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Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s Hardcover – March 4, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 199 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Some books about sports (think George Plimpton or David Halberstam) are the equivalent of literary fiction; some (say, John Feinstein) compare favorably with serious nonfiction about other subjects. Showtime, by the author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton (2011), is more on the order of a celebrity bio. It is gossipy, at times sensationally so (particularly in regard to drug use and sex), and sometimes sophomoric (and cruelly demeaning of lesser players), but it imparts hard-won inside knowledge, and it is certainly entertaining. Many of its individual subjects are true celebrities—the ebullient and charismatic, though problematic, Earvin Magic Johnson; the moody (and far stronger words are used) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; coach Pat Riley; and even owner Jerry Buss—and with outsize egos to match. But, though not gelling immediately, the L.A. Lakers of the 1980s became, by mid-decade, an extraordinary basketball team, perhaps the best ever, and if their flamboyant style on and off the court belied their discipline and frequent sheer brilliance, it merits the enthusiastic and wide-ranging treatment that Pearlman gives it. --Mark Levine

Review

Praise for Jeff Pearlman and Showtime

"A marvelous and dishy history of the Showtime Lakers, full of bare-knuckled assessments . . . What a tonic Jeff Pearlman's new book is for forlorn Lakers fans suffering through the team's disastrous current season."
Los Angeles Times

"The Showtime Lakers weren’t just the best team of their era. They were also the most compelling, the most charismatic, the most complex. The Lakers of Kareem, Magic and Riley were to the 1980s what the Yankees of Mantle, Ford, and Stengel were to the 1950s: A team perfectly matched to its time, and place. Jeff Pearlman, typically, delivers the goods, celebrating them for their achievements, pulling no punches on the subject of their shortcomings. This is a vivid portrait of a great team, in full."
—Jeremy Schaap, ESPN commentator, New York Times best-selling author of Cinderella Man and Triumph 

"The names (Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Riley, Buss) and the games (four championships) have long been studied by basketball's anthropologists. But so much of the story of the Showtime Lakers, THE Team of the 80s, took place behind closed doors. Jeff Pearlman, as is his wont, pries them open and finds … a whole lot of L.A. living."
—Jack McCallum, author of New York Times best-seller Dream Team

"An era that redefined the game has found a storyteller more than up to the task. By any measure, Showtime is magic."
—Mark Frost, author of The Greatest Game Ever Played

"Showtime proves to be prime-time literary entertainment. A rocking, roller-coast of a ride it reads like the Lakers of Magic and Riley played—an artistic fast-break of revealing, sometimes shocking tales tinged with sex, drugs and, most of all humanity. You want to know the real story behind a beautifully dysfunctional basketball dynasty? Read this book."
—Armen Keteyian, 60 Minutes Sports

"Showtime is a rollicking ride, full of great characters, killer anecdotes and surprising details. Pearlman is an indefatigable reporter, and here he provides an all-access pass to one of the game's greatest dynasties, with tales of Kareem, Magic, Riley and Jerry Buss in their heyday. It's a book any NBA fan—any sports fan—will devour, likely in one or two sittings."
—Chris Ballard, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated

"Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that recreates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. Showtime is a great show indeed, full of colorful (and complicated) characters as well as a trove of details that even the most passionate fans will be amazed to learn. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it."
—Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life
 

Praise for Showtime

“The Showtime Lakers are the dynasty that forever changed the NBA, transforming a game into an entertainment spectacle. Through his relentless reporting and buoyant writing, Jeff Pearlman has delivered the story in full, from rare insight into Kareem and Magic to what (ital) really (ital) went on after-hours in the Forum Club. Once you start "Showtime," you won't be able to put it down.”
—Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports NBA columnist and author of the The Miracle of St. Anthony 

“An era that redefined the game has found a storyteller more than up to the task. By any measure, Showtime is magic.”
—Mark Frost, author of The Greatest Game Every Played

“Showtime proves to be prime-time literary entertainment. A rocking, roller-coast of a ride it reads like the Lakers of Magic and Riley played – an artistic fast-break of revealing, sometimes shocking tales tinged with sex, drugs and, most of all humanity. You want to know the real story behind a beautifully dysfunctional basketball dynasty? Read this book.”
—Armen Keteyian, 60 Minutes Sports

“The names (Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Riley, Buss) and the games (four championships) have long been studied by basketball's anthropologists. But so much of the story of the Showtime Lakers, THE Team of the 80s, took place behind closed doors. Jeff Pearlman, as is his wont, pries them open and finds … a whole lot of L.A. living.”
—Jack McCallum, author of New York Times best-seller Dream Team

"Pearlman is an indefatigable reporter, and here he provides an all-access pass to one of the game's greatest dynasties, with tales of Kareem, Magic, Riley and Jerry Buss in their heyday. It's a book any NBA fan - any sports fan - will devour, likely in one or two sittings."
—Chris Ballard, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated

Jeff Pearlman, typically, delivers the goods, celebrating them for their achievements, pulling no punches on the subject of their shortcomings. This is a vivid portrait of a great team, in full.”
—Jeremy Schaap, ESPN commentator, New York Times best-selling author of Cinderella Man and Triumph  

"Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that recreates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. Showtime is a great show indeed, full of colorful (and complicated) characters as well as a trove of details that even the most passionate fans will be amazed to learn. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it."
Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life

Praise for Sweetness

"Mr. Halberstam would have been the first to insist that we not confuse fiction with nonfiction, and that we not mistake biography -- the telling of a life -- for hagiography -- the burnishing of a legend. Which was football's big trouble last week, it turns out, as lots of folks who should know better took exception to a new biography of Walter Payton."
—ESPN.com, "The Sporting Life"

Praise for Jeff Pearlman’s Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

“Exceptional  . . . a fascinating read about a fascinating man.”
—Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports

“If you want to get the sense of a real life lived by a real person with real beauty within and real warts, start reading.”
The Indianapolis Star

“Pearlman . . . [is] a skilled biographer.”
The New York Times

 



"I found the Walter of your book to be more of a hero than the one people refer to."
—Rick Hogan, WGN Sunday Papers

"I have read the book and I can tell you your appreciation of Walter will be heightened if you read the whole book and not just the excerpt." — Rick Kogan

"Jeff Pearlman has written Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, which depicts Mr. Payton as perhaps the greatest all-around football player ever, a generous teammate and a loving father."
—Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition

"Over the weekend I read an advance copy of Sweetness and found it to be an incredible, thoughtful, deep and profound read. It’s exceptional work.  I wouldn’t let an out-of-context excerpt and some enraged condemnations get in the way of a fascinating read about a fascinating man."
—Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports

"READ THE BOOK...But if you like texture, if you want to get the sense of a real life lived by a real person with real beauty within and real warts, start reading and do so with an open mind."
The Indianapolis Star

"Pearlman did not set out to expose Payton but to understand him, to identify and define the qualities that made him so appealing. He was a football-playing hero to millions, true, but he was also a human being of considerable complexity. There’s a story in how those two sides intersected, and a skilled biographer gets to that story ... If Walter Payton, magnificent football player and Chicago treasure, is enough for you, ignore the book and cherish your memories. If Walter Payton, flawed but fascinating human being, intrigues you, read it. You might come away with a greater appreciation."
The New York Times

"If Walter Payton, magnificent football player and Chicago treasure, is enough for you, ignore the book and cherish your memories. If Walter Payton, flawed but fascinating human being, intrigues you, read it. You might come away with a greater appreciation." -New York Times
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; 1st edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407552
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407552
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have had the opportunity to visit the NBA Hall of Fame… one of the things you’ll see are displays dedicated to teams during specific times that were considered *DYNASTIES*… One of those dynasties was the 1980’s Showtime Lakers. Before I ordered this book… let alone before I read it… I looked at my personal library and counted over twenty books regarding the Lakers. I at first said… how much more can there be on a team from over thirty years ago… and then I reminisced about how I had enjoyed three other books I read by the author Jeff Pearlman on… the Dallas Cowboys… Walter Payton… and the steroid cheat… Roger Clemens. I ordered the book… and as this review will confirm… I am thrilled that I did.

What makes this book so worthwhile… even with the knowledge of what I read in all the prior books I owned… and in addition to attending many of the Showtime Lakers games in person at the Fabulous Forum… and the fact that I had even played in numerous pickup games against a number of the Laker players… were three main facts… first… Jeff Pearlman invested his time and energy in an exhausting amount of piercing… in depth interviews… secondly… his writing style is smooth yet exhilarating… the reader never gets the feeling as with many other authors… that they’re just trying to fill additional pages… and the third reason… is the fact that “time” itself… over thirty plus years… over a quarter of a century has passed… and that means literary morals have changed… and what is considered acceptable in everyday journalism has changed. So thirty years ago when a written word was published… there were moral limits as to what could be written.
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Format: Hardcover
"Showtime" is an engrossingly entertaining retrospective look at the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. It is an astonishingly compelling book relating everything you thought you knew and much that you never knew about one of the most exciting professional basketball teams of all time. This is a book not to be missed by anyone who was a basketball fan during the 80's and, in particular, a Lakers fan of that fabulous era. Kareem, Magic, Wilkes, Michael Cooper, Spencer Haywood, Bob McAdoo, Mitch Kupchak, Norm Nixon, and so many others who transform a lethargic Laker franchise into perhaps the most entertaining, fast breaking, and dysfunctional professional team of all time.

Jeff Pearlman has clearly done his homework. There are references to interviews over a three year period with all the major characters who were part of the Laker magic and interviews with many who were involved in the league but watching from afar. We learn that Showtime was the brainchild of Jack McKinney, an innovative yet doomed head coach, who saw his fling at fame destroyed by a terrible bicycle accident. The lamentable Paul Westhead era that followed was controversial and certainly ugly at times, including the feeling that Magic Johnson was the real force who got him fired. The Pat Riley era began somewhat inauspiciously and ultimately blossomed into one of the most exciting and entertaining basketball teams in the history of the NBA.

Showtime really began when Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke, an owner content to be the overlord of a professional team that really didn't know its own identity or its potential.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeff Pearlman’s Showtime, chronicling the great Los Angeles Lakers team of the 1980’s is a fun and entertaining read about one of the most compelling sports teams ever assembled. Of course Magic Johnson takes center stage with his effervescent personality and larger than life persona who really defined the Showtime era. And he, coupled with the mercurial, sometimes inscrutable, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar formed the nucleolus of one of the most compelling and greatest dynasties NBA history.

The strength of this book is the way Pearlman is able to bring the inner personalities of the players and coaches to life – personalities that the public persona may hide. Seeing the tension and jealousy between the established Norm Nixon and the new kid on the block Magic Johnson is something that has been alluded to in the past but here the real story comes out. Ultimately the two alpha dogs could not coexist. Behind the scenes looks at the owner Jerry Buss, and executive Jerry West, and players like AC Green, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, and the underdog and fan favorite Kurt Rambis were also compelling and interesting.

The other key player in this era of course is the coach Pat Riley. He was giving the head coaching duties after an unfortunate injury ended the Lakers’ career of coach Jack McKinney, and Paul Westhead rather quickly wore out his welcome. Starting out less sure of himself than one would imagine, Riley, a great a coach, eventually become the egotist and control freak that the media has painted him out to be. He, as much as any player, also defined the Showtime era.

I have to admit that while the sexual promiscuity of many pro athletes is no secret, the stories told about the Showtime Lakers in this book were shocking to me.
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