Loving Los Angeles Sports: A Fan’s Firsthand Account

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UCLA's 1971 NCAA National Champions. Courtesy of the University of California--Los Angeles. Image sourced from Los Angeles Sports Memories.

When you think of Los Angeles, Hollywood inevitably pops up first. California’s City of Angels is a company town, and their business is show business. So naturally, the movie industry, with all its glam and stars, spills over into other facets of Tinsel Town. Just look at college and professional sports in Los Angeles, their star athletes, owners, and coaches stand out to the rest of the nation as larger than life, and LA’s best sports moments showcase some of their marquee legends. Sportswriter Doug Krikorian has filed hundreds of stories celebrating the dazzling feats on the field of play, as well as personal interactions with his idols. Here are some excerpts from his decades-long career.

Wilt Chamberlain and Doug engage in a bit of frivolity before serving as judges at a Raiders cheerleading tryout at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Author’s Collection. Image sourced from Los Angeles Sports Memories.

LA’s Most Colorful Athlete

Wilt Chamberlain leads a life of intrigue, suspense and thrills—and there is never a dull moment for a person always in the spotlight. There is no other human being in the world who has done the things he has—like, well, average 50.4 points a game for an entire NBA regular season. He is the envy of every unmarried man who has ambitions that only a large amount of money can accomplish. Wilt is the only athlete around who one minute might decide to phone his good friend in Washington, D.C., President Richard Nixon, to discuss world events and the next be seen flashing down Sunset Boulevard in his $25,000 Maserati with a beautiful starlet.
He’s been around the world twelve times. He’s been involved in countless business dealings. He’s the most adept seven-foot-one water skier and snow skier who ever lived. And, oh yes, he’s also the greatest scorer in basketball history.”  — Los Angeles Herald Examiner, February 10, 1969

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Magic

Indeed, the Lakers today are the world champions of basketball because of one super-cool, super-confident, super-talented twenty-year-old named Ervin Johnson. Mr. Johnson may not be able to part the Red Sea, but I’m willing to bet he can walk on water as long as he has a basketball in his gifted hands.
Without Magic Johnson, the Lakers would have been a good team this season but would not have made it past Seattle in the playoffs. Without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar last night, the Lakers were a great team because Magic Johnson rose to heights so staggering that it left cohorts in awe and Philadelphia in tears. Considering the circumstances—unfriendly atmosphere, rough, desperate opponent, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ailing in LA—Johnson dispensed one of the most heroic performances in all seasons of James Naismith’s favorite sport.
It was more than just Johnson’s magnificent numbers—forty-two points, fifteen rebounds, seven assists, three steals, one block—that triggered the 123–107 blowout over the 76ers. It was his charismatic presence that turned the Spectrum into his private showcase and turned the poor 76ers into ashes.”  — Los Angeles Herald Examiner, May 17, 1980

Architects of the 1980s Showtime Lakers. From left to right: Jerry Buss, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Pat Riley. Courtesy of Karen West. Image sourced from Los Angeles Sports Memories.

Skyhooks

Shhh—let’s all keep this a secret from Wilt—but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar continues to prove he’s the most amazing basketball player of all time. Abdul-Jabbar seems to have spent his entire adult life making skyhooks and a mockery out of my usually flawless observations.
It was seven years ago that I wrote how the Lakers should make a major trade involving their then-thirty-two-year-old center before he lost his market value. Fortunately, Lakers management ignored my advice—as it did a couple years ago when I predicted they would be making a serious mistake allowing Abdul-Jabbar to play basketball past his thirty-seventh birthday. The joke, of course, has been on all of us who have failed to realize that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar long has been a phenomenon of human science.” — Los Angeles Herald Examiner, May 2, 1986

Thrilled Angels have a wild celebration on the Angel Stadium field after beating San Fransisco Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. It was the first–and so far only–world championship in the team’s history. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Angels. Image sourced from Los Angeles Sports Memories.

Angels

The Happiest Place on Earth might be Disneyland, but it’s doubtful any place on the planet could match the euphoric bliss that pervaded Edison Field on the evening that the Angels of Anaheim finally became rulers of their sport with a 4–1 win over the Giants before those 44,598 fanatics whose undying devotion was almost as riveting as the unyielding deportment of their gallant idols.
Oh yes, with a thrilling gladness, with a relentless deftness, with a blue collar toughness, with a theatrical coolness, the Angels, at 8:18 p.m. on Sunday, made it official that they had overcome the odds, the Giants and their own troubled history to win their first word championship.”  — Long Beach Press Telegram, October 28, 2002