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Lifetime in Lakerland hasn't changed what drives this superfan

POSTED: Sep 2, 2013 9:47 AM ET
UPDATED: Sep 2, 2013 12:36 PM ET

By Jimmy Goldstein, Special to


A fashion maven on and off the court, Jimmy Goldstein is one of the NBA's most recognizable fans.

David Aldridge's Monday morning column, The Morning Tip, is on hiatus. Before he took off, Aldridge asked for volunteers to fill in while he's away. This week, it's always fashionable Jimmy Goldstein.

He is, at once, one of the most recognized figures on NBA courts, night after night, but one of the least known people: the man in the wild clothes. But Goldstein is known among NBA insiders as one of, if not the biggest, basketball fans on the planet. Year after year, Goldstein is a fixture at Staples Center in the regular season, watching the Clippers and Lakers play. Then during the playoffs, he travels the country, out of his own pocket, going from city to city to see games -- always courtside. For these and other reasons he's known as the league's number one fan, a fixture not only at the games, but in the postgame news conferences. (This extends beyond our borders, as the Hall of Fame writer Mark Heisler detailed a few years ago.)

But Jimmy also has this amazing other life, which has to do with the clothes. By his estimate, he attends more than 200 fashion shows a year, where he makes as big of an impression as he does on NBA courts. He spends much of the summer in Europe, where he spends weeks at fashion houses all over the continent looking at the latest styles and newest designers. And, now, Jim is getting the game himself, launching his own women's fashion line. He lives in Los Angeles, in one of that city's most iconic homes. His three loves are crystalized on his business card, which reads, simply: James Goldstein: Fashion. Architecture. Basketball. Anyone who loves the orange leather as much as Jimmy -- who is friends with an amazing cross section of NBA players and coaches -- is more than worthy of penning a guest Tip. Here is Jimmy, on...well, let him tell it:

I moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s as a graduate student at UCLA and immediately began to attend all the Lakers games and sit courtside (back then, courtside seats cost $15 per game). I had come from Milwaukee, where I had worked as a statistician for what was then the Milwaukee Hawks (now known as the Atlanta Hawks). I was a teenager, and I became hooked on the NBA at an early age to begin a lifetime involvement.

When I arrived in Los Angeles and began to attend Lakers games, I was still a big fan of the Hawks, even though the Hawks had left Milwaukee. The Hawks and Lakers were rivals, and I wasn't about to abandon my loyalty to the Hawks just because I was a student in Los Angeles.

Thus was the origin of my becoming an "anti-Lakers" fan. I hoped that the Lakers would lose because it would help the Hawks. And so I quietly pulled for the opposition, clapping when they scored a basket.

Not all the fans around me appreciated my behavior. One fan, a well-known attorney, met with the Lakers' general manager and demanded that my floor seat be taken away from me. He was told that I had the right to root for whomever I wanted.

As the years went by, my attachment to the Hawks waned, but my anti-Lakers sentiment became more firmly entrenched for a number of reasons. First, I usually pull for the underdog in any sports competition, and the Lakers were getting to The Finals or winning championships far too often for me. I like it when a different team becomes a title contender each year.

Secondly, I didn't like it that the Lakers were able to attract so many superstars away from other teams. I like level competition, and the Lakers upset league balance with players like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, and many others leaving their teams to live in Los Angeles. (Wilt and I became good friends, and he once told me of his displeasure over my pulling for the opposition, but nothing changed.)

Jimmy Goldstein
NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein is a regular Finals attendee, as he was in 2013.

Thirdly, it is my nature to separate from the pack. And with 19,000 people cheering for one team, I am usually moved to cheer for the other. And when they show their bias in regard to officiating, I become more firmly against them.

In addition, I must point out that I follow all 30 NBA teams very closely and consider myself to be an "NBA fan", as opposed to being a fan of one particular team. So when I see a team in person that I only get to see once or twice a year, it is natural for me to get more excited by that team than one I watch 50 times a year.

Finally, my antagonism toward the Lakers is derived from the fact that the ticket prices are always raised after a good season. My $15 ticket now costs $2,800 per game. Why pull for a team when I know that their success will cost me money?

Me, a Lakers fan? Hardly

Jimmy Goldstein and Pau Gasol
Jimmy Goldstein is a regular at Lakers games, but says he's staunchly 'anti-Laker.'

Many fans see me at all the Lakers games and assume I am a huge fan of the Lakers. Almost every day a stranger will approach me and say "Oh, you are the big Lakers fan." And I respond, "No, I am an anti-Lakers fan." In amazement they say, "Then why do you go to the games?" They don't understand that someone can attend because of his love for the game.

In recent years, though, more and more people have become aware that I root against the Lakers, the foremost being Laker players and coaches. Most of the players continue to be friendly to me before and after games (Metta World Peace always came over to me at halftime to say hello). They know that I like them on a personal level in spite of my actions during a game.

But there are a few exceptions. Phil Jackson and I were good friends when he was coaching the Bulls. But our friendship cooled when he joined the Lakers. Kobe Bryant even instructed another Laker star, with whom I was quite friendly, not to talk to me. But every now and then, Kobe surprises me by offering a warm hello.

Jerry Buss was always extremely nice to me. He used to joke about my anti-Lakers stance. Similarly, many fans rub it in good-naturedly when the Lakers win and I give it back to them when the Lakers lose. But a few fans don't take my actions lightly, such as the night-club promoter who wouldn't let me into his club because I was a "Laker hater."

Players step up fashion game

Jimmy Goldstein and Dwyane Wade
Jimmy Goldstein is friends with many NBA players, including Dwyane Wade.

I am happy to see that NBA fashion is on a major upswing, after years of unattractive baggy clothes. Some of my favorite NBA style leaders include Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. I am especially partial to Dwyane because he showed up at a Lakers game last season wearing a tee shirt with my photo on it that he made himself!

To those players who are spending their money on jewelry instead of fashionable clothing, I can only say, "get with it!" Most of the players have figures like models, and they can look great in the latest fashion.

I am not suggesting that players try to copy my look. They should pick their own style. But I would like to see players be unafraid to make fashion statements. And for those who like my look, I recommend Versace and Saint Laurent for the upcoming season.

Many fans and players have expressed an interest in obtaining T-shirts with my photo on the front. You can get them here.

And, in 2014, I will be the head designer for a new men's fashion line out of Milan called James Goldstein Couture.

Buzzwords we can do without

It seems NBA folks always come up with their new favorite words. These words are used so frequently, though, that they become trite and tiresome.

This year, the overused words are "culture" and "analytics".

It seems that I have heard every general manager of a non-playoff team utter the phrase this summer, "I intend to change the CULTURE of this franchise."

Jimmy Goldstein: Superfan Style

And I am not thrilled with the new trend of teams hiring GMs and coaches based upon their "analytics" background. I believe that the observation of a player during a game is far more important than to rely on his stats. Thus, I don't like the word for not only its overuse in quotes but also for its application. Something is wrong when proven people like Lionel Hollins and Chris Wallace get replaced because they don't rely on "analytics."

A new way to stop the flop

Last season, the NBA tried to discourage flopping by fining players. As Commissioner David Stern acknowledged, it didn't work. Therefore, I would propose another approach to stop the flop. The rule should be changed so any time that a defensive player falls flat on his back immediately upon contact from an offensive player, the officials will not call any foul.

This rule will eliminate any motivation for the defensive player to deliberately fall down when contact is made.

Those opposed to my proposal will suggest that this is not fair to the defensive player who can't stop himself from falling on his back after being run over by (say) LeBron James.

My answer is that the defensive player will make every effort to keep his balance so that a foul will be called. And if he staggers before falling, the official will be allowed to call the foul. The offensive player will be afraid to run over the defensive player because the offensive player will be called for a foul so long as the defensive player holds his balance for a split second before falling (or doesn't fall flat on his back).

I will leave it up to the NBA Rules Committee to decide between calling this The Derek Fisher Rule or the Shane Battier Rule.

Jimmy Goldstein
Jimmy Goldstein watches Ray Allen make his crucial corner 3-pointer in Game 6 of The Finals.

A 3-point proposal

As someone who has observed the NBA for more than 50 years, I would like to comment on one of the biggest changes in the game: the proliferation of 3-point attempts in most games.( should supply stats showing increase over last 20 years.)

I am bothered by this trend. I enjoy seeing a made 3-pointer under intense defensive pressure. What I don't enjoy so much is watching an unguarded man make a 3-pointer, especially from the short-distance corner. For me, it is only slightly less dull than a free throw and it is too easy. And in today's game, a high percentage of 3-pointers are unguarded.

What would happen if the 3-point line was made equidistant from the basket in its entirety, thereby eliminating the easy three pointer from the corner? I am not sure, but it would make for an interesting experiment.