By Roland Lazenby
Lazenby wrote one of the best basketball books I have ever read, called The Lakers and one of the best books on the Chicago Bulls dynasty called Blood on the Horns. In this book, he tells the history of the Lakers, but this time, it is told by those who lived it. It is similar in format to Terry Pluto's excellent books Tall Tales and Loose Balls.
The book is very large - over 400 pages which makes you think it is an exhaustive and thorough collection, but it really is not. I found the book to be less informative than The Lakers, with the only difference being that that The Lakers ends in 1993 and this book goes up to the 2004 season. I was wanting more information on Magic Johnson's final comeback and the behind the scenes information on the Dennis Rodman acquisition and dismissal, but this book left me wanting much more. Furthermore on seasons that the Lakers did not do well, they are passed over briefly, so rather than being an exhaustive history, it is closer to highlights of the franchise. In defense of Lazenby, if he wrote the book I wanted, it would probably be 2 volumes, but after the bar he set with his previous work, I expected at least as much detail. If you want more detail on Magic Johnson's short lived first comeback, read The Lakers.
Lazenby goes into great detail about the Phil Jackson-Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant 4 year soap opera. We heard from the press about how Bryant broke up the team so that he could hog the ball more. Lazenby tells the other side of the story, and details what a despicable person Phil Jackson can be and how his peers and even Jerry West loathe him. He tells more about O'Neal was out of shape an uninterested in defense and rebounding and was a poor team leader. He brings credibility to the argument by often quoting the venerable Tex Winter. However, I noticed that he only briefly touches on the shortcomings of Bryant. I think he would have been better served covering this and bringing balance to the story, much as he did in Blood on the Horns. I wonder if the lack of balanced reporting is a conflict of interest, due to the fact that he wrote a Bryant biography Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant.
Besides exposing the Jackson/O'Neal shortcomings, the strength of the book (compared to The Lakers) is that he goes into great detail about Jack Kent Cooke's reign over the franchise, exposed how tight Jerry Buss was with his money, and covered the power plays between Jackson, Buss, and West. Also, The Lakers bounces around between time eras from the present to the past, which is a bit maddening, whereas this book has more of an authentic feel to it, since it is written in chronological order.
If you haven't read The Lakers, this is definitely worth picking up. Some of the parts will be more Cliff's Notes version compared the other book, but this book covers the last 3 NBA championships, which tells a more complete story of the franchise. If you have read the other book, and come to expect a certain level of detail from Lazenby, you may find yourself a bit disappointed.
The Show: the inside story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the words of those who lived it. Roland Lazenby. McGraw-Hill. 2006.