Which Lakers would be good NBA analysts?
The gig wouldn't happen anytime soon, considering the core of the Lakers' roster remains on long-term contracts.
Their debut would be far from definitive anyway considering it's possible the NBA lockout will eat at least into part of the 2011-2012 season.
But with Shaquille O'Neal slated to join TNT, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell, it got me thinking what other former or current Lakers would make great analysts. Although it's unclear what role O'Neal will fill, it's a given that he and Charles Barkley will set off fireworks with their fun and opinionated personalities. Magic Johnson currently serves as an ESPN analyst and famously suggested that Lakers owner Jerry Buss should "blow this team up" on the heels of the Lakers' four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. James Worthy joins KCBS' Jim Hill for postgame analysis and provides honest feedback on the Lakers' play. And in addition to coaching the USC women's basketball team, Michael Cooper provides postgame analysis on ABC 7's "Sports Zone," mixing in his honest commentary with his clear rooting interest for the Lakers.
Below the jump are a look at some other former and current Lakers and how they might do in the broadcast booth.
Phil Jackson: Jackson would analyze basketball the same way he did during his daily sessions with the media. He'd tweak players, coaches and NBA Commissioner David Stern. He'd make constant reminders that his 11 championship rings far surpasses anything any other NBA coach has accomplished. And, at times, he'd also break down the X's and O's with clarity and insight when the moment was warranted.
Unlike his coaching career, he wouldn't have to worry about receiving NBA fines. But like his coaching career, Jackson would be an equal-opportunity offender, including joining the crowded list of folks who make fun of Craig Sager's wardrobe. But this would be all a pipe dream. Jackson has repeatedly said he has no interest in being an NBA commentator or analyst.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: All of a sudden, Abdul-Jabbar went from being socially awkward because of his quiet and off-putting persona to being socially awkward because of his highly charged and controversial opinions. He argued that the Lakers' failure to construct a statue of him symbolizes the organization continually slighting him. He chastised Scottie Pippen for suggesting that LeBron James may be the greatest NBA player of all time. And he recently expressed the overwhelming sentiment that the Dodgers have been a complete disaster under Frank McCourt in a column for ESPN Los Angeles' website. Abdul-Jabbar wouldn't have the commanding camera presence or the personality that comes with being an on-air talent. But when he puts his mind to it, he could certainly offer a few controversial opinions.
Jerry West: Since West is currently serving as a consultant with the Golden State Warriors, this wouldn't happen in the near future. But West would be a real treat as an NBA analyst. He's opinionated and highly respected in the league for obvious reasons. "The Logo" fully understands the ins and outs of the NBA because he had storied careers both as a player and as a general manager. With the NBA lockout currently in place, West would be able to offer evenhanded analysis and understanding on both perspectives in what the players and ownership want as they negotiate toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Kobe Bryant: Bryant is notorious for being tight-lipped with the media. But what sometimes goes unnoticed and underappreciated involves his great insight when he's asked specific X's and O's questions and player personnel issues. He's a true student of the game and would be valuable in breaking down highlights and player tendencies. When he feels like it, Bryant is also articulate and well-spoken. That being said, this role doesn't really fit Bryant's interest.
Pau Gasol: Gasol is very accommodating with the media and is always eager to answer any question thrown his way. So from a personality standpoint, Gasol would fit in perfectly in media circles. But his opinions are often vanilla, tends to ramble and he rarely offers anything controversial.
Andrew Bynum: The joys and surprises in interviewing Bynum point to his complete lack of filter. Ask him about his current injury and he'll provide a detailed account of how he feels, his limitations and his rehab efforts. Ask him an innocent question about what problems are most correctable and which ones are more deeply rooted as I did when the Lakers trailed 0-2 to Dallas and he'll immediately pop off about the team "having trust issues." And ask him about why he decked J.J. Barea in the last quarter of the Lakers' Game 4 loss to Dallas, and Bynum won't offer one hint of an apology until two days later.
He'd be a joy to watch because you never know what he would say. But given that he's still only 23 years old, Bynum has a long way to go in media training and playing before offering true perspectives on the game.
Lamar Odom: Odom doesn't speak with a rapid-fire delivery. He often speaks in fragments with long pauses. And he sometimes trails off in his thoughts. But Odom would do a good job as an NBA analyst for the same reason he's a great interview. He's extremely friendly and approachable. He's opinionated and honest. And he speaks in such a casual manner that you often feel as if you're just talking with a friend.
Odom's style also fits in with TNT's crew of Barkley and Kenny Smith because they rarely adhere to conventional wisdom in offering rapid-fire sound bites, looking at the right camera and acting completely scripted and phony. With Ernie Johnson playing the role of traffic cop, the format of TNT's shows gives the feeling of a barbershop. The setting feels relaxed. Barkley and Smith are shooting the breeze without much of a script, while sharing what many fans are thinking at the time. It's easy to envision Odom thriving in that setting, particularly because he's already proven to do that before in a barbershop segment with ESPN the Magazine's Ric Bucher.
Derek Fisher: If Fisher isn't running a Fortune 500 company, serving as a spokesperson for a corporation or running for higher office in his hometown in Arkansas, becoming an NBA analyst fulfills Fisher's qualifications. He earned a communications degree with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He's serves as the Lakers' spokesman and for the players union by offering both sound bites and paragraphs filled with insightful analysis. And as evidenced by analyzing Sparks games in 2007 and filling in for Jim Rome last year, Fisher has tremendous confidence before the camera.
Ron Artest - Expect fireworks every night. Instead of calling each other names through the media, Artest and Barkley will call each other names on air. Instead of trash talking on the court and in the locker room, Artest will trash talk while on the comfy confines of the studio set. Instead of offering unprompted and random opinions about anything imaginable, Artest will bring that same unpredictable and fun nature as an NBA analyst. Artest may say that he plans to play in the NFL and.or box once he retires in the NBA, but his immediate future points to the broadcasting booth. He'd be a great analyst for the same reason Sir Charles has become a long-term fixture on TNT: He says anything on his mind and he makes watching basketball fun.
Mike Brown - After the Cleveland Cavaliers fired him in 2010, Brown was an ESPN analyst for its NBA games so he already has the experience. He's privy to speaking in sports cliches, but there's a reason why he won over the Lakers' front office in his exit interview. His enthusiasm proves unmatched with his wide smile and his ability to laugh at himself. His ability to talk X's and O's in understanding terms is evident with his ability to explain succinctly to management his DVDS highlighting his defensive schemes as well as his offensive philosophy. And his hard-working and pleasant persona would make him a fun person to work with on set or in the broadcast booth.
Luke Walton - Laker fans have an obvious motivation for this. If there's anything possible to get Walton out of his two-year, $11.48 million contract, Laker fans will endorse this idea. Say what you will about Walton's basketball abilities (yes, many of you have), but he knows the game from a technical standpoint. He has his fair share of connections considering Bill Walton is his dad, but don't expect Luke to be a carbon copy where he makes over-the-top observations and leaping comparisons. When Luke served as a radio analyst when he suffered a pinched nerve in his lower back two years ago, he broke down the game in an easy-to-understand manner.
-- Mark Medina
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Top photo: TNT announcer Charles Barkley gives some analysis before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 21, 2008
Second photo: Coach Phil Jackson leaves the court after the Lakers' Game 4 loss in Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Lamar Odom has become the Lakers' hot commodity to move, but Minnesota reportedly turned down a trade offer that would have sent the NBA's sixth man of the year to the Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday's draft. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times