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Gail Goodrich    

Former Professional Basketball Player, 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers

Gail Goodrich spent a good part of his professional career as "the other guy." That characterization masked the steady growth of a fine player who continually confounded his skeptics. When he was a 6'1 All-City guard at Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, he was told he was too small for college basketball. After becoming an All-American at UCLA he was told he was too frail to become a pro. When he turned professional he played in the shadows of Jerry West, Pete Maravich and other more renowned guards.

But the fiery lefthander invariably proved his critics wrong. He responded to his detractors' remarks with perseverance, discipline and improvement -- all typical Goodrich traits. In a career that spanned 1,031 games in 14 NBA seasons, he scored 18.6 points per contest and was a five-time All-Star. He was also the leading scorer on one of the greatest teams in NBA history: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers selected Goodrich as a territorial pick in the 1965 NBA Draft, then kept him on the bench for three seasons. His height was an obvious handicap Elgin Baylor took one look at him and nicknamed him "Stumpy" because Goodrich, slightly over 6 feet tall, was trying to make his mark in the land of giants.

In 1968, Los Angeles lost Goodrich to the Phoenix Suns in the expansion draft, and he quickly became the star of the new franchise and a favorite among Suns fans. A starter for the first time in his NBA career, Goodrich scored 23.8 ppg in 1968-69, tops on his team and sixth in the league. He surprised critics who had labeled him a gunner by ranking seventh in assists with 6.4 per game and was also selected to play in the 1969 NBA All-Star Game.

Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, an admirer of Goodrich, was thrilled when the team got him back. The trade paid major dividends for the Los Angeles club. He ranked third in the league in free-throw percentage (.850) and then made his second All-Star Game appearance.

The Lakers were virtually unbeatable in 1971-72. They assembled an NBA-record 33-game winning streak on the way to a 69-13 record, the best single-season mark up to that point in NBA history (eclipsed by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72-10). In 1972-73, Goodrich was an All-Star for the third time in his career, and he led the team with an average of 23.9 ppg.

Goodrich had one of his finest seasons in 1973-74. Playing in all 82 games, he led the club in scoring (25.3 ppg) for the third consecutive season, topped the league in free throws made (508) and attempted (588), and was named to the All-NBA First Team at season's end. The Lakers won the Pacific Division with a 47-35 record but lost to Milwaukee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Although Goodrich played with the same high level of consistency during his remaining two seasons with Los Angeles, earning his fifth and final All-Star berth in 1975, his enthusiasm for the Lakers waned. A messy salary dispute led Goodrich to play out his option in 1976 and sign as a free agent with the New Orleans Jazz, leaving a team with which he had spent nine years. In a complex and controversial deal, Cooke allowed him to sign with the Jazz in return for two future first-round draft choices and a second-round pick. The trade, although criticized at the time, paid off for the Lakers a few years later, when they used one of the picks from the Jazz to select Magic Johnson No. 1 overall in the 1979 NBA Draft.

With New Orleans for 1976-77, Goodrich had a new contract and, in Maravich, a new superstar teammate who was as glorious a match for him. Despite a quick start in which Maravich and Goodrich became the highest-scoring backcourt in the league, averaging a combined 48 points, injuries destroyed Goodrich's season.

Goodrich returned to health in 1977-78 and served the Jazz as an effective role player. He averaged 16.1 points in 81 games and shot a career-best .495 from the field. In an early-season game against the Knicks, Goodrich scored 25 points in 28 minutes to pass the 17,000-point mark for his career.

He played one final campaign in 1978-79, the 14th of his illustrious career. After averaging 12.7 ppg in 74 games, Goodrich retired, having scored 19,181 career points.


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