Lakers blog profile: Laker Tom's love for the Lakers extends from Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum
This is the seventh post in a weekly series that helps you get to know members of the L.A. Times Lakers blog community. Feel free to send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screen name: LakerTom
Real name: Tom Wong
Age: 65 years young
Hometown: Mill Valley, CA
Occupation: Son of a dedicated entrepreneur, I spent the first two-thirds of my adult life creating and building various business enterprises ranging from a nationwide chain of retail leather fashion stores to a software development company specializing in interactive Web portal applications. The last third of my career has been spent as CFO and financial controller in the technology industry.
Education: My education background is as diverse and eclectic as my business background. I have bachelor degrees in accounting from CSULA and molecular biology from UCR. I also completed a year of law school at NYU and a year in a master’s program in comprehensive health planning at UCLA. That’s in addition to classes taken at over a dozen schools, including Berkeley in the '60s.
Family: Mrs. LakerTom and I were high school sweethearts who have been married for over 40 years; we have a son who is a computer programmer and die-hard Lakers fan, and one grandson and two granddaughters who are all being raised to worship purple and gold. The biggest lesson I had to learn as a man was understanding that the greatest reward life had to offer was love, not wealth.
Love of the game: Although I grew up playing the three major sports -- baseball, football, and basketball -- by the time I started high school, basketball had become my main passion. As a 5-9 point guard, I was a good high school player with a high BBIQ who could dunk a volleyball, make the right pass, hit the open shot, and hack and harass any player unfortunate enough to be guarded by me. While I was never good enough to play college ball, my love of the game led me to a lifetime of playing in pick-up games and recreation leagues all over Southern California. As I got older, I added coaching and refereeing as ways for me to get my basketball fix. Today, I am living my long-lost dreams of becoming a basketball coach by helping my son coach my grandson in his CYO League.
How I became a Lakers fan: I was born in the Midwest, the only son of a Chinese immigrant and his American bride, and didn’t start playing basketball until I moved to SoCal when I was 12 years old and started listening to the great Chick Hearn simulcast live Lakers games. I became a Lakers fan in 1970 when the Lakers traded for Wilt Chamberlain, my favorite NBA player.
Favorite Lakers Players: My first favorite Lakers player was obviously Wilt Chamberlain, but there is also a special place in my heart for Jerry West, as he was the player after whom I modeled my game, spending hours learning to stop on a dime and launch my pull-up jumper a la the Logo. Then came Magic Johnson and there’s no way any point guard could not immediately love Magic.
When Jerry West made the move to draft Kobe Bryant, he immediately became and still is to this day my favorite Laker player. I defended him when he shot the airballs in the playoffs, when he was falsely accused of rape in Colorado, and when he was blamed for the Lakers trading Shaq. When he finally hangs up his sneakers for good, Kobe will finally be recognized as the greatest guard ever.
Obviously, it is no secret that Andrew Bynum has become my second-favorite player on the Lakers. The fire I saw in his heart when he stood up against Shaq his rookie year was a transcendent moment as far as I was concerned. In that brief instant, I saw the same greatness that I had seen earlier in other great Lakers and NBA players. If he stays healthy, Drew will be the next great Lakers center.
Favorite Lakers Memories: It’s hard to choose a favorite moment when you have watched all 11 NBA championships the Lakers have won since moving to Los Angeles. Wilt and West finally winning a championship was unforgettable. Magic’s hook shot to beat the Celtics will forever be fixed in my memory, as will Kobe Bryant’s 63-point and 81-point games, feats we may never see repeated again.
Personally, however, the single biggest play that will forever be embedded in the front lobe of my brain was the 2000 West Finals game against the Blazers and the lob pass that Kobe gave Shaq to cinch the comeback. My son and I were watching the game on a muted TV in my daughter-in-law’s hospital room as she was being prepped to give birth to my grandson. Now that was a great day!
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Photos: Tom Wong (second from right), known as "Laker Tom" within the L.A. Times Lakers blog community, enjoys time with his family, including his wife, Teresa (right), his son, Kevin (second from left), and his grandson, Nick (left). Wong also has two granddaughters, Mia and Alex, as shown in the second picture. And Wong has passed along his love for basketball to his grandson Nick (third picture), who is playing in a CYO game. Credit: Courtesy of Tom Wong