Laker fans are used to former players returning to the purple and gold to regain their former glory. Everybody was excited when Derek Fisher came back to the Lakers and helped lead the team to two more championships in 2009 and 2010. Most recently the team welcomed back point guard Jordan Farmar who left the team after the 2010 season.
One of the first and most successful players to leave the team only to come back was star guard Gail Goodrich, a key component of the Lakers’ first championship team in Los Angeles and one of the best pure scorers in the history of the NBA.
Nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ by teammate Elgin Baylor, Goodrich joined the Lakers in 1965 and served in more of a reserve capacity with the team built around Baylor and Jerry West. In 1968, the NBA expanded with the additions of the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, and Goodrich was chosen by the Suns in the expansion draft and starred for the Suns for two seasons.
Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, however, continued to be a fan of Goodrich even after losing him. In May of 1970, Goodrich was traded back to the Lakers for center Mel Counts. Goodrich returned to a much different team with roles changed under new coach Bill Sharman.
After Baylor’s sudden retirement at the beginning of the 1971-72 season, Goodrich proved once again that he could be the star of a team, averaging a team-high 25.9 points as he, West, and Wilt Chamberlain led the Lakers on a record 33-game win streak, a league best 69-13 record, and the team’s first championship in Los Angeles.
Goodrich would lead the Lakers in scoring for the next three seasons as well, becoming one of the most prolific scorers and players in Laker history. He is one of the ones who almost got away, but fate always brings the best ones back to Los Angeles.
On this Throwback Thursday, we remember one of the forgotten great scorers in NBA annals, Gail Goodrich.
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