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NBA Draft: Bill Sharman became the Lakers' good luck charm

Sharman3Filled with nervousness, Lakers then-General Manager Bill Sharman waited to hear the organization's fate in the 1979 NBA draft on a simple coin flip.

That was the procedure at the time to determine the selection process, and a phone call from Bulls GM Rod Thorn left Sharman uneasy. The Bulls earned the first pick in the Eastern Conference after finishing in last place, while the Lakers earned the Western Conference's first pick after trading Gail Goodrich the previous season to the New Orleans Jazz.

Mindful of the Bulls' on-court struggles and lagging attendance, Thorn reached out to Sharman weeks before the draft seeking permission to call the coin flip, an initiative that he wanted to involve fan input. Sharman's first instinct, as he recalled this week in an email, involved an "emphatic No," but he soon relented because the two shared a good relationship with front-office dealings and he believed it would prove beneficial for the NBA. 

"It was with great trepidation because I always called 'heads' since I felt that 'heads' was luckier than 'tails,' " Sharman wrote. "But it was a big gamble either way."

But it was a gamble that paid off.

To Sharman's dismay, the Bulls called "heads," but that uneasiness went away as soon as NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien announced "tails." The magnitude of that moment couldn't be overstated enough, considering the Lakers used that pick to select Magic Johnson.

"When the coin was tossed and it came up 'tails,' I nearly wept with RELIEF and joy!" Sharman wrote. "I was absolutely thrilled, as was the entire Lakers organization! It is hard to imagine what would have happened with our team if we had not been able to pick Magic. We won five championships with him, and he brought such incredible thrills and excitement..... not only to the Lakers, but the entire NBA. It makes me nervous right now to even allow myself to think about what it would have been like without him!"

Coach_bill_sharman-2

The Lakers surely couldn't either. Sharman as the Lakers' coach led them to their first championship in Los Angeles during the 1971-72 season. Even though he officially retired in 1988 because of voice problems he attributed to damaged vocal cords, Sharman just completed his 21st season as the team's special consultant, which has entailed attending all home games and drafting monthly reports filled with his advice and critiques on the Lakers' play. And he soon became the Lakers' good luck charm for their NBA draft needs.

Sharman won't be in any meeting rooms during the 2011 NBA Draft Thursday when the Lakers mull over their second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 46, 58. He also admittedly hasn't followed college basketball enough to offer any insight on this year's draft. But Sharman's endorsements of Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, executive Jim Buss and Coach Mike Brown might be interpreted as more than just obligatory praise considering Sharman's good-luck reputation. "I am very excited about the new coach," Sharman said of Brown. "He has great enthusiasm and a winning background, and I think that we have a great core team that has every chance to have another championship year!"

That's because the Lakers soon believed Sharman to be a good luck charm after his permission in granting Thorn the rights in calling the coin flip led to Johnson's arrival. Interestingly enough, a similar scenario played out in the 1983 NBA draft. The Lakers secured Cleveland's first-round pick because midway through the 1979-80 season, the Lakers traded Butch Lee for Don Ford and swapped future first-round picks. With Cleveland finishing in last place, their No. 1 pick in the Eastern Conference went to the Lakers, setting up a coin flip with the San Diego Clippers, who owned the No. 1 pick out of the West.

On a conference call with the Lakers and Clippers, O'Brien flipped a coin, indicating "heads" would give the Lakers the right to call the coin flip and "tails" would give the Clippers the call. The coin landed in the Lakers' favor, but it opened up an interesting decision: Should Sharman pick heads because of his belief that heads is stronger than tails? Or should he stick with tails because that granted the Lakers the No. 1 pick in 1979? Sharman stuck with his instincts, called "heads," and it worked out, resulting in the Lakers' selecting James Worthy, who helped the team to three NBA titles and was named Finals MVP in one of those seasons. 

"I really wasn't tempted to go back and choose 'tails' because of of the coin flip with Magic," Sharman wrote. "I had always been very lucky and fortunate when I chose 'heads'. "

Sharman's fortune with coin flips served as just one example of his superstitions. The Lakers sent Sharman to the NBA draft lottery in 1994, which resulted in a No. 10 pick for Eddie Jones, whom Sharman described as a "great pick." During the Lakers' 33-game winning streak in the 1971-72 season, Sharman took a ballpoint pen out of his shirt pocket and placed it in his sport jacket pocket right before tipoff. And during his 10 seasons as a player for the Boston Celtics, Sharman ate chocolate and drank a cup of tea before every game, a ritual that coincided with four NBA titles, seven All-NBA selections, eight All-Star game appearances, one regular-season MVP and his becoming arguably of the greatest shooters of his era. 

"I feel that I have been lucky all of my life," Sharman wrote. "How many people get to do what they love for their entire career?  I have tried to be as positive a representative for the Lakers that I can be through the years, and I think that positive thinking and trying to do the right thing also brings along some luck with it."  

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Photo: Bill Sharman was seen as the Lakers' good luck charm in the NBA draft. Credit: Los Angeles Lakers.

Photo: Sharman has remained as a special consultant for the Lakers in the past 21 seasons. Credit: Los Angeles Lakers. 

 
Comments () | Archives (16)

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@UTZ … Congrats on Mini Banner Holder’s graduation from preschool, Chris. I’ve been through 3 of those as a grandpa and just finished my first elementary school graduation ceremony that lasted 4 hours. And we wonder why our kids seem to be growing up so much faster than we did. LOL
…………………………………………………….
@JUSTA … I agree, Marina, the new commenting style looks pretty cool. The icons will make it easy to see who the post is before you read it. Now if we could only choose icons to show up for bloggers we would prefer to skip, that would make it perfect. Here’s hoping my antagonists all select icons.
...........................................................
@LEO … “As to the latter point, if Bynum or Gasol gets injured the Lakers are not going to win a title, so as nice as it is to have that insurance policy, if you end up using it you are screwed. Great point, Leo. I had never looked at the situation like that but your logic is dead on. Thanks.
……………………………………………………
@ROCKY … How are things in San Diego, Rocky. I also like Jeremy Tyler and posted about him last week. He has been projected as one of the Lakers’ second round picks. Guy chose to play in Israel rather than go to college and is the only high school junior to turn pro. He’s 6-11 260 and could be a great backup center for us. This is turning out to be a fascinating draft for the Lakers.
……………………………………………………
TOM


Tom: I just watched that video from the Jeremy Tyler video. Eeeek.... especially at the 6:40 mark. Not how you would want a young player trying to impress NBA talent evaluators to act. He was just going through the motions there, if he wants to play in the NBA he's got to commit his heart to it 100%.

Reminds me a bit of DeMarcus Cousins.

Still, I agree he's worth snagging, worth the risk especially given we have 4 2nd round picks and if even 2 make the roster it would be a lot. I'm sure Kobe and crew will get him to raise his intensity if they do bring him in, no more floundering like he did in the video.

here's the vid of his workout:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxnDo4Bw0tU


AS ALWAYS - AND FOREVER - GO LAKERS!!!!!!

If the NBA implements the amnesty clause (a one time opportunity to get out of a horsesh*t contract) it should be fittingly named after a player much like the bill russell nba finals MVP or the larry obrien trophy championship trophy..

So what better name than the LUKE WALTON AMNESTY CLAUSE! The worst damn pound for pound dollar for dollar return on ur investment contract in the history of the nba!!!

Do it stern!


@YELLOFEVER …. The Luke Walton Amnesty Clause. ROFLMAO.
……………………………………………………
@LTLF … As our resident trade expert, give us your take and order for the following LO trades:

(1) for Raymond Felton
(2) for Monta Ellis
(3) for Wolves #2 Pick.
(4) for Andre Iguodala
……………………………………………………
TOM


>>>So what better name than the LUKE WALTON AMNESTY CLAUSE! The
>>>worst damn pound for pound dollar for dollar return on ur investment
>>>contract in the history of the nba!!!

Ironically, if it happens, I'm not sure they wouldn't use it on Ron Artest's 28 million over the next 3 years instead of Luke Walton's 11 millino over the next 2 years.

History of the NBA? Seriously? How about FULL MLE for Jerome James. Way more money than Luke got and he barely touched the floor. At least Luke had a couple of seasons where he played a reasonable amount of minutes and contributed something.

How about Greg Oden? More injury plagued than Luke and Bill combined. There are hundreds of contracts worse than Luke's.

LakerTom,

>>> Lamar for Raymond Felton

Maybe. I don't think the Lakers and Denver have spoken. Or at least I haven't seen any rumors that specifically claim they have. It's pure big for little and it doesn't reduce salary, so it's not perfect.

>>>Lamar for Monta Ellis

Reportedly offered and turned down. GS wants more for Ellis.

>>> Lamar for Wolves #2 Pick.

Again, reportedly offered and turned down. TWolves are loaded at PF, so Lamar's not really a good fit there.

>>>Lamar for Andre Iguodala

I honestly think this was a stepping stone toward Lamar for Wolves #2 pick. The idea would be to trade for Iggy, then pass Iggy on to Minnesota for the #2 (maybe and another player).

The blogoshpere now out of Philly is that Philly thinks Lamar wouldn't be happy playing in Philly and would get all mopey and suck, so they don't want him.

If they change their mind, I think this has as much chance of getting done as anything.

DAMMIT.

Sacramento-Charlotte-Milwaukee?

That's it?

2 hours and counting until the draft.

I'm hoping to see Stern come to the podium say those magic words...

"There's been a trade. The Lakers send Luke Walton to the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers. The Sixers send Andre Igoudala to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Timberwolves send the #2 pick, Jonny Flynn and future considerations to the Lakers... Oh yeah, and the Lakers send Lamar Odom to Philadelphia as well."


All very peachy until that last line, huh?

@LTLF … Thanks. I still like Felton best of all the options. I hope you are right that a trade for Iguodala would only be a stepping stone. I would prefer other options for purple and gold than him.
……………………………………………………
TOM


Tom,

I like Felton a lot, assuming the Lakers could somehow get a third big to replace Lamar. Having Derrick Caracter as the third big on the team would make me a little nervous.

Heya hobbit - you're right...a "tweak" won't be a small thing. I see your point. And here's the link - again - http://felipereis.com/lakerholic/ - you have a life?? LOL!!!!!! Just kidding, mon ami !!

DAMMIT LTLF!!! You had me until that last line LOL!!

"If the NBA implements the amnesty clause (a one time opportunity to get out of a horsesh*t contract) it should be fittingly named after a player much like the bill russell nba finals MVP or the larry obrien trophy championship trophy..

So what better name than the LUKE WALTON AMNESTY CLAUSE! The worst damn pound for pound dollar for dollar return on ur investment contract in the history of the nba!!!

Do it stern!

Posted by: Yellofever | June 23, 2011 at 01:44 PM "

I need to familiarize myself on what the amnesty clause would include. I would assume it doesn't involve just leaving the player out in the cold, right? Would it mean that the team could remove that player's salary from counting toward the salary cap by buying them out in some way? Either paying their full salary and being done with it or coming to some financial agreement that is amicable to both parties?

Getting rid of Luke's 6 million would be a blessing but it wouldn't provide the Lakers any more money to work with since they'd still be way over the cap. It seems like the only way the amnesty clause would help the Lakers in the free agent market is if Kobe took it and re-signed for the veteran's minimum. I think they might still be over the cap for the next couple years even if that happened and I'm guessing such a move wouldn't be allowed anyway.

>>>Would it mean that the team could remove that player's salary from
>>>counting toward the salary cap by buying them out in some way?

That's exactly what it did last time. You paid off the full contract, and you couldn't re-sign that player, but their salary stopped counting against the cap and the luxury tax.

>>>It seems like the only way the amnesty clause would help the Lakers in the
>>>free agent market is if Kobe took it and re-signed for the veteran's minimum.

And that's why it doesn't allow a player to re-sign with the same team that cut him.

Oh, and BTW, even if Kobe did that, the Lakers would still be something like 10 million over the salary cap. They'd be right about at the luxury tax limit.

testing one 2

LakerTom,

Things are good here in SD. Yeah man, Jeremy Tyler could develop into something. He's definitely got the talent. For a 2nd rounder, he'd be worth a gamble. 2nd rounders are a crapshoot anyways. I'll put it this way, I'd take Tyler over Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.

Go Lakers!


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