It was a bit of a surprise when the Lakers signed Reeves Nelson to a non-guaranteed contract and gave him a training camp invite last week. Even though it’s still a long shot for Nelson to make the Lakers opening day roster, the signing isn’t as surprising with Thursday’s news of Matt Barnes leaving the Lakers to play for the Clippers next season.
That’s because ever since they moved to Los Angeles the Lakers have had a tradition of having players from UCLA on the team. In fact, only two of the Lakers 11 championships in L.A. have come without a Bruin on the roster. In fact, with Jamaal Wilkes’ recent induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame and his jersey retirement ceremony scheduled for December, it means that three of the nine Los Angeles Lakers jerseys that will be hanging in Staples by the end of next season are those of UCLA alums: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gail Goodrich, and now Wilkes.
The 1971-72 champion Lakers had two Bruins on their team, Goodrich and Keith Erickson. The 1979-80 team had three Bruins, Abdul-Jabbar, Wilkes, and Brad Holland. Abdul-Jabbar and Wilkes were also on the 1981-82 and 1984-85 championship teams while Kareem was the lone Bruin on the back-to-back title teams of 1987 and 1988.
The first two titles of the Shaq/Kobe three-peat were the two that were won without a Bruin on the roster. The third title team added Jelani McCoy, UCLA Class of ’99.
Of the two recent title teams, the first featured Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza while Farmar was the only one to play on the 2009-10 team. Farmar left for New Jersey the summer after that season and the Lakers replaced him with Barnes. The summer after that the Lakers added Jason Kapono.
Are Bruins the Lakers good luck charm? It’s not as if the front office still has any connections to Westwood. Mitch Kupchak is a North Carolina Tar Heel. Jerry West went to the University of West Virginia. The funny thing is that two of the more prominent figures in the Lakers storied history, Bill Sharman and Jerry Buss, have ties to USC. Sharman was one of the few Trojans enshrined in Springfield and Buss earned his M.S. and Ph.D. from USC at age 24.
In 1964, the team’s fifth season since moving from Minneapolis, Walt Hazzard became the first Bruin to play for the Lakers. Even after his playing days, Hazzard went to work for the Lakers as both a scout and special consultant. It was Hazzard’s son Rasheed, a former Lakers assistant coach, who became a mini Internet sensation when he was skipped over during the Lakers ring ceremony in 2011.
The list of Bruins to have played for the Lakers is too long to list. Just know that in the 47 seasons since Hazzard was a rookie, the Lakers have had at least one Bruin on the team in 34 of them — including a run that started with Hazzard in 1964 and ended with Kareem’s retirement in 1989.
Since 1964, the Bruins and Lakers have each won 11 championships. But 1972 is the only year in which both won a title. Considering that both teams had the best off-season of anyone in their respective league, is this finally the year when they repeat history?
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