In honor of Darius Morris, Angeleno and soon-to-be Lakers rookie, we remember five L.A. high school products who went on to greatness with the purple and gold.
Let me start with a confession: I've got a sweet tooth for L.A kids who grow up to become Lakers. There's no good reason why anyone should care about something like this. Professional sports are an unsentimental industry. Do work on the court and it doesn't matter whether you hail from Philly, Spain or Queensbridge. Don't, and no one's pumping your tires just because you grew up down the block. That's how it is and how it should be.
But those of us who follow the prep basketball scene in Los Angeles love to see local kids make good. It cements our city's rightful status as the basketball capital of the world. And if the kids someday find themselves wearing the majestic hues of the Los Angeles Lakers, that's all the sweeter. Their matriculation to the purple and gold helps tether the franchise to the city that loves and nourishes it.
So last Thursday, when the Lakers drafted point guard Darius Morris out of the University of Michigan, my heart went aflutter. Morris grew up in Los Angeles and starred at Windward High School in West L.A. USC recruited him but the Wolverines were the first major program to show him love, and he rewarded their efforts. Now, assuming the Lakers sign him (which is likely), the kid's coming back to where his hoops career started.
By my count, over two dozen L.A. products have played for the Lakers over their six-decade-plus history. The first was back in the Minnesota days. A guy by the name of Normie Glick, who'd graduated from Manual Arts High School and Loyola Marymount, made a brief appearance for a team that would go on to win the NBA championship. And when I say brief, I mean it: he appeared in one game and took one shot. That was his entire pro basketball career. He had the good sense to drain his one career field-goal attempt and thus retired with a shooting percentage of 100 percent. From time to time in the Internet ghettos where basketball statheads ply their dark trade, you'll see Normie Glick cheekily referred to as the greatest shooter in NBA history.
His blistering stroke and euphonious name notwithstanding, Normie doesn't quite crack my list of the five greatest Lakers who were actually from L.A. Let that serve as a motivating example for Darius Morris. This is a highly decorated group that every young SoCal baller should aspire to join, but membership is extended to just an elite few. Should Darius someday find himself on this list, it'll mean he captured the hearts of basketball fans in this city and more than justified the second-round pick the Lakers spent on him.
(A technical point that I suppose would go in a footnote if this were Grantland: to be eligible for this little beauty pageant, bros must have played high-school ball in the L.A. area, as generally understood to include Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange Counties. Santa Barbara doesn't count, which excludes Jamaal Wilkes. Sorry, Jamaal.)
5. Cedric Ceballos. Long before he electrified the music world with "Nuff Ced," his seminal 2000 hip-hop album, Ceballos attended Dominguez High in Compton. That's the same hoops program that produced Tayshaun Prince, Tyson Chandler and (before he transferred to Oak Hill Academy) Brandon Jennings. Ced didn't spend that much time in Laker World but performed excellently while here. Even if he hadn't, I might put him on this list anyway just so I'd have an excuse to post this.
4. Elden Campbell. Morningside High in Inglewood produced two of the Fishmore-approved Lakers who appear in these rankings. It also produced Stan Love, father of Kevin Love and himself a onetime Laker. Elden had a strong run in L.A. but got traded away right before the team started winning titles again. Rather annoyingly, he exacted his vengeance as a member of the 2004 Pistons squad that killed off the Shaq-Kobe era.
3. Michael Cooper. Coop is an institution on the L.A. hoops scene. He played for Pasadena High School, Pasadena City College and of course the Lakers. He worked for three years in the Lakers' front office under Jerry West and then on the coaching staff under Magic Johnson and Del Harris. He's served as both assistant and head coach for the WNBA's Sparks, and he's now the coach of the USC women's team. He's also the only Laker ever to win Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Gail Goodrich. Goodrich did a straight shot to Lakerdom without leaving the city. He was born in L.A., played his prep ball at Los Angeles Polytechnic, his college ball at UCLA and then was drafted by the Lakers in 1965, when the NBA draft still provided for territorial picks. Elgin Baylor called him "Stumpy" because of his height. Stumpy!
1. Byron Scott. That's right, I'm putting Byron ahead of Goodrich. And yeah, I know G Squared is the one with the retired jersey. I still give Byron the number one slot. This is a debate for another column, but essentially it boils down to the classic choice between peak value and longevity. Goodrich's best years were better than Scott's, but Byron performed at a high level for a longer stretch, and their peaks aren't as far apart as you might think.
Anyway, Byron grew up in Inglewood, in close proximity to the Great Western Forum. Like Elden, he's a Morningside alum. Unlike Elden, he has three NBA championship rings, not to mention the ring he won with Panathinaikos in the Greek League. I'm not a huge fan of his coaching skills, but on the court there was nothing not to love. A youngster like Darius Morris could do much worse than model his game after the great Byron Scott.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.