NBA: The Top 10 Celebrities Who Can Replace Jack Nicholson As LA Laker Fan No. 1
With the new NBA 2010-2011 season upon us and the Los Angeles Lakers embarking on a three-peat quest, I wanted to check-in on the Lakers' No. 1 Fan: Jack Nicholson. Might this be a last run for him as well as Phil Jackson?
Jack Nicholson isn’t getting any younger. How many more seasons does he have in him? It raises the real and fun question: Who’s the next Jack? And, why should the torch be passed to this new person?
Besides longtime Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, Jack Nicholson is the enduring face of the Lakers. It seems he’s been there as long as the Lakers have been in LA. And it is almost true. Most Lakers’ fans barely have a small clue how much Jack loves the game and his beloved Lakers. But nobody realizes what a diehard sports-junkie this guy really is.
But Jack won’t be around forever. So, I wanted to take a look at what celebs would be in the running to take up the torch—take the pass, so to speak—from Jack, as the Lakers’ No. 1 fan.
It’s not an easy title to grab. We’re talking about big shoes to fill, if that is even possible. It might really be like replacing Chick Hearn. I’m not really sure it can be done. It is possible that when Jack is done, no one will ever match up. I believe it can’t be done.
But at least we can give it a shot. Before I start with the top 10 who are in the running, I want to outline some criteria of the key traits I’m looking for.
These areas all come from what I see Jack possessing. The criteria are:
1. Star power. Look, Jack is a multiple time Academy Award-winning actor. He’s a major star, gets paid massive dough and can really act. Anyone see The Shining? He’s “A” list Hollywood. Any real replacement would need to be at or near Jack’s level.
2. Dedication. Jack is at nearly every home game. This goes for the dog days of February. He was also in his courtside seat during non-title run seasons and, dare I say, the rare occurrence of non-playoff seasons. He even attends road games, but not as many as he used to. He has passion as a fan and passion for the Lakers. Any replacement would have to be really dedicated to the Lakers.
3. Knowledge of the game. Jack played point guard in high school and his love and knowledge of the game have never waned. Opposing coaches and players regard Jack as a real fan because of his depth of knowledge. He is not just a fan, but a hoops junkie. When he rides an opposing coach or ref, he does it from authenticity. He knows what he is talking about. Any replacement would have to know the game of basketball through-and-through, be a real junkie.
So, that’s what I'm looking for in a replacement for Jack. Can anyone even come close to carrying that torch? No.
Jack is an icon. He’s a Laker Nation treasure. We need to relish every moment he’s courtside, screaming, throwing choke signs at opposing players, berating an opposing coach. Jack is Jack. There will never—I repeat, never—be anyone like him. Personally, I’ll savor him for years to come because, knowing Jack, he’s far from done.
But, the day will come.
So, here are my contenders who are in the running to be the next Jack.
No. 10: Dustin Hoffman
He’s been going to Lakers games since the 1970s. He’s got the star power down. Academy Awards. Check. Big name. Check.
But, he barely makes the top 10 because he simply isn’t a hoops guy through-and-through. He has a like for the game, but his love doesn’t burn deep. We don’t see him with the passion it takes to really be a No. 1 fan. And, that’s why he’s last on our list and first to be bumped by anyone new coming up.
No. 9: Jeffrey Katzenberg
Katzenberg (right) with Tom Cruise
One of the owners of Dreamworks, this guy is all Hollywood. And the stars of star sit next to him in his seats. You’ll see Tom Cruise (in pic above) and the like sitting next to Katzenberg all the time.
Katzenberg loves the game and has a good passion for it. And he’ll be at games all season long; he isn’t a fair-weather guy. But his star power is weak, as the average fan doesn’t know him. He’s a movie power-guy, but not in front of the camera. With his power and love of the game, he'd be higher if we knew who he was.
No. 8: Will Ferrell
Likes the Lakers, just not sure if he loves them. Has a deep knowledge of basketball and he's passionate about sports. Just not sure that the Lakers are his No. 1 favorite. See him more in love with the USC Trojans and their football team.
But, he is a strong Lakers fan.
No. 7: Denzel Washington
No. 7 is Denzel Washington.
Well, he’s got star-power nailed. He’s right up there with Jack. Hit movies. Academy Awards.
He also really knows the game. He grew up playing as a kid at his local Boys and Girls Club. He now is that non-profit’s biggest sponsor.
But he just doesn’t seem to attend that many games. He’s there when the games count, during the playoffs for sure. Because he makes plenty of movies, he’s not always there during the regular season. He makes great movies, but so does Jack. And the legend goes that Jack re-schedules his movies around Laker games. I don’t see Denzel doing that.
He could get higher, but for now, this is his spot.
No. 6: Andy Garcia
Andy Garcia grew up loving the Lakers from across the continent—in Florida.
"The Lakers were one of the teams I followed when I was a kid in Florida because of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor," Garcia told a reporter. "We didn't have a team in Florida. And my first exposure was watching the games on television. We wouldn't have games on TV every night, but when the Lakers were in the playoffs you'd get much more exposure to them."
Garcia received the ultimate L.A. welcome when he attended his first Lakers game at the Forum as a guest of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. Garcia, who has had season tickets since the early '80s, now watches his beloved team from his seats in the fourth row opposite the Lakers bench.
And, he did the commentary for a Lakers documentary on ESPN in 2010. This guy knows the game, attends nearly every home contest and has solid star power.
But Garcia doesn’t have superstar power. He’s close, real close, to having it all. But no.
No. 5: Hilary Swank
Don’t gulp just yet!
While an odd choice on the surface, she is actually a diehard fan. She even goes to road games. Not many of the other stars on this list can boast that.
Hilary was in Phoenix for Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
She has the star power, with two Academy Awards. Her only drawback is that I don’t know if she has a deep knowledge of the game. But let’s keep our eye on her. She’s an up-and-comer.
No. 4: Ice Cube
This guy grew up in LA (South Central LA, no less) and his love of the Lakers isn’t in question.
He’s even been quoted as saying to one source: "I was a Lakers fan in the womb. My mother screamed at a Lakers game for Elgin Baylor or Jerry West and I was a fan from there. I go to every game. It's an experience."
And, like Jack, he’s not one of the quiet celebs. He’ll yell, cheer and let go in the course of a tight game.
"This is my box, so I'm up here hanging out, yelling," Cube said. "I'm yelling from up here. I'm surprised you don't hear me, but I'm a screamer. I scream at the fans. I scream at the officials. I scream at the players, the coach, whoever's not doing their job...I'm screaming at 'em."
There’s two reasons why Ice Cube only makes it this far on this list.
For most games, he’s up in a luxury box, not on the floor. The Lakers’ No. 1 fan must be courtside all the time. And, Ice Cube just doesn’t quite have real star-power, even though he does movies.
If not for those two things, he’d be higher.
No. 3. Flea
Flea and Anthony Kiedis, the two founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote not one but two songs about the Lakers on their 1989 album Mother's Milk: a demo called "Salute To Kareem" and "Magic Johnson."
Flea loves the Lakers and even blogs about them. And, he played the national anthem before a game on a horn.
He and Kiedis have the dedication, being at as many games as they possibly can. These two are real diehards. And they have the star power to go with it.
But Flea only gets this high on our list because he isn't an actor and, if we’re looking to replace Jack, it just seems natural that our top spot goes to an actor.
No. 2: Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg (real name Calvin Broadus) is LA through-and-through. Or, more specifically, Long Beach through-and-through. Or, even more specifically, as Snoop used to say, "Strong Beach."
He’s got it all: dedication, knowledge, and star power. But sometimes, it seems like he's more baked than into the game.
Snoop's in the running for our top spot. But again, in the intangible department, it just doesn't feel right to replace Jack with someone other than an A-list actor.
So Snoop sticks at No. 2.
No. 1: Leo DiCaprio
A native of Los Angeles and a hoops junkie who actually starred in a movie about a junkie who played hoops, The Basketball Diaries, Leonardo DiCaprio has been a fixture at Staples Center since the late '90s.
While he often tried to go to games relatively incognito, with a cap pulled down tight, DiCaprio, a three-time Academy Award nominee, is a hard person to miss at games. He still wears the cap, still seems like he wants to hide, but he's always there, watching and cheering.
Leo knows the game, attends as many games as Jack and is in the upper-stratosphere of Hollywood. That combination gets him the top spot.
Our only concern with giving him No. 1 is he isn’t animated like Jack. Maybe that will come. If not, he could slip to second and Snoop could push into first.
For now, Leo is my choice to replace Jack.
Sandler sitting next to Jack
Anthony Banderas. The 1980s superstar is a diehard Laker fan. He’s at most home games and every playoff. But, since he is from Spain originally, we’re not sure if he still loves soccer (or futbol) more than basketball. And his star power has waned.
Diane Cannon. This legendary hollywood actress has been a fixture at Laker games almost as long as Jack. She’s also sat in the same spot for decades, right on the baseline, near the tunnel to the Lakers’ lockeroom. But she was a star way back and most fans today know her only from Laker games, not the movies. Sorry Diane. You’ve got dedication and knowledge down to an art. But that can’t get you on the list.
Adam Sandler. Seems to really love hoops. He attends many, many Laker games. He has the star power. He’s sure funny like Jack. But, I’m just not sure of the dedication. Is he attending the games in February? How about the lesser teams? And, here’s the real question with Sandler: Is he really a diehard Laker-only fan? He might be a Knick in Laker clothing. Not going to get any higher on the list because we can’t trust him.
David Beckham. He is a regular now at most games. He’s got the star power. And he does know the game. But he’s a gypsy. Is he only going to games because he’s moved to LA, and now plays for the LA Galaxy? If he heads back to Europe, it’s over. He’s got game for the moment but no longevity. Jack’s been going to games for over 40 years.