There's an unofficial locker room code among athletes: what happens behind the scenes stays behind the scenes. But every now and then, someone breaks the code. During the Showtime era, that someone was Mark Landsberger.
"He was dumb like a post"
“Mark Landsberger was a nice kid,”said Claire Rothman, the team’s longtime vice president of booking. “But he was dumb like a post. I’m guessing he literally could not walk and chew gum simultaneously.”
The Lakers acquired Mark in February 1980 via trade with the Bulls. At 6-8, 230 pounds, he was a rebounding machine and, in theory at least, a perfect big man for the team's bench unit. But for all the small things Landsberger brought on the court, his biggest contribution to the team was his ability to make others laugh.
Landsberger's lack of self-awareness resulted in a plethora of stories his teammates loved to tell. From asking his coach whether they have any rebounding plays to his wife bragging about his offseason improvement when Mark learned to use knives and forks while eating, Landsberger anecdotes came in all shapes and sizes. Had he been a hard worker, his impact on the Lakers might've been bigger than just cracking everyone up. However, his bewilderment, coupled with a love of the nightlife, limited Mark's on-court contribution.
"He loved the strip clubs,"Michael Cooper said. "It’d always be, ‘C’mon, Coop, let’s go to the strip clubs! Let’s go!’”
Mark Landsberger snitching story
Landsberger wasn't the only one who enjoyed the nightlife and everything else that derived from being on the Lakers -- that was something every member of the team had in common. But unlike his teammates, Mark was the only one who talked about it with his wife. And to the bafflement of everyone on the roster, he spared no details. So whatever happened on the road would at some point be revealed to Marianna Landsberger.
That brings us to the early weeks of the 1982–83 season.
“I was walking through the press lounge at the Forum one night in 1982,” said Ron Carter, the guard who later worked as Buss' assistant. “There were about seven Laker spouses and girlfriends sitting at a table. I was trying to get through the room as fast as possible, and as soon as I saw them, and the way they were looking at me, I thought, ‘Um, this is not good. This just is not good.’”
The first one to speak was Michael Cooper's wife, Wanda, who was told by Marianna Landsberger that her husband was fooling around while on the road. It doesn't take a genius to realize where she got that information.
“Wanda found out via my wife. She tricked my wife. I told my wife to keep it confidential. So Wanda told my wife that I was cheating on her, and then Marianne told her what I’d said. It got pretty ugly.”
Things got even worse for Mark when he confronted his teammates after realizing he violated the unspoken locker room code. "That’s the angriest I’ve ever seen Kareem,” said former Laker Butch Carter. “Mark was so f-----g stupid. He got Kareem in trouble, Coop in trouble . . . just so f-----g stupid.”
Landsberger was isolated from the rest of the group from that moment on. That was his punishment for sharing stories and letting his wife in on his teammates' secrets. And it might've gotten even worse; we just never got to hear about it. Especially not from Mark.