Los Angeles’ legacy as a sports town didn’t truly begin until 1958 when the Dodgers moved here from Brooklyn. In that half-century since, the City of Angels has produced its fair share of memorable moments.
Here are some of them from a city that produces as well as attracts greatness.
1984 Summer Olympics – Despite the Soviet Union’s boycott, the greatest Games in modern Olympic history boosted the city’s economy while serving as a debut for some of the most iconic figures in the sport.
The U.S. won the most medals in their history at these Games and it served as a coming-out party for many including Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Pernell Whitaker and the debut of Florence Griffith-Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Evander Holyfield.
Football Leaves L.A. – 1994 may have been the year of the Northridge earthquake but a bigger seismic shift was felt when the Raiders moving back to Oakland and the Rams moving to St. Louis. The city still hasn’t recovered as it’s been 15 years without a professional football team.
Elgin Baylor – Before Dr. J and Michael Jordan, there was Baylor, whose aerial acrobatics and scoring ability saved the Lakers franchise from bankruptcy in 1958. Although he never won a championship, he and Jerry West were the team’s brightest stars during the 1960’s as the Lakers began their fierce rivalry with the Boston Celtics.
He retired as one of the game’s greatest players but his mark in L.A. continued as the general manager of the Clippers, where he was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2006, the first year the Clippers won a playoff series in L.A.
Magic Johnson’s arrival/Showtime era – The smiling kid from Michigan State came to Los Angeles 30 years ago, revitalized the Lakers and, along with rival Larry Bird, the NBA itself. He brought “Showtime” to the court, winning five titles before retiring in 1991, and put that same energy and excitement into revitalizing L.A.’s inner cities with various business ventures and charitable fundraisers.
Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant era – In eight years, the dynamic duo led the Lakers to three NBA titles and another finals appearance before they were famously separated in 2004. Their personal-professional feud dominated the end of their dynasty but they have since reconciled, with the recent NBA All-Star Game served as a final chapter to their brilliant era.
Watts Summer Games – It was started in 1968 as a response to 1965 Watts Riots and has since grown into one of the top summer amateur events in the city where high schools offer their first glimpse of the upcoming school year’s teams.
Crenshaw HS basketball (Willie West era) – From 1970-2007, Willie West led Crenshaw High School to 803 victories, 16 City titles and eight state titles in boys basketball. But more than sending hundreds of players to college and the NBA, he set the gold standard of excellence for high school basketball in California.