March 08, 2011
It's an iconic image, taken near the very apex of the Los Angeles Lakers' Showtime dynasty. Twenty-five years ago, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Lanker gathered Magic Johnson, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper and Byron Scott to stand for a shoot featuring the team's most famous fan, Jack Nicholson. The resultant image eventually made its way to Sports Illustrated, the perfect documentation of the cool-yet-cheeky Laker team of that era.
With Scott now coaching in Cleveland, and the 25th anniversary of that photograph nearing, Waiting For Next Year's Scott Sargent approached Scott at a Cavaliers shootaround with the image, wanting to get his take on the famous photograph. Scott's Cavaliers are mired in a miserable 12-50 season, and Sargent thought that the mention of the photo would be a welcome respite in an otherwise dreary season for Scott.
"All of us were kind of connected to Jack," said Scott of the celebrity sixth man. "I remember doing the shoot. It [only] took about 15 or 20 minutes, but we had a good time doing it."
While the years past may all blend together for Scott, who did recall the exact year of the photoshoot, the one other aspect the former shooting guard recalls was the fact that Nicholson was not as light as the four players thought he would be. As a result, the everso-photogenic Lake Show would have to get creative. With Michael Cooper and Magic Johnson holding up both ends, Kurt Rambis was forced to use his left leg as well as his arm round the outside of Nicholson's body while Scott was forced to put his sculpted shoulders to work.
Byron went on to mention his own "nice legs," as well.
Sargent thought it best to try and track down Lanker at his house in Oregon to get his take on the proceedings. What was supposed to be a light-hearted on-record reflection, though, turned into something else altogether.
Sadly, Lanker -- now 64-years old and easily the least known member of the triumvirate listed above -- was recently diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
A cold call to an Oregon area code, I find myself talking to a complete stranger, spilling my story to a woman who I presume is his wife. She listens acutely as I explain how I am a Cleveland-based scribe who is doing a piece on a picture Brian captured 15 years ago (she knew exactly which photo I was speaking of, a true testament to his work) and was hoping to get a few words with the man who is responsible for a photoshoot that is still being discussed more than a decade after the fact.
This would be when she dropped the bomb and my jaw in one teary-eyed sentence. Understandably, she would explain that Brian is not going to be "talking business" with anyone for a while due to the news which he was unfortunately graced with this past Friday, but that I was more than welcomed to try back in a month or so. All of the awards, all of the covers and even his first documentary film -- at this point, they all mean very, very little.
(Photo courtesy Brian Lanker.)