In 1979 Magic Johnson and I were both rookies. Dad bought season tickets for two and I was lucky enough to be his date on a Sunday night if mom chose not to go.
He’d drive to the Forum on side streets and always avoided the left-turn queue at Centinela by driving past it to the next block. The left at Short Street deposited us in front of the illuminated Green Horse bar and was my sign that we were getting close to the Forum. Just a quick left,right from Florence to Prairie and we were there.
The radio was always tuned to AM 570 to listen Chick Hearn’s pre-game show. He’d talk about Kareem, Magic, Silk (Jamaal Wilkes,) Stormin’ Norman (Norm Nixon), and Michael Cooper. I used to love when the crowd went nuts for him- “Coooooop.”
I was fascinated by the way these guys played together, as if they read each other’s minds. Somehow Magic could throw the ball behind his back across the court and it would land in Kareem’s hands for the skyhook. The theatrical style lived up to Jerry Buss’ vision of “Showtime.”
Going to the game was an event. You’d arrive early enough for a dinner at the Forum Club or be sure to go on a night where they were giving away swag like a signed photo of the Laker Girls or a 45 record about the team.
Women were dressed up like they were going to a fancy restaurant or club. It was all about seeing and being seen.
Season ticket holders all knew their section-mates and greeted each other like old friends. I was always excited to see Michael, who owned Golden Bird, and Bernie, the English Beverly Hills-based contractor, who just finished a home on Beverly that I would drive past on the way to Westlake School.
You knew you’d see Jack, Lou, and Dyan. The USC marching band would play. Rex the peanut vendor would dance. Pat Riley was styled in Armani suits with his moussed-back hair.
My greatest memory of the games though was watching the Laker Girls. I was mesmerized by the choreography. I would shout out to Paula Abdul and my dad would insist that I stop screaming at my cousin.
Once I went back to their locker room after their half-time performance and was able to return to the floor and sit with the girls. Walking through the tunnel beside the gentle giants was incredible.
The roar from the fans amplified in the hallway as the players exited out onto the court. The sound and energy went through my body.
Paula invited me to sit on the floor with the girls during the game and it was truly magical. To witness the sleight of hand and power of these athletes from that vantage point beneath the net is something no fan will ever be able to experience.
To this day, I can spot Paula’s choreography. Not only was it all the years of watching her at the Forum, but also when she would practice new moves, like break dancing and spinning on her back, on the hardwood floors in my bedroom when I was a young kid.
I was blessed over the next years to enjoy Magic and the magic he created with Mitch Kupchak, Kurt Rambis (Superman,) James Worthy, Byron Scott, and A.C. Green. Those “seventeen five-oh-five, standing at the Forum” shots that will live on as some of the most iconic basketball ever played.
Whenever there was a huge lead in the fourth, Dad insisted that we sneak out early to avoid the traffic. Naturally, we listened to Chickie on the way home.