Lakers blog profile: Otis went from rooting for the Celtics to being a loyal Lakers fan
This is the 15th 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: Otis
Real name: Paul Hefti
Story behind your screen name: Original name was Paulie, I discovered this blog around 2007, mostly because of the uproar created by Kobe Bryant getting really, really tired of losing with the Lakers team at that time. I was mostly disappointed with the Lakers trading Shaquille O'Neal and getting rather disgruntled at Kobe for his public disrespect of the Lakers organization. So I registered for the blog under the name of Paulie and proceeded to voice my inconsequential opinion, which was pro-Lakers and very anti-Kobe. I believe I suggested that the Lakers should allow Kobe to leave via free agency -- that it would serve Kobe right to leave the beauty of Southern California for some other NBA city where oppressive heat and bugs were the major contributors to local lifestyle.
After that post, one of the well-respected posters said something to the effect of, "Sheriff, should I do it or should you?" Next post was from Taliq (Segeboy), sheriff of the blog. Taliq had a way of hip-hopping and street-talking his way to libelous destruction of an individual if he so pleased, and he did me very heavy -- likening me to Otis Campbell -- stumbling drunk and in jail via self-arrest. I posted a complaint that I had not used such language to put my point across and that the sheriff's response was rather shocking, and Dave m soothed the situation with a post stating that I had a right to my polite opinion and that he thought that I was being a little mistreated, but what did I expect from slamming Kobe? Well -- to turn a defeat into a new life, I thought the sheriff's recommended name was a good one and I made the change to Otis. I've been drunk and in jail ever since, and quite happy to be there.
How I became a Lakers fan: Life as a Los Angeles basketball fan began for me in 1965 via John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins. My mother and her large family were from Beantown, and with the New York Knicks rather non-notable, I had become a Celtics fan. I liked winners, and they won every year -- like the Yankees. Following the Celtics, Yankees and Bruins seemed a natural thing to do. My favorite player on that Bruin title team, Gail Goodrich, was drafted by the Lakers. By then I had moved to L.A. and the Lakers really got a hold of me. They were so clean, pretty, sunshiny -- all things L.A. -- and I was hooked. Getting beaten by the Celtics really started to kill me -- my Boston family never forgave me.
Favorite Lakers memory of all time and of the 2009-10 season: All-time: beating the Celtics in '85. Game 6 in the Garden was tight, and the Boston press had predicted a Lakers fall similar to the one suffered the year before. The Lakers had a lead late, but not enough to stop biting my nails. With under a minute to go, someone threw a lob to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he slammed it home -- Kareem became visibly animated, shaking his fist, slapping teammates, all with a big thankful smile on his usually stoic face. The Celtics hold on the Lakers had been broken -- in front of the Boston fans. The best!
Last season: Any real Lakers fan has one great moment per year possible -- and that would be to defeat the Celtics for the NBA title. I had just moved into a new home during the Phoenix series and could not get my satellite installed in time for the title series -- though my friends invited me to out to watch (and my great buddy Christy took me to Game 2 -- a regrettable choice), I had so much to do in the house that I decided Spero Dedes would take me through to the end. With 50 seconds left in Game 7 I dialed up my friend David and together we held on until the final buzzer sounded. So fine, so fine. Case closed.
Most heartbreaking Lakers experience: Magic Johnson retiring and Shaq getting traded -- in that order. Magic retiring is one of those days where if you were asked where you were when it happened, you'd know. I was starting the school year at UC Santa Barbara and was driving home at about 2 p.m. when the regular radio was suspended for the live announcement. Yes, I thought that he was going to die. Shaq was a favorite of mine (as everyone on the blog probably knows by now) and I was on pins and needles during his free-agency decision to come to the Lakers. When all the moves that Jerry Buss made panned out and he was ours, my next decade was set. He took us up, up, up, and then the lob from Kobe and the dunk on the Portland Trailblazers brought all of us to the pinnacle, once again. He promised, he delivered -- and then he was gone. This was a divorce in every way, shape, and form. Broke my heart. Still does.
Favorite Lakers player: Magic Johnson
Greatest all-time Laker: Magic Johnson
Last time you went to a game at Staples Center and at the Forum: Staples: Game 2 of the 2010 Championships. I must add that my son and I were at the Robert Horry shot game against the Queens. Indescribable is how I'd describe that moment. I was jumping up and down and then I was pushed by a wave of people falling down the upper deck -- I ended up three rows lower then I began, and I'm lucky to have not been hurt.
Forum: With my son in early '99. Can't remember anything about the game. An old forum memory was going to the parking lot after the 1982 title to see Coach Pat Riley and the players at a podium saying hi and thanking us for being there -- about 1,000 people showed up.
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: Bill Laimbeer -- everybody knows why.
Interactions with Lakers players: Shook James Worthy's hand -- mine disappeared into his. Slapped Wilt Chamberlain on his back as he walked off the Fabulous Forum floor at the final game of the 1972 regular season.
Most cherished piece of Lakers memorabilia I have: Piece of the Forum floor, signed by Jerry West. I used to go to the Great Western Shootout every year and see all four games -- tickets were easy to get and it was the only time I could sit in the lower deck without selling a guitar or two. Between games, I noticed that squares of the old floor (which had just been replaced) were being sold in the concessions area. This rather large chunk of yellow paint was priced at $60 -- it's mine now, and it comes out during Lakers title series.
Memorable stories about being a Lakers fan: While living in Santa Barbara, my good friend was a stat keeper for the Lakers and would give two tickets to the guy who would drive him from Santa Barbara to the game and back. This included access to the press lounge before the game, at the half, and afterward. Man, I'll tell you -- hanging in that press lounge was the real deal. A buffet was available before the game -- usually fried chicken and all the fixings -- and beer/wine at the half and after the game. All the press regulars were there, coaches for both teams, owners -- no celebs, though -- I think they hung at the Forum club. Chick Hearn's wife, Marge, was always in before the game to dig into some chicken. Dan guarded the door to the lounge and turned away many, many folks in his day. In the midst of refusing entry to a large crowd, he saw me, busted out in a wide smile, and said, "Hey, come on in." Beautiful, baby.
In the press lounge, the superstars were Pat Riley and Dr. Buss. When these men entered, it was nuclear fission complete with bulbs flashing and the accompanying personal entourage. All heads turned to see what these kings were up to. Dr. Jerry once arrived with about 10 women - well, let's call them Playboy bunny types -- absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. He stayed for about 15 minutes answering press questions and saying hi to everyone and then left with one of the ladies, leaving the rest in the lounge. The buddy I brought along and I were holding up the wall, sipping Millers and watching the delightful sight created by the presence of those beauties -- we'd glance at each other every now and then and sort of acknowledge how silly good we had it. That was 1988 -- we were champions and won the title again that year.
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com
Photo: Paul Hefti. Credit: Handout