The Sports Report: Voting begins in biggest icon in L.A. sports history tournament
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the tournament.
Response to the initial setup of the “Biggest Icon in L.A. Sports History” tournament was overwhelming and today you can finally start voting.
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1. There are four regionals, with 32 people in each regional, seeded from No. 1 to No. 32. The winner of each regional will face off in the Final Four until we get to the championship round, where the last two remaining competitors will be voted upon.
2. With each matchup, there will be a link for you to click on where you can go vote. You will be able to vote either via Twitter, Polldaddy or email.
3. When voting, ask yourself “When I think L.A. sports, who do I think of first?” and vote for that person.
4. A brief sentence or two accompanies each entrant below. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of their accomplishments, just a brief reminder of why they are on this list.
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So without further ado, let’s get to today’s regional first round, the basketball regional. Voting ends at midnight Sunday. Results will be announced and the new matchups featured in next Monday’s newsletter.
No. 1 Magic Johnson vs. No. 32 Paul Westphal
Magic Johnson: Led the Lakers to five NBA titles and was the floor general behind the “Showtime” era. Now part-owner of the Dodgers and noted businessman.
Paul Westphal: Played at USC from 1970 to 1972 and averaged 16.4 points before an All-Star career in the NBA. While at USC, Westphal was a two-time All-Pac-8 first-team selection. The 1971 Trojans went 24-2, posting the best winning percentage all-time by a USC team.
No. 2 John Wooden vs. No. 31 Chris Paul
John Wooden: The legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach guided the team to 10 national titles, including seven in a row. Renowned for his “Pyramid of Success.”
Chris Paul: Was almost a Laker before eventually being traded to the Clippers and helping that team escape from the shadow of the Lakers.
No. 3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. No. 30 Reggie Miller
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Played at UCLA from 1966 to 1969 and was twice named player of the year (1967, 1969). Led Bruins to three consecutive NCAA titles. Became a Laker in 1975 and was the central force for five NBA title teams.
Reggie Miller: Is third all-time in points at UCLA, which retired his No. 31 jersey in 2013. Went on to a lengthy NBA career.
No. 4 Kobe Bryant vs. No. 29 Harold Miner
Kobe Bryant: All he did with the Lakers is lead them to five titles, make 18 All-Star teams, win a league MVP award and be named to the all-defensive team 12 times.
Harold Miner: One of the best basketball players in USC history, as a junior he was named Sports Illustrated’s college basketball player of the year and led the Trojans to the second seed in the 1992 men’s tournament.
No. 5 Jerry West vs. No. 28 Ann Meyers
Jerry West: He’s the NBA logo, one of the greatest players in Lakers history and he built the teams that made the Lakers the most popular team in L.A.
Ann Meyers: Meyers was a four-year athletic scholarship player for UCLA, the first woman to be so honored at any university. In 1978, she had the first quadruple-double in NCAA Division I history, with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. Led the team to the national title in 1978 and was the first four-time All-American in women’s basketball.
No. 6 Elgin Baylor vs. No. 27 Ralph Lawler
Elgin Baylor: An 11-time All-Star and one of the greatest Lakers ever, also served for years as an executive of the Clippers.
Ralph Lawler: Lawler is best known for his 41-year tenure as the voice of the Clippers. He broadcast virtually every game in San Diego/L.A. Clippers history before his retirement at the end of last season. Best known for “Lawler’s Law,” which states that the first team to reach 100 points usually wins the game.
No. 7 Shaquille O’Neal vs. No. 26 Jamaal Wilkes
Shaquille O’Neal: Teamed with Kobe Bryant to lead the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles before a dispute led O’Neal being traded. Was named Finals MVP three times with L.A.
Jamaal Wilkes: Was a key member of two NCAA title teams with UCLA (1972 and 1973). Nicknamed “Silk,” Wilkes was a key member of three Lakers title teams. The Lakers and UCLA have both retired his number (52).
No. 8 Jerry Buss vs. No. 25 Walt Hazzard
Jerry Buss: The true mastermind behind the “Showtime” era. He wanted an entertaining style of basketball in L.A. and put his money behind building the Lakers into a dominant force. Also owned the Kings for a while.
Walt Hazzard: Was an important member of UCLA’s first men’s title team in 1964 and was named tournament MVP. Bruins retired his number (42) in 1996. He also played a few seasons with the Lakers, and even later coached UCLA, finishing his four seasons with a 77-47 record and an NIT title.
No. 9 Chick Hearn vs. No. 24 Blake Griffin
Chick Hearn: It would take pages to list all the basketball phrases Chick invented. Suffice to say he was the voice of the Lakers for everyone who grew up in L.A. and has his own statue outside Staples Center.
Blake Griffin: How good was Griffin? He was named Western Conference rookie of the month every month during his rookie season. Led the Clippers back to respectability before he was joined by Chris Paul and Doc Rivers.
No. 10 Lisa Leslie vs. No. 23 Hank Gathers
Lisa Leslie: Is Lisa Leslie the best college basketball player in USC history, men or women? (or is it Cheryl Miller?) During her college career, USC won one Pac-10 Conference championship and earned four NCAA tournament appearances. Leslie was honored with All-Pac-10 recognition all four years, as well as becoming the first player in Pac-10 history to obtain first team all four years. Then she went on to lead the Sparks to two WNBA titles.
Hank Gathers: Gathers and his teammates put Loyola Marymount basketball on the map and Gathers was a candidate for national player of the year before his death during a game. In the 1988-89 season, he was only the second player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding.
No. 11 James Worthy vs. No. 22 Pau Gasol
James Worthy: Maybe the toughest first-round matchup. Magic and Kareem got most of the ink, but they might not have won three of their five titles without “Big Game” James. Worthy was the 1988 Finals MVP and averaged 17.6 points in his 12-season Lakers career.
Pau Gasol: Gasol was the final puzzle piece that allowed everything to click into place for the Lakers to win the NBA title in 2009 and 2010. The perfect complement to Kobe Bryant, Gasol averaged 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds in his seven-season Lakers career.
No. 12 Bill Walton vs. No. 21 Michael Cooper
Bill Walton: Many consider him the second-greatest player in UCLA history, behind Kareem. In the 1973 NCAA title game against Memphis State, Walton had the best NCAA championship game ever played. He scored 44 points on near perfect 21 of 22 shooting. He added 13 rebounds, two assists and one block in leading the Bruins to their seventh straight title. Afterward, “Coach Wooden looked at me and said, ‘Walton, I used to think you were a good player … until you missed that one shot,’ ” Walton said.
Michael Cooper: Cooper became an integral part of the Lakers’ “Showtime” teams because of his defense skills. In a 12-year career, he was named to eight NBA All-Defensive teams and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 1987. Copper, Kareem and Magic were the only members of all five Lakers title teams in the 80s. Cooper and Magic connected on many “Coop-a-Loop” plays to the delight of fans.
No. 13 Wilt Chamberlain vs. No. 20 Cynthia Cooper
Wilt Chamberlain: One of the greatest players in NBA history, Chamberlain spent the final five seasons of his career with the Lakers, helping lead them to the title in 1972. Was also named Finals MVP that year. Averaged 17.7 points and 19.2 rebounds in those five seasons.
Cynthia Cooper: Cooper was a four-year letter winner at guard for USC from 1982 to 1986. She led the Trojans to NCAA appearances in all four years, Final Four appearances in three of her four years, and back-to-back NCAA tournament titles in 1983 and 1984. She coached the women’s team from 2013 to 2017, finishing with a 70-56 record.
No. 14 Phil Jackson vs. No. 19 Derek Fisher
Phil Jackson: The Lakers had a series of coaches after Pat Riley left that didn’t really capture the fancy of Lakers fans. That all changed when they lured Jackson, the coach of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, to L.A. With his calm demeanor and Zen-like sayings, he guided the team to five more titles.
Derek Fisher: Fisher was the main point guard on five Lakers title teams and is best remembered for making a buzzer-beater with 0.4 seconds left in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, which the NBA lists as the 18th-greatest playoff moment of all time. Fisher currently coaches the Sparks.
No. 15 Pat Riley vs. No. 18 Marques Johnson
Pat Riley: With his slicked-back hair and designer suits, Riley added more style to the “Showtime” Lakers. After winning the title in 1987, he famously guaranteed the Lakers would repeat as champions the following season. They did. Also spent six seasons as a player with the Lakers and was a member of the 1972 title team.
Marques Johnson: As a sophomore at UCLA in 1974-75, Johnson helped to lead the Bruins to John Wooden’s 10th and final men’s basketball title. In his senior season, Johnson won the first John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top college basketball player. He also averaged 18.3 points in three seasons with the Clippers.
No. 16 Cheryl Miller vs. No. 17 Gail Goodrich
Cheryl Miller: The Trojans produced three of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time, and Miller was the trailblazer. She was named the college player of the year three times and led the team to the title in 1983 and 1984, being named tournament MVP both times. USC retired her No. 31 in 1986, becoming the first Trojans basketball player, male or female, to have that honor. And, she once scored 105 points in a game while playing for Riverside Poly High.
Gail Goodrich: My favorite player as a kid (yeah, I know, nobody cares, but I’m writing a lot of these so let me have some fun), Goodrich played for UCLA from 1962 to 1965 and left as the school’s all-time leading scorer after helping them win two NCAA titles. He played for the Lakers for nine seasons, led the team in scoring four times and ended his Lakers career averaging 19 points per game.
Bill Plaschke on Kobe Bryant being voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame:
The announcement was perfectly timed, blaring into a somber shutdown Saturday morning, bringing an old friend through our locked doors and back into our lives.
You can’t quarantine Kobe.
The world has stopped, but the memory of Kobe Bryant pushes forward, the late legend still figuring out how to score when it matters most.
Bryant was one of eight basketball figures selected for enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a foregone conclusion that felt like a surprise blessing.
Two months after his death, several weeks after a mourning country turned its focus to an entirely different sort of tragedy, Kobe was suddenly back, and it was sweetly comforting.
BORN ON THIS DAY
1944: Football player John Huarte
1951: Former Angel Bert Blyleven
1953: Figure skater Janet Lynn
1969: Former Clipper Brian Williams
DIED ON THIS DAY
1970: Basketball player Maurice Stokes, 36
1997: Former Lakers and Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke, 84
Kevin Costner‘s tribute to Vin Scully. Watch it here.
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