Q: What does the team mean to Los Angeles, and how has that changed over time?
A: They came (to L.A. from Minneapolis) in 1960. The first year, no one in town would broadcast them not one of the 28 existing radio stations. It's changed dramatically. It all started in the '60s, when they had Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. After they won their first championship in '71-'72, the city recognized them. And then came the '80s, with Magic, which brought a new design to the game for Los Angeles "showtime" and the ability to entertain as well as play with greatness. That grabbed the city. I do think this (current) team has revitalized the interest of the fans. People in Hollywood and L.A. want to be entertained. They'll spend big dollars and they have to spend big dollars to watch them at Staples to be entertained. (But) you have to have a winner. If you're not winning, you're not going to have any success. You can ask other teams in this city about that.
Q: Salaries and tickets are higher than ever, and sports arenas are fancier. How does that change things for the average fan?
A: That's one thing that worries me. Your future fan is the youngster. Where are they going to get the money to see the game? Where will today's father and mother get the money to take a family of four to see a game? My God, you're talking about $600, and you haven't had any popcorn yet. In every (basketball) market there's a new building going up. (Driving that) are the (luxury) boxes. That's how the owners can afford to pay the players the money they do.
Q: What's your take on the escalating salaries? Does it affect performance?
A: The majority of athletes realize they're being paid exorbitant amounts of money, more than anyone ever dreamed. The average salary in the NBA is over $2 million per man. Kobe Bryant is 21 years old, and in a couple of years when he gets a new contract, he's going to be paid a number that's probably incomprehensible.
Q: Is the league less competitive these days?
A: A good athlete always plays his best. There are some that shirk their duties, but they don't last long. When you go back to the Jerry West days in the 1960s and through the '70s, you had only 12 teams in the league. Now, we have 29 teams. In my opinion, I don't think you have the same caliber of competition that you used to have. Maybe 70 percent of the players in the league could have played in those golden days. Most of the 12-man rosters contain people who'd be better off learning the skills of the game in the minor leagues or playing in Europe.
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