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Lakers Say Yes to Video, No to Drugs

September 04, 1987|GARY LIBMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Lakers have gone Hollywood. Again.

But this time they did it in a recording studio and not courtside with Jack Nicholson.

The 1987 National Basketball Assn. champions have recorded a rap music video designed to persuade their younger fans to "just say 'no' " to drugs. It features such little-known studio artists as Pat Riley, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

A Family Affair

The video, with words by Laker forward James Worthy's wife, Angela, and some of her friends, may never force rap connoisseurs to forget the works of Run-D.M.C. But it has a certain bounce and, say the Lakers' wives who organized the project, stands to benefit the anti-drug programs they've made their priority.

Most sports teams tend to scatter when their long professional seasons end, but the Lakers had other plans this June after they conquered the Boston Celtics in the NBA championship.

First, there was the small matter of a huge parade through downtown Los Angeles, where they were greeted by thousands of fans and the mayor. But the second day, in a much less-publicized atmosphere, coach Riley led 12 players into a Hollywood studio where they recorded a four-minute, anti-drug video.

"At first they were a little uncomfortable," said Sandra Hay, director of the video for Visual Eyes Productions in Santa Monica. "By the end of the day they were great. They're real hams. They're used to performing. They were able to apply the concentration they use on the court in the studio."

A few seconds into the completed video, Abdul-Jabbar, clad in a green T-shirt and wearing a headset over his shaved head and ears, faces the microphone and declares:

I'm Kareem, the captain of the team,

I don't need drugs,

I got a higher thing.

My skyhook

Makes the team look good

but there's a hook we've got to shake

from the neighborhood.

The project began well before the season ended. For four years, wives of the players had been bringing the Lakers team to schools in Inglewood to deliver personal messages against drug use. This April, they decided to reinforce the message with a rap.

Bribed by a Cajun gumbo dinner cooked by Wanda Cooper, wife of Laker guard Michael Cooper, the Lakers rehearsed one night at the Cooper home and performed the next day at Inglewood High School. When the students danced and screamed their approval, the wives decided they were on to something.

"The day after the parade, these guys were in a studio all day filming an anti-drug video," Wanda Cooper said, describing what happened next. "I looked around and I said, 'I don't know how we pulled this off.' I was astounded. I felt very powerful."

The production, "Just Say No" ($14.98), will be distributed nationally starting Sept. 24 as part of a 20-minute tape that includes film clips of rehearsals and an explanation of how the project developed. The audio portion is already available in local record stores on a 12-inch Capitol disc for $4.98.

Proceeds will support anti-drug programs sponsored by Community Services, Inc., the nonprofit group run by the Lakers' wives.

The Chicago Bears football team recorded a widely distributed rap video in 1985, but spokesmen for the NBA and major-league baseball said their teams have done few anti-drug videos, aside from some public service announcements.

"It would be redundant to do the same 'I'm bad, I'm cool' type of thing," Wanda Cooper said of the Bears' video. "I think (the Lakers) all appreciated that it wasn't going to be a rap extolling their virtues.

"They also appreciated the fact that, because it came out in this format, we were going to be earmarking just the group which we wanted to get"--kids.

Her husband agreed. "Once the season's over, everyone wants to take care of their personal business," Michael Cooper said. "But everyone is making rap videos. I think kids have a tendency to lean towards that. We thought that would be the best way we could get our message across."

Besides, he added, "My wife told me to show up. I showed up."

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