Exclusive Book Excerpt: Bitter, Dark Days of Pat Riley and the ‘Showtime’ Lakers

In the minds of many, the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty came to an unceremonious end when the team was swept in the 1989 NBA Finals by the Isiah Thomas-led Detroit Pistons. Suddenly, Showtime seemed to be a thing of the past. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary center, retired. Point guard Magic Johnson was a step slower. The roster was changing over. 

Then, the next season, something strange happened—the Lakers won. And won. And won. Los Angeles went a league-best 63-19, and entered the playoffs a prohibitive favorite to recapture its spot atop the league.

Behind the scenes, however, a franchise was crumbling. The reasons: Ego, arrogance and head coach Pat Riley, who would resign after the season.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Jeff Pearlman's new book, "Showtime," which can be ordered here. It was edited to comply with B/R standards regarding the use of profanity.

Coming off of the finals sweep at the hands of Detroit, and having lost center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to retirement, the Lakers were supposed to take a few more steps back toward the rest of the NBA pack.

Instead, the opposite occurred. For the first time in franchise history, Los Angeles went undefeated in eight exhibition games, then opened the regular season by winning ten of eleven. Everything was going swimmingly—centers Mychal Thompson and Vlade Divac were teaming to average more than 18 points and 12 rebounds per night, Magic Johnson and James Worthy were (as always) playing at All-Star levels and A.C. Green had continued his emergence as one of the league’s three or four best power forwards. The bench—led by Divac, Larry Drew and Michael Cooper—was its deepest in years. “We were unbelievable,” said Drew, Johnson’s backup. “From the day I arrived, I felt a focus and determination I’d never seen before. I’ll never forget when I first got there, and Magic ...

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