. She filed a lawsuit against his estate and somehow managed to walk away with $20 million.
12 Magic Johnson Got His First Head Coach Fired
If you think players have too much control now, take a step back into the 80s. The Lakers had won a championship in 1979-80 which was also Magic Johnson’s rookie season. The coach, Paul Westhead, favored a half-court offense built around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But after the team lost in the first round the following season, and then started 7-4 in the 1981-82 season, Westhead was fired. The main culprit was Magic Johnson who wasn’t a fan of the slow-paced offense.
Johnson went to team owner Jerry Buss and gave him an ultimatum: either trade me or fire Westhead and Buss sided with his 22-year-old point guard. (LeBron at least waited until his 30s to fire his first coach, David Blatt). With the firing of Westhead, and the promotion of assistant, Pat Riley, Showtime was born. Johnson got the up-tempo offense he always wanted while the Lakers would go on to win four more rings during this era.
11 Two Lakers Were Accused Of Sexual Assault In 2016
It’s never a good look when two of your players are accused of sexual harassment and it’s even worse when they play for one of the two teams owned by a female. Lakers players Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young pulled up in a car next to a woman and her 68-year-old mother and allegedly made “sexually explicit motions” to the women. The daughter, who says she is an activist for women’s equality, says her mother then started crying as the two Lakers then drove off.
The Lakers looked into the claims and released a statement saying there were ‘different interpretations’ as to what happened. The woman did not file a police report and the Lakers were never charged or arrested, but this was still a bad PR look for the players and team. The Lakers would finish that season with their worst record in franchise history so the team had struggles both on the court and off it.
10 Lakers Legend James Worthy Was Busted In A Prostitution Sting
The 1990-91 season would be the last of the Showtime Era as Magic Johnson would abruptly retire before the next season. But before that shocking news, Magic’s running mate, James Worthy, did something else that sent shockwaves through the NBA when he was arrested midseason for soliciting a prostitute. The incident happened just hours before the Lakers road game in Houston and it reportedly happened at the team hotel.
Staying true to his nickname of Big Game James, Worthy would actually make it to the game after spending hours in jail earlier in the day. He would come off the bench to score 24 points in a win over the Rockets. Worthy’s wife, Angela, wasn’t impressed with Big Game James’ performance as she would soon file for divorce. The Lakers’ organization was much more forgiving than Angela as they would hire Worthy as a coach and TV analyst after he retired.
9 Dr. Jerry Buss Loved Younger Women
Buss was married once and his ex-wife, JoAnn Mueller, gave birth to four children including Jim and Jeanie Buss. After divorcing Mueller in 1972, Buss became one of the most prominent bachelors in Los Angeles and enjoyed the single life. A quick Google Images search of Buss will give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a single multimillionaire in LA. He also enjoyed the company of much, much younger women, some who were even 50 years younger than him! Before he passed in 2013, his then-girlfriend was a model named Cynthia Chavez who was also a student at Loyola Marymount at the time. Buss paid for her tuition, cars and clothes amongst other things. Another one of his exes was Liza Hernandez who would then ‘date’ Floyd Mayweather after leaving Buss. Liza went from dating an NBA owner worth $600 million to a pro boxer worth $400 million. Poor girl, how did she ever survive?
8 Spencer Haywood Plotted To Kill His Coach
Prior to joining the Lakers in the 1979-80 season, Spencer Haywood was a four-time NBA All-Star and one of the most popular players in the league. But by the time he joined the Lakers, Haywood was 30 years old, on the downside of his career, and also battling a cocaine addiction. While under the influence, Haywood fell asleep during a team meeting that happened to be while the Lakers were playing in the NBA Finals. The team’s coach, Paul Westhead, would suspend Haywood in the middle of the series and eventually kick him off the team.
Haywood, in his drug-riddled state, then phoned some buddies back in his native Detroit and wanted them to kill Westhead by sabotaging his car. After talking with his mother, Haywood eventually was dissuaded from hiring the men to kill his coach and they never went through with the plan. I guess having homicidal plans doesn’t keep you out of the Hall of Fame as Haywood was inducted into Springfield in 2015.
7 The Forum Club Was LA’s Version Of Studio 54
The Forum Club was an exclusive sports bar/restaurant in the LA Forum that also served as Jerry Buss’ private dining room. For both Lakers and Kings games, it served as the place to be in Los Angeles for pre-game, in-game, and post-game fun. I mentioned the types of women Buss liked to have around him and they came in spades when you were in the Forum Club. The Lakers players would nearly trample each other while racing to get into the club after games as they could have a drink, relax, and mingle with other A-listers. It was also a place full of debauchery, unlimited drinks, and lines of cocaine. James Worthy was a frequent attendee of the Forum Club, and while he didn’t say what activities he participated in; he did say the best part of the club was that there were “no bodyguards and no social media.”
6 Phil Jackson Kicked Jerry West Out Of The Lakers Locker Room
West was the true architect of the early 2000s Lakers team that would three-peat as NBA champions. In 1996 he signed Shaq and traded for an unknown 18-year-old rookie named Kobe Bryant. But in 1999 Phil Jackson became Lakers coach and he wanted everyone in the building to know that he was in charge. During the Lakers seven game series vs. the Trail Blazers in 2000, the Lakers had just coughed up a 3-1 series lead by dropping two straight. After their Game 6 loss the team assembled in the locker room and then GM-Jerry West and assistant GM Mitch Kupchak also joined in. But when Jackson saw the two in the locker room, he asked them to leave like they were ball boys or trainers. They obliged but West had to be hurt seeing as not only did he put the team together, but he had been a part of the Lakers for 40 years and was the freakin’ NBA logo!
The Lakers would go on to win that series and the NBA title, but West would leave the team for Memphis after the season. Here is how West described working with Jackson: "It didn't feel very good when someone would walk right by me and not even acknowledge you're there. But that's Phil.”
5 Magic Johnson Was Going After Wilt Chamberlain’s Record
And I don’t mean 100 points in a game! Chamberlain famously said he had sex with 20,000 women and Johnson admitted to sleeping with 300-500 women…per year! This revelation came after Magic publicly announced to the world that he was HIV positive in 1991. Magic would lay down his magic anywhere and everywhere including the team locker room and team sauna. After games, Magic would immediately retreat back to the team sauna where a woman, or women, would be waiting for him. Sometimes other teammates would be there and sometimes Magic would be the only player there.
He would then have sex, sometimes multiple times, before putting on his robe and calmly walking back into the locker room. He would then conduct his post-game interviews with the media unaware that the sweat on his brow had nothing to do with his work on the court.
4 Pat Riley Was A Taskmaster
By the end of the 1980s Kareem had retired and Showtime was winding down in LA. The 1989-90 season would be Pat Riley’s last patrolling the Lakers sideline and his players could not be happier. By then Riley was at his maniacal and domineering peak and wanted to control every single aspect of the Lakers organization. Riley noticed that the fans at the Forum often paid more attention to the Laker Girls than the team at times so he forced the cheerleaders to sit throughout the 4th quarter so they wouldn’t divert the fans’ attention from the game. Also, even though the Lakers were able to travel on Jerry Buss’ MGM Grand plane that had individual staterooms; Riley assigned seats to the players.
Imagine being a 30-year-old multi-millionaire on a private plane and you’re being forced to sit in a certain seat! Despite the four rings Riley won as coach of the Lakers; no one shed a tear when he stepped down after the season.
3 Jerry West Hired A Private Investigator To Spy On Norm Nixon
Norm Nixon was the Lakers point guard before they drafted Magic Johnson and he always had a contentious relationship with Jerry West. West was initially Nixon’s coach and then became the Lakers’ GM. In the early 1980s West suspected that Nixon was one of many NBA players doing cocaine and hired a private investigator to spy on the point guard. It turns out that the PI was actually a Lakers fan and alerted Nixon that he was hired to spy on him. Nixon would then confront West about the alleged spying but West pleaded ignorance.
The two were able to coexist long enough to win two NBA titles, but West shocked the NBA world by trading Nixon to the lowly Clippers during training camp in 1983. Nixon would go on to lead the NBA in assists while with the Clippers but the Lakers ended up being the true winners of the trade. They traded Nixon for a rookie shooting guard named Byron Scott and he would go on to win three rings while sharing a backcourt with Magic Johnson.
2 Shaq Slapped Kobe Bryant
Long before Chris Childs delivered a right cross to Kobe Bryant’s chin, Shaquille O’Neal was the first player to get physical with the Black Mamba. We all know about the Kobe-Shaq feud that stretched about 15 years or so and we all know that even though both have called a truce; they secretly do still hate each other. But we didn’t know that their feud actually turned physical at one point and was more than just verbal sparring. In 2006 journalist Roland Lazenby authored a book that detailed the Lakers history and it included a little known anecdote about the NBA’s most famous feud. During the NBA’s lockout in 1998-99; some Lakers got together and played a game of two-on-two: Shaq and Derek Fisher vs. Kobe and Corie Blount.
During the course of the game Kobe was being overly-physical and at one point Shaq retaliated by slapping the then 20-year-old prodigy. With Shaq being 7’1” 325 lbs. the altercation ended there and Fisher tried to play peacemaker by saying neither Kobe nor Shaq really started the fight. Their feud would carry on into that season and Shaq would publicly call Kobe selfish but this appears to be the only physical confrontation that we know of.
1 There Were Midnight Orgies At Magic Johnson’s House
During Showtime, Magic opened the doors of his home to his Lakers teammates, some opponents, and the most promiscuous women in southern California. Getting an invitation to Magic’s house was harder than getting courtside seats at the Forum. Former Lakers teammate, Frank Brickowski, described the scene at Magic’s house in this way: “If you ever die and go to heaven, you want heaven to be Magic’s house parties.” But Magic didn’t just serve as the host of the parties going on as he also served as a ‘director’ to the orgies that were taking place. He would allegedly go through the house checking in on everybody and making sure they were doing…something. Brickowski said that Magic would order people to start doing things as that was the purpose of them being there. Magic wanted everyone to have a good time and if that meant having sex in his own pool, then so be it. Even when the games were over, Magic was still dishing out assists.