They were the team to beat in the 1980s -- and didn't they know it. In just a few months, the 1986-'87 Los Angeles Lakers would take Showtime to a new level with their fourth championship in eight years, so who's to blame them for a moment of silliness? Sometimes in hubris lies great camp.
In January '87, for a Miller Lite promotional poster, the team headed down to Redondo Beach, where Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell and his wife Patty kept their 74-foot yacht, Disappearance. The team, in all its thigh-baring '80s-era glory, was captured by NBA senior photographer Andy Bernstein. As for the concept? Blame Lon Rosen, director of promotions for the Lakers (and now a William Morris agent) for taking the players on this afternoon cruise.
"Back then we used to take these creative posters and do all kinds of crazy things," Rosen said. "And I thought it would be fun to do a 'Love Boat' takeoff. I wanted [coach Pat] Riley to be dressed as Capt. Stubing up there on the helm, but getting him to wear white was the best we could do." (Next to Riley is assistant coach Bill Bertka.)
The mostly improvised shoot came together at the last minute, according to Bernstein. The result shows A.C. Green leaning at the prow (clutching a Cabbage Patch doll dressed in a Body Glove wetsuit), Magic Johnson (32) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), both wielding fishing rods and big grins. "If you look at the angle of Kareem's fishing pole, it's a bit . . . uh . . . questionable, but I couldn't really see that at the time," Bernstein said.
Also on deck (from left) are Byron Scott, trainer Gary Vitti, assistant coach Randy Pfund, Kurt Rambis (31) (fish in hand), Mychal Thompson (43), Michael Smrek (52), Michael Cooper (21), Adrian Branch (24), James Worthy (42), Wes Mathews (1) and Billy Thompson (55).
As for the subliminal message, look no deeper than Pfund dressed in a '20s-era bathing suit. He's holding an inflatable globe poised atop the hoop. "Randy Pfund, being the young, young coach, was absolutely the sacrificial lamb," Rosen recalls. "He had to dress in that ridiculous suit."