CHAPTER 1

THE RISE OF THE ROOKIE

                  The ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic.

—RICHARD NEEDHAM

During the 1970s, the National Basketball Association (NBA) experienced what Alon Marcovici called “a decade of parity.”1 In this era, when the players’ shorts were still short, no one team dominated. It was anyone’s game. Although well respected, in 1979 the Los Angeles Lakers hadn’t clinched an NBA title in eight years. At the time, the phenomenally talented seven-foot-two center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time, anchored the team. Despite his wicked skyhook, Abdul-Jabbar hadn’t yet led the team to a victory in the finals. It was in this situation that ...

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