After a third animated episode that covered the peak of the Showtime Era of the Los Angeles Lakers, Hulu’s new 10-part miniseries from director Antoine Fuqua “Legacy: The True Story of The LA Lakers” examines the end of the road for one of The NBA-racing time during a pretty severe episode four.
We start with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s decision to retire after the 1988-89 season and the nearly three-peat Lakers.
Hoping to address his newfound need in the five, team president Jerry West opted to override all of his scouts and select 7’1″ Serbian center Vlade Divac over 6’10” power forward Cliff Robinson with the No. 26 pick in the 1989 draft.
Fuqua then treats us to the late ’80s highlight video of Divac’s on-court awesomeness with Los Angeles, backed by Prince’s “Partyman” (director Jason Hehir also did this in “The Last Dance” documentary series from the Bulls two years ago, but this song rules so honestly, no notes). Obviously, no one can completely replace Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (though the 41-year-old was no longer his All-Star self this final season), but Divac didn’t sleep in the draft. A 2001 All-Star while with the Kings, Divac would enjoy a 16-year Hall of Fame career that included stops with the Charlotte Hornets (as the asset Los Angeles traded for the rights to recruit Kobe Bryant). and, the most memorable. , as the Lakers’ antagonist with the Sacramento Kings. Divac wrapped up a season back with the Lakers during Rudy Tomjanovich’s ill-fated 2004-05 season. doing the Hall had a lot to do with his international good faith.
Robinson, who passed away in 2020, ended up being selected 36th overall out of the University of Connecticut by the Portland Trail Blazers, with whom he would head straight to the NBA Finals in his rookie season. During an 18-year career, he would become the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1993, a one-time All-Star in 1994 and a two-time All-Defensive Second Teamer while with the Suns and Pistons. If these two late-first-round/early-second-round prospects are any indication, the Lakers’ front office was clearly right about scouting him in this era.
Apparently, around this post-Kareem era, Jerry Buss made an offer to buy “America’s team,” the Dallas Cowboys. The NFL Board of Governors ultimately snubbed Buss as owner when news of the deal leaked and certain Dallas residents objected to his playboy lifestyle. Instead, Jerry Jones bought the team. So… maybe people in Dallas didn’t like playboys with mustaches?
Still, it’s hard to muster much sympathy for someone who isn’t allowed to buy the Dallas Cowboys when you’re stressed about credit card payments every month. It certainly seems that “just” owning the Lakers has served them well. The Buss brothers also spoke about their fights around this time. After the Lazers folded, Jim Buss became a thoroughbred racehorse trainer. Johnny Buss became a Formula 3 race car competitor. We meet some of Dr. Buss’s younger heirs born in the ’80s, each bequeathed a name beginning with “J.”
We also dive into Pat Riley’s personal life and the swelling of her own ego during Showtime’s run, which Riley admits was the case during this time. Riley and Jerry West had apparently been best friends as players.
Among the post-Kareem Lakers who were interviewed on the show’s present tense, only Michael Cooper acknowledges that the roster had begun to disengage from his head coach’s missives. Riley was eventually fired after the 1990 Western Conference Semifinals’ upset five-game loss to the fifth-seeded Phoenix Suns led by All-Stars Tom Chambers and Kevin Johnson.
Dr. Buss replaced Riley with Mike Dunleavy Sr. AC Green and Byron Scott weren’t fans of Dunleavy’s on-court adjustments, which involved a slower, more methodical half-court approach and more use of Magic Johnson in the paint. This was a radical departure from Showtime’s freer, faster style. Los Angeles rode a 58-24 regular season record through the 1991 Finals, where they were eliminated by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and his Chicago Bulls in five games.
Things end on a sad note, as the episode documents Johnson’s discovery that he was HIV positive, as well as his sudden retirement.
This week’s episode served as another in-depth investigation into one of the greatest eras of one of the NBA’s most powerful franchises. Presumably, episode five will cover the beginning of the next…
Here’s a full trailer for the series: