Helping Byron Scott Relive the Glory Days


It is undoubtedly cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But in reference to the image above, it is tough to describe it any othe way.  The list is endless: an A-list celebrity, members of an NBA championship team, sunglasses, the socks, and – oh my – the shorts. 

Which is why, when I ventured into Cavaliers’ shootaround with this image in hand, Byron Scott could not help but smile and shake his head. 

Naturally, Scott had a welcomed flashback to the mid-1980’s when he and his Los Angeles Lakers were on top of the world.  His Showtime staff finished first in the Pacific Division with a 62-win season and they were gearing up for a playoff run in hopes of repeating as NBA Champions; they also had one of the most well-known “fans” in the entire league as Hollywood star Jack Nicholson was – and obviously, still is – courtside for every game. 

Clad in his signature sunglasses, Nicholson – just a couple years removed from his award-winning role in Terms of Endearment – would chat it up with every Laker player who was about to enter the game.  Scott, the team’s sixth man, would be one of the first to check in off of the bench allowing him to be one of the first to get Jack’s thoughts on the day.  And, assuming Nicholson did not get to see his team enough as it was, the Oscar-winner would get to be one of the few non-Lakers to attend team functions.

Which is when Sports Illustrated came calling.  In May of 1986, as Los Angeles was preparing for the postseason, the renowned weekly publication decided to do a feature on Nicholson: the man and the fan.

“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.

I questioned whether or not Scott was truly doing any work as the photo appears to present the Cavaliers coach with his hands behind his back.  Not the case, I was told, as his hands were merely positioned where it was difficult to be captured by cameraman Brian Lanker.

The gaudy sunglasses, obviously, were a tribute to the man who the four professional athletes were holding for the exact few seconds it took Lanker to snap the shot.  The chain around Scott’s neck was a gift from his wife Anita that he would only take off for the 48 minutes of in-game play. 

As I reference the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video that was created by the Chicago Bears just a few months prior to this photoshoot, Scott notes that both had a cheesy element involved, but the tribute to Nicholson (who Rambis would later deem as “his idea of a ‘true fan'”) was a lot of fun, even though it would only last a fraction of an hour.

And the pièce de résistance?

“All I know is that I got the nice legs,” jokes Scott.  “I don’t know about the rest of [the guys].”

Also: Byron Scott and Jack Nicholson: A Backstory

(Photo by Brian Lanker/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

  • Bowers

    good stuff Scott…and also thanks for that picture, it’s incredible.

  • Chris

    I still have a hard time believing anyone actually wore those shorts… it was certainly a different time.

  • guarded optimism

    He’ll have a chance to relive the glory days when he’s coaching elsewhere within the next couple years. He has done a phenominal job bringing out the best these young players but I think we’ll pay in the long run when he’s promoted to coach either the Lakers (PJ is reportedly in his last season) or dare I say… the Miami Heat.