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Tribute to Bill Sharman

October 26, 2013

The NBA has crowned 67 champions and just one less than half of those champions (33) have been either the Celtics or the Lakers. Obviously, they are the two greatest NBA franchises.

Bill Sharman was a major part of many titles with each team. He was an extraordinary man, who died yesterday at age 87.

Bill teamed with Bob Cousy as backcourt mates on 4 Boston Celtics world title teams before retiring in 1961. Sharman, one of the greatest free throw shooters ever, was the shooting guard while Mr. Cousy was an all time playmaker.

Sharman also coached an ABA title team with the Utah Stars in 1970-1971, and became the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach for the 1971-1972 season.

It turned out to be the most extraordinary NBA team season ever as the Lakers went (69-13) and at one point won a record 33 straight games.

The Lakers had not won an NBA title since moving from Minneapolis (being from Minneapolis accounts for the  incongruous LA Lakers’ nickname, as there are no lakes in LA) and even with their great record faced a tough road in the playoffs.

Surely there was great pressure. Sharman’s ability to prepare and his experience as a champion really helped those Lakers.

I remember then NBA analyst and all time winner Bill Russell telling Jerry West not to worry as the team had two Celtics with them in Sharman and KC Jones, Sharman’s assistant coach.

The Lakers went on to win the title and Sharman was such a big reason for their success. He lost his voice during those playoffs and never really regained it for the rest of his life.

Bill was a vital part of the great Lakers’ teams of the 1980’s as both general manager and team president.

He won a coin flip, calling tails by the way, and won the rights to the great player, Earvin “Magic” Johnson for the Lakers.

As stated here before, I was among the Lakers’ biggest fans for roughly 25 years and truly admired Bill Sharman’s basketball prowess.

I met Bill after the glorious back to back titles in 1987 and 1988. He was a gracious, modest man even as I went on about his accomplishments.

It surprised me when he told me he never recovered his voice after the 1972 playoffs. Yet he talked and we reminisced about that great team.

Time goes on and Wilt Chamberlain, Happy Hairston, Leroy Ellis, Flynn Robinson and now coach Bill Sharman from that great ’71-’72 team are gone.  They are gone but like the team never forgotten.

I will use “my voice” to attest to their greatness, place in history and meaning to me at any time. The classy great gentleman Bill Sharman was a tremendous factor in that team’s place in history. Add what he did after in Los Angeles and many years before with great Celtics’ teams and one sees Sharman as the basketball great he was.

Next, consider what a great person he was and realize the loss here. Tributes are pouring in from the Lakers, Celtics and opponents.

Alas, not to worry as Bill is probably telling Wilt Chamberlain it is time to practice free throws. However, Bill will not make it mandatory for Wilt to attend the morning “shoot arounds” he will start up there just as he did on earth. See Wilt still likes to sleep late. On some level, don’t we all?

Screen Shot 4769

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