No other NBA franchise is as closely associated with its celebrity fans as the Los Angeles Lakers. And why not? L.A. is the epicenter of the entertainment industry, and the Lakers are a big part of that entertainment scene.
"In this town there has to be some star attraction," said Joe Smith, a record executive and Lakers season ticket holder since the team arrived in L.A. in 1960. "Itís a city of stars, and the extra added plus is when you see Jack Nicholson at the game. There was one game against the Spurs a couple of years ago, in the playoffs, when there were seven Academy Award winners sitting courtside."
The glitter, the glamour, the game. NBA.com celebrates this long love affair between the Lakers and their celebrity fans by naming the Top 10 Celebrity Lakers fans of all time.
Yes, Doris Day. Surprised? We knew you would be.
For years, celebrities flocked to watch the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, and later the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Sundays in the fall, celebs would head to the L.A. Coliseum to watch the Rams. But as Jerry West would attest, the Lakers' arrival in L.A. barely made a ripple in the sports pages and with Hollywood.
"We didnít have many celebrities in the stands," West said. "We had very few fans and rarely celebrities. At the time, the two most important sports teams were the Dodgers and Rams. We were on the back of the sports page, and werenít even on the radar at that time."
Enter Doris Day. She's the Neil Armstrong of Lakers celebrities, taking one small courtside seat for her, but one giant leap for the Hollywood stars. Other stars of that era ó Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dean Martin, Andy Williams to name a few ó would soon find their way to the L.A. Sports Arena to watch Jerry West and Elgin Baylor lead the Lakers to multiple Finals appearances.
But it was Day, the biggest female box office star of the late '50s and early '60s, who, according to Terry Pluto's oral history of the early NBA Tall Tales, "was the Dyan Cannon of the early Lakers, a star who was a regular at courtside." And for that, we tip our pillbox hat in honor of Doris Day, a Lakers celeb fan pioneer and No. 10 on our list.
For a while in the late '80s and early '90s, Arsenio Hall had the hottest, most-talked-about late night talk show. (You may remember then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton donning shades, toting a sax and playing "Heartbreak Hotel" on Arsenio's show in June of 1992.)
And during that time, when the Showtime Lakers were hot and the Forum was jumping, you could usually count on three celebs to be front and center: Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon and Arsenio Hall. After Magic Johnson retired, Arsenio had the seats next to Magic, who chose Arsenio's talk show as one of the first places to make a public comment after announcing his retirement from the NBA because he was HIV positive.
While no longer a front-and-center fixture at Lakers games, Aresnio's close friendship with Magic and romantic relationship with former Laker Girl, Paula Abdul (that's him making faces in Abdul's video for her first No. 1 hit, "Straight Up"), coupled with his courtside presence during the high-top fade and Cross Colors era, lands him in the No. 9 spot.
A native Los Angelino and a hoops junkie, who actually starred in a movie about a junkie who played hoops, The Basketball Diaries, Leonardo DiCaprio has been a fixture at STAPLES Center since the late '90s.
And while he often tried to go to games relatively incognito with a cap pulled down tight, DiCaprio, a three-time Academy Award nominee, is a hard person to miss at games according to Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant:
"Well, he sits right behind my wife and they get a little rowdy," Bryant said. "He really gets into the game. They're pretty passionate fans, so that's always good."
Kobe on Leo
How much of a Lakers/hoops fan is director Penny Marshall? Allow American Idol judge Randy Jackson to explain Marshall's fandom.
"I'll give you the top two, top three: Jack, Dyan and Penny Marshall," Jackson said. "Those three, those three are always here without fail. Penny's asked me to fly to Arizona on a private plane to see games. They're hardcore."
How dedicated is she? Marshall's MySpace page (yes, she has a MySpace page) lists her interests as: "Basketball, Directing, Acting, Producing." She lists her avocation, hoops, before her actual vocation: directing and acting. As Jackson said, hardcore. Marshall's love for hoops also takes her to Clippers games where she has been seen wearing ó gasp! ó Clippers gear. It's not enough for us to drop her from the Top 10, but it's also why she's only No. 7 on our list.
Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson on Marshall
Want to know why Denzel's No. 6? Just look at the video below. We'll wait. Yes, that's super-Knicks fan Spike Lee taunting the man he's directed in four films. Why? Because Denzel was pulling for Kobe and Co. And while the Mt. Vernon, New York, native has drawn stares for wearing Yankees caps to STAPLES, we're not talking about a Dodgers list, we're talking a Lakers list. During the 2000 Western Conference Finals, one of our panelists noted that he was one of the few big names in the lower bowl to don the Lakers t-shirts they handed out before the game. Lakers doyenne Dyan Cannon calls Denzel "a big, big Lakers" fan. Kobe Bryant says that Denzel's a fan but when it comes to whoopin' it up, he's laid back.
"He doesn't say too much," Bryant said. "I hear his wife actually is a passionate Lakers fan. She really gets into it, but Denzel kind of sits back and chills and takes it all in."
In laid-back L.A., that seems wholly appropriate.
Spike Lee Taunts Denzel
Garcia grew up loving the Lakers even though he was a continent away in Florida.
"The Lakers were one of the teams I followed when I was a kid in Florida because of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor," Garcia said. "We didn't have a team in Florida. And my first exposure was watching the games on television. We wouldn't have games on TV every night, but when the Lakers were in the playoffs you'd get much more exposure to them."
Garcia received the ultimate L.A. welcome when he attended his first Lakers game at the Forum as a guest of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. Garcia, who has had season tickets since the early '80s, now watches his beloved team from his seats in the fourth row opposite of the Lakers bench.
NBA.com caught up with Andy Garcia. See what he had to say about being a Lakers fan.
While our No. 5 sits in the fourth row, our No. 4 All-Time Celebrity Lakers fan watches the team he's rooted for since he was a zygote from his own private suite.
In an interview with CNN.com last December, Cube, a South Central L.A. native, claimed his Lakers fandom before he was even born. " I was a Lakers fan in the womb," Cube claimed. "My mother screamed at a Lakers game for Elgin Baylor or Jerry West and I was a fan from there. I go to every game. It's an experience."
And unlike our laid-back fan at No. 6, Cube admits he's not cool during games.
"This is my box, so I'm up here hanging out, yelling," Cube said. "I'm yelling from up here. I'm surprised you don't hear me, but I'm a screamer. I scream at the fans. I scream at the officials. I scream at the players, the coach, whoever's not doing their job ... I'm screaming at 'em."
Stars, they're diehards, just like us.
Ice Cube on his Most Memorable Moment
Flea and Kiedis, the two founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote not one but two songs about the Lakers on their 1989 album Mother's Milk: a demo called "Salute To Kareem" and the "Magic Johnson" which features these lyrics:
Lakers are the team that I watch on the telly
Cause they got more moves
Than a bowl full of jelly
Classic. As for their inclusion on this list, Kiedis had this to say: "I like being mentioned in the same breath as Doris Day for any particular top 10. So there's my honor today."
As for Flea, who blogs with passion and intelligence, but without punctuation, about his beloved Lakers on NBA.com, it's an honor he'll gladly take.
"Anything remotely Laker oriented that we get mentioned in the same breath as the Lakers makes us happy," Flea said.
Flea and Kiedis React to Honor
As a Lakers fan, Dyan Cannon is only second to one.
Known as much as for her Laker fandom ó she's the curly blond bouncing on the baseline ó as her acting career, Cannon has been a die-hard regular at Lakers games since the early '70s.
"One of the first games I ever went to was at the Forum," Cannon said. "It was on the radio. It wasn't on TV then. Jerry West fell in my lap and coffee spilled all over me and all over the court. That was my first memory."
The occasional spilled coffee aside, Cannon's been close to the action for years, talking with players, refs and coaches. Cannon is practically part of the Lakers family. When the Lakers won their 1988 title, Cannon and Pat Riley's wife Chris, chased each other through the halls of the Forum, spraying Champagne everywhere. And after all these years, she still learns and finds joy in going to games.
"I've been so blessed," Cannon said. "Because, Arsenio used to sit with Magic. But now, I sit next to Magic. And I've learned so much about the game. When the guys are coming down the floor, he'll say 'Ugh' and I'll say, 'Tell me.' He'll say 'Ugh' and I'll say, 'What? Explain that to me.'
"So, he's taught me about so many of the ins and outs of this game that I would never understand. It's been such a thrill. It still is."
Cannon Reacts to Honor |
On Exchange with a Ref |
Riley on Cannon
Really now, was there any doubt? No fan ó celebrity or average Joe ó is more closely associated with any team than the three-time Academy Award winner is with the Lakers.
Nicholson has had courtside seats for more than three decades, both at the Forum and STAPLES. What we like about Jack is he's the consummate fan ó he harangues refs, talks with opposing coaches, trash talks with players and rarely misses a game. He's shown his famous face in opposing arenas when the Lakers have made The Finals. And most important, Nicholson knows the game of basketball.
"He's been a good friend of mine ... for years," Pat Riley said, "and it's borne out of basketball more than anything else. He's simply a fanatic and has been ever since I started my career with the Lakers in 1970.
"He's a real fan. He's not one of these actors that all of a sudden get front row seats and then they're gone. He's for real. He cares."
Boy does he. While his near-perfect attendance and his courtside antics are legendary, Nicholson's fandom is also stuff of urban legend. Directors reportedly need to work their shooting schedules around Lakers home games. One report from the set of his Academy Award-winning film "The Departed" had him forbidding all Celtics gear from the set of the Boston-based movie. Whether that's true or not just adds to Nicholson's charm and more than tightens his iron grip on our top spot.
And what does Jack think about being named the top Lakers fan of all time? His publicist, of course, passed along this message to us:
"He is deeply honored and only hopes that he has been as consistently entertaining as the Lakers have been."
Seacrest and Jackson on Nicholson |
Riley on Nicholson
Digital Imaging by John Kristofick/NBAE
Photos courtesy: Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images (Ice Cube); Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images (DiCaprio, Kiedis); Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images (Nicholson); Vince Bucci/Getty Images (Washington, Garcia, Cannon); Michael Buckner/Getty Images (Hall); Getty Images (Day, Flea); Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images (Marshall)
Lakers games don't only draw the people who appear before the camera. The men and women who hire (and fire) the talent have also made their presence felt at Lakers games throughout the years. Here are some of the more famous:
Record producer, the man in the hat next to Jack
Manager of The Eagles, Van Halen, Journey, Jewel, Seal
Co-founder Interscope Records
CEO, DreamWorks Animation, SKG
Former CEO, Paramount Pictures
Sr. VP of A&R at Capitol Records
Head of Creative Artists Agency, 1975-95
Director, two-time Academy Award winner
Founder, Chairman Westwood One radio
Record exec, manager for Nas
Producer, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and The Matrix
Pat Riley |
Read NBA.com's Q&A with Ron Laffitte
He signed Jimi Hendrix and Van Morrison to their contracts at Warner Bros. Records in the '60s. He has run Warners, Elektra and Capitol Records. He hosts an annual barbecue for the highest of the high-profile Lakers fans, execs and player. He has an ordinary name, but he's an extraordinary Lakers fan. |
His name is Joe Smith, and he's had Lakers season tickets since the Lakers have been in L.A. How big of a Lakers fan is he? He's the only person ever named the "Lakers Spectator of the Year," an award handed out once by a local LA TV station.
How deep do his Lakers roots run? He's had courtside seats going back to the days when Jack Kent Cooke owned the team. Funny story about how he got them, too:
"Itís interesting how I got those seats," Smith said. "I was out here working for Warner Bros. Records and I was trying to get more seats, better seats.
"I went to he Lakers offices and I was as waiting to see the general manager and this elderly women came by and said, 'I donít feel good.'
"I sat her down, gave her my handkerchief and got some cold water. She said thatís so much better and she asked me what I was doing here and I told her I was here to try and get some good seats for next year's Lakers games.
"She then says come with me, we go to Jack Kent Cooke's office, the doors closed, she opens the door and he is in a meeting and she says 'Jack, you give this boy whatever he needs, heís a good boy.'
"So we signed up for the floor seats and we have had those tickets ever since."
And who was the woman?
Former Lakers Girl
Judge, American Idol
Scream, Eight Legged Freaks
Nacho Libre, Tenacious D
Drummer, Blood, Sweat & Tears
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Michael Clarke Duncan
The Green Mile, The Whole Nine Yards
The Eagles, Miami Vice (TV)
Square Pegs, Twister
Frida, Ugly Betty
Two-time Academy Award winner
Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain Man
That 70s Show, Punk'd
Spiderman, The Good German
The Odd Couple
Fight Club, The Illusionist
Freddie Prinze Jr.
The Chris Rock Show
Click, The Waterboy
The Garry Shandling Show
Rocky, First Blood
"Moon River", "Happy Holidays"
L.A. Times columnist and native Los Angelino
Sr. Official Staff Photographer, Lakers team photographer since 1987
Long-time Lakers season ticket holder and drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears
Director, NBA Entertainment League
Lakers great and NBA TV commentator
Sr. VP A&R at Capitol Records, long-time Lakers season ticket holder
Senior writer, NBA.com