Both embrace teamwork, points out Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
POSTED: Dec 24, 2015 10:30 PM ET
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Sixty-eight-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said "I'm not coming out of retirement," so the showdown series between the 1980s Lakers and the 2010s Warriors is off. It will have to take place in a parallel basketball universe of time travel and imagination.
Or it doesn't have to take place at all, because the fun of the matchup is in the similarity, not the question. The 1995-96 Bulls are the true debate topic for Golden State, the Chicago team that owns the single-season record of 72 victories and therefore the team the 27-1 Dubs, on pace for 79 wins, are aiming for in a historical context. Plus, nobody would have to ask Michael Jordan twice if he wants to taste blood again.
The Warriors and the Showtime Lakers of Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, Abdul-Jabbar and others are different generations of the same family tree. Playing in fast lane, defending even if their images insist the success was/is because of offense, the point guards in big letters on the marquee, in California, creating a buzz at every arena but nowhere more than their own -- they're practically related. Actually, they are related. Mychal Thompson played for part of that L.A. run and son Klay Thompson plays for Golden State. Bob McAdoo rode a portion of the wave of Hollywood basketball glam and distant cousin James Michael McAdoo has a small role in Oakland.
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"I see certain similarities between the Warriors and the Showtime Lakers in their embrace of teamwork," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Teamwork is what really makes this game function and they are consummate team players. I saw an article on them in the New York Times and it compared them to the Count Basie band. I kind of enjoyed that a lot because Count Basie's band was a big band in my household (growing up) and I understand what they're talking about. They're exciting. They just seemed to come out of nowhere. But they make you smile and make you want to dance. I think along with the Showtime Lakers, they're making a little bit homage to Count Basie. I like that."
The connection stretches in every direction. Jerry West was the general manager in Los Angeles and is now on the executive board in Oakland and a voice in basketball operations. Pat Riley and Steve Kerr both had long playing careers as guards, both were on teams in the conversation for best ever (Riley the 1971-72 Lakers, Kerr those 1995-96 Bulls) and both were broadcasters before becoming a head coach with relatively little or no previous bench experience. And, Kerr attended high school in Southern California during part of the Showtime run.
There is also the obvious difference. The Lakers were at or near the top for many years, long enough to go through the Dr. J's 76ers, Larry Bird's Celtics and the Bad Boy Pistons. (While Riley didn't take over as coach until 1981, after Paul Westhead won the first title in 1979, Showtime was in effect before Gordon Gekko hit the sideline. New owner Jerry Buss insisted glitz be part of the branding in entertainment-conscious Los Angeles, from the visibility of the Laker Girls to the style of play with Johnson as the charismatic point guard). The Warriors, by contrast, won a first title six months ago and have a very good start on a second season.
Those Lakers were proven longevity. These Warriors are potential.
But what a link otherwise.
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"I don't know if it's too early (to compare)," said Scott, the current L.A. coach. "They won a championship last year and they're off to an unbelievable start this year, so there's always going to be some comparisons to some great teams. I also heard about the Chicago Bull team that won 70 games or whatever. I know that's a mark people are talking about. Their job is just to keep going out there and doing what they're doing. Comparisons are going to come. Everybody's going to take a team -- us, Chicago, somebody -- and try to compare them with that team. For what, I don't know, because there's no way to put those teams together and seeing who really would be the best. But I guess it's fun for you guys. I don't know."
That's what a championship while playing fast followed by a 27-1 start while playing faster heading into a Finals rematch against the Cavaliers in Oakland (5 p.m. ET, ABC) does. That's also some new perspective for the Warriors: They have quickly earned the right to be held up to the bright light of history, even from Lakers not easy to impress.
"The reason that we play the games is to find out who the better team is," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Given the personnel that we had, I would have to pick the Showtime Lakers because we played an inside-outside game and had good inside scoring in myself and James Worthy and good outside scoring. I think we would be a tough cookie for the Warriors, but, again, we have to play the games. I know they have so much confidence in their ability to shoot the 3-pointer and score bunches of points. I have to acknowledge that. Of course it would be a tough matchup, but we're going to have to play the games in order to do that and we won't get to do that. So, sorry."
It's not going to happen. The sides will have to be connected in other ways.
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