Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"On almost any other team, James Worthy would have been a superstar. He was that good. But because he played for the Lakers, he was always overshadowed by Kareem and me."-Magic Johnson (From The Autobiography 'My Life')
This month the Los Angeles Lakers finally unveiled their overdue immortalization of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in bronze. Near to the new homes of Chick Hearn and Jerry West outside STAPLES, 'Cap's statue stands ahead of Magic Johnson's leading sculpture. But what about the middle? Just look at this articles picture. Yeah, you're too busy looking at the sky-hook and the Magic man, but what about the middle? What about James? Big Game James. James Worthy.
"On court he was poetry in motion, a beautiful player to watch. I can't imagine our famous fast break without him. I provided the break, but James provided the fast."-Magic Johnson (From The Autobiography 'My Life').
The Statue Of Liberty stands proud in the Hudson, looking over New York City and the rest of the United States of America, holding a torch shining bright over the land. But even she isn't tall enough to make a Big Game dunk. Dominique Wilkins was the 'Human Highlight Film' who could even contest the greatest ever, Michael Jordan when it came to slam dunks, but even he wasn't as fundamentally sound as James to be chosen by the Showtime Lakers. With his Statue Of Liberty dunks and his full-court, impressive display of play, James Worthy was the definition of 'Big Game'. He was a superstar.
Still even in that big-name, big-game company James was overshadowed by the greatest passer and greatest scorer in NBA history. Still it takes more than a Snoop Dogg 'Lakers Theme' lyric to prove that "James is so Worthy". Even the late great spoken or written words of Chick Hearn and Jim Murray respectively couldn't quite convey it. The instant replays of the finger-rolls, quick spins and turnaround refrigerator closing jumpers couldn't quite capture it. Magic and Kareem are just those first, household names that will resonate in basketball membranes forever, but read NBA history books centuries from now and Worthy's name will still be there like it is on his jersey up next to the Wilt's and the West's of the rafters.
He belonged to a team like no other. A team who's star shine sometimes had the light taken off them by the sheen of their charismatic coach Pat Riley's slicked back, Gordon Gekko hair. Let alone the Hollywood, celebrity fanbase led by Jack Nicholson courtside, every game. Plus James wasn't for all that L.A. life and star-studded attention. With high-profile teammates like Michael Cooper, A.C. Green and Norm Nikon and larger than life personalities like Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis Worth' was in elite company. Still Jimmy Worthy was closer to the Shows one-two punch then their supporting cast. More Shaq and Kobe, then Fox, Fisher and Horry (despite the big game, clutch heroics).
The star who lived in L.A. but only got close to Hollywood when he played the tallest Klingon in 'Star Trek' was a reserved 6,9 forward with super power. In the golden era of the NBA he was next generation. Taking the above the rim, ABA play of Julius Erving and boldly going to the nineties with it. The 1st pick in the '82 draft racked up the championships (3) with the All-Star selections (7) along with an NBA Finals MVP in 1988 and 142 points off 60% shooting in a Finlas series against Boston where he WASN'T named Most Valuable. Overshadowed by another man in goggles, Jabbar. Johnson was right, James was THAT good. Maybe those who couldn't see had fog on their lenses. In Basketball sight, Worthy was 20, 20.
Magic may have started fast breaks, but Worthy's style and finesse finished them. The substance behind James big-game made him an all-round player too who deserved more than three NBA third team selections for his career. The NCAA champ and 'Outstanding Player' winner really graduate from college to the league with honors. Making North Carolina proud like his name was Michael and he was heading for Chicago. Who knows if Worthy's above the rim flightplan was destined for somewhere else other than Los Angeles? He could have been an even bigger star or winner, but alas, how can you sniff at a career that has given and achieved so much?
In Lakers lore Worthy is a legend and in overall NBA stakes he is one too. Just because he isn't an M.J. of North Carolina or Los Angeles doesn't mean he's not a star worthy of his own plaque on the NBA walk of fame. The Hall awaits. He'll follow the smooth of Jaamal Wilkes once again and be cemented as another Laker legend for a franchise whose name is even bigger than some of basketballs biggest stars surnames. That right Wilt, Shaq, Kobe and Magic. James Worthy deserves his statue right in the middle of Magic and Kareem too and one day it'll come. Those who don't believe or agree don't know basketball. Sure number 42 may have not won without number 33 or 32, but even Johnson and Jabbar know it wouldn't have been the same without James. The man in the middle helped centre the team. Big Game didn't have the biggest name but he was worthy of the biggest stage. How about James?
"James Worthy was Showtime."-Magic Johnson (From The Autobiography 'My Life').