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James Worthy: Ready for a Repeat

By Daisy Lin
Dec. 17, 2020
James Worthy. (Photo credit): Vivien Killilea/Stringer/Getty Images for First Entertainment

To kick off the NBA Season, the basketball legend talks about Lakers prospects for 2021, and giving back during the pandemic.

He is known as “Big Game” James for his ability to come through at crunch time during decisive games to score big wins. Basketball legend James Worthy helped lead the Lakers to NBA championships in 1985, 1987 and 1988, making a total of seven NBA Finals appearances and slam-dunking his way into basketball history. Now, he continues to make an impact on the community through his volunteer work.

Worthy never forgot where he came from. As a kid growing up in North Carolina, he participated in the Boys and Girls Club, and began playing basketball so that he could get a scholarship to help his parents with the bills. This spirit of giving back has stayed with him. In the middle of the pandemic, Worthy, along with basketball great Robert Horry, ventured out to the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center in Los Angeles to distribute goodie bags to families from the Boys and Girls Club, Los Angeles Fire Department, and other community groups in a socially distanced drive-in movie event. It was part of “A Season of Giving,” East West Bank’s 14th annual presenting partnership with the Lakers, where they distribute turkeys, toys, and other gifts to families in need during the holiday season every year.

James Worthy hands out gift bags to families

Worthy talks to Reach Further about the Lakers prospects for next year, and why he continues to volunteer.

What a year for the Lakers—from tragedy to triumph this year. What does the Lakers' 2020 NBA Championship win mean to you?

It was not only a courageous championship, to be in the bubble, but it also had a lot of healing effect to it. We hadn’t reached the peak of grieving for Kobe, Gianna and the rest of the impacted families. So to sustain that type of team chemistry needed in the bubble, along with the social justice events happening outside it, took a lot of emotion. It gave people something to turn to, to distract them. The Lakers displayed poise, endurance, perseverance and were able to represent goodness and positivity throughout. Getting Championship number 17 and tying the Celtics also makes me happy.

James Worthy, Robert Horry, and East West Bank staff at the Thanksgiving Season of Giving event

What do you think about the Lakers’ chances for a repeat next year? As the team undergoes some changes, what do you think the Lakers need to focus on next year to be consistent?

I think their chances are great. They still have the same engine in LeBron and AD (Anthony Davis), and I think the additions that they made have been incredible. Didn’t expect them to pick up the level of players they were able to add. Montrell (Harrell) was a huge addition, as we lost some of our bigs, and Dennis (Schröder) and Wes (Matthews) are great additions. We lost one defense player of the year, we picked another one up. When you can replace players with quality, with youth and players who want to win, you have a great opportunity.

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You have participated for a couple of years now with Lakers community partner East West Bank in our joint holiday events for the community. This year, you helped to greet and hand out swag bags to families of the LA Fire Department, LAPD, the Boys and Girls Club and more at a special drive-in movie night, even in the middle of the pandemic. Why did you volunteer? What was the experience like?

It’s a continuation of what the Lakers have always done since I have arrived here in the early ‘80s. The Lakers always had a connection to the community, from Inglewood, to Downtown, to everywhere over Southern California. The Lakers have their antennas up and are looking to support entities the way they are able to. As for the drive-in, I am a fan, as they used to be very popular. Greeting kids and families getting ready for Space Jam just was everything the Lakers stand for. It was like game day! It was a nice form of appreciation for our community, to give them something to do when everything has been pretty much closed. It was an awesome gesture.

Outdoor screening of Space Jam

As someone who knows the importance of teamwork, any thoughts on that as we all come together to try to beat COVID-19?

You can’t succeed without teamwork. Regardless of how much talent or money you have, it doesn’t add up. That is only the start. Being able to work with people, work with one another and accept roles, is key. It’s the same way we get through business. We listen, we constructively critique and go towards the common goal. That is key. To understand what each individual is bringing to the table, so you can sustain it.

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