At the start of every season, Pat Riley, the coach of the Showtime Lakers, would invite players and their spouses for dinner. He'd then give a long speech about everyone's roles in winning a championship. To sum it up, Pat required men only to be focused on basketball and women to take care of everything else.
According to Jeff Perlman, what went unspoken was also, "What happens on the road stays on the road." Translation; don't ask too many questions and try putting up with whatever goes on behind the scenes. Assuming everyone did what they were supposed to do, Riley guaranteed title, money, and glory for everyone involved.
But putting up with whatever was easier said than done.
The aura of Showtime
It's no secret NBA individuals attract beautiful women -- that's especially the case in this day and age where social media made even the lesser-known players more recognizable. But the aura of Showtime put the Lakers of the 80s in a category of their own. Fast forward four decades and their popularity is yet to be matched.
“It was as if they were in a rock band. They’d go to a town, and the groupies were everywhere.”
Being a member of the Showtime Lakers meant no effort was required to wind up in the presence of a beautiful woman. Au contraire; they were the ones doing the hunting. "I’ll always remember pulling into Houston one year in the middle of the night, and there were five drop-dead gorgeous women in the lobby of the hotel,” said Josh Rosenfeld, the team’s longtime media relations director. “And as the guys went to their rooms, you saw the women one by one go to the pay phones.”
"They were a team of whores"
According to Pearlman, perfume-scented notes always awaited the players—one or two for someone like Landsberger or Mike McGee, thirty or forty for stars the magnitude of Johnson or Nixon. And none of them could resist the temptation.
“It was crazy,” said Ron Carter, the guard who later worked as Buss’ assistant. “They were a team of whor*s, and Magic was the biggest who*e. Not just on the team—the biggest whore I’d ever seen. He loved women— two, three at a time. One day we were on the road and I asked him, ‘When the hell do you sleep? Do you ever sleep?’ "
We’d show up at a hotel in a new city, and there’d be two or three women specifically waiting for him. He’d sleep with them, then kick them out. At shootaround later in the day, there’d be two or three more girls. He’d sleep with them. Then, after the game, there’d be two or three more girls. He’d sleep with them. Earvin didn’t drink and Earvin didn’t smoke and Earvin didn’t touch drugs. His vice was women.”
Magic himself admitted that one of the most irresistible aspects of his NBA lifestyle was sex. The Lakers legend, unfortunately, paid the price for it. On January 7, 1991, Johnson announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV.
By his own admission, Magic's proclamation steered the public attention away from his success on the court, creating an image of a man "who led a life filled with the indulgences and privileges" that derived from his fame. The same goes for every other member of the Showtime Lakers. But Johnson was the only one whose disease shed the light on everything that was happening behind the scenes.
His wife, Cookie, was able to look past it. Based on the success of the Showtime Lakers, most of their spouses did the same thing. In the end, their run resulted in everything Riley would promise during his season-opening monologue -- titles, money, glory. But it sure took a lot of sacrifice from everyone involved to get there.