Forum Blue & Gold: “Let there be a new NBA basketball champion ensconced in my fabulous new Fabulous Forum.”
-Jack Kent Cooke

A building that in its later years seemed dated and cavernous. The place where all the tired Laker fan stereotypes were born. The same ones that were trotted out once again during this years Finals. Fair weather celebrity fans, those who went to the game to be watched instead of watching. The format of the Forum being unique to arenas of today where one could walk around the “inside track”, while still being able to watch the game.

But those of us who cut our NBA teeth in its confines, have other more positive memories of the column encircled edifice on Manchester Boulevard and Prairie Avenue.

Its story is inextricably entwined with the man whose eccentric vision spawned its existence.

Hey, Jack, why do they call this place Fabulous?”

“…That’s the most stupid question ever to pass through your lips,” Cooke answered. The Forum was packed. Chandeliers hung high over customers ordering drinks from lovely, toga-draped waitresses. A highly paid basketball team cavorted below in its underwear. “What else could they call it?”

When Cooke first owned the Lakers, bought from previous owner Bob Short for in excess of $5 million dollars and paid for in cash, he wanted a hockey team, too.

In order to acquire the expansion NHL franchise that would bring professional hockey to the west coast, Cooke would have to promise to build a new building, and that he did.

“About 2,000 years ago and 6,000 miles east of here.”

Cooke tabbed the architectural firm of Charles Luckman and Associates who had just designed the newly built Madison Square Garden and would later design the LAX Theme Building among other famous American structures. Cooke disliked the preliminary drawings that were presented and asked for something that recalled the architecture of antiquity, a modern day Roman Coliseum.

Cooke would end up spending upwards of $16 million dollars on the land and property combined for Hollywood Park’s new neighbor. It would be Chick that would dub it “Fabulous” and Cooke that would remark that for such a great idea, Hearn would receive “something extra” in his next paycheck. In a vintage Cooke maneuver, Hearn would open the envelope to find a wallet sized photo of the Laker owner.

The Kings would have the honor of playing first on December 30, 1967 with a win over the Philadelphia Flyers. A day later the Lakers would follow suit, christening the new building and the New Year by pounding the San Diego Rockets.

“The most confusing, complex transaction in the history of sports.”

Cooke was getting divorced and his wife was about to be awarded a huge chunk of his $100 million dollar empire. (People’s Court judge Joseph Wapner would preside) Subsequently and for tax reasons, Cooke wanted to trade Jerry Buss the Forum, the Kings, and the Lakers for land holdings instead of cash. Buss would have to tap friend and Clipper owner Donald Sterling for help with funds in a deal that was said to include the lease to The Chrysler Building.

Buss would turn the court side seats that Cooke had famously kicked the press out of to the hottest, and most expensive, ticket in town. With Magic Johnson, who Buss famously insisted the team pick instead of Sidney Moncrief, at the helm the Lakers would dominate the ’80’s and solidify Inglewood as “The City of Champions”.

Like watching the game from the top of a building across the street…

Buss, whose customary seat at the Forum was in the “end zone” underneath the retired numbers, a trick he learned from football scouts so he could see plays develop, was also an innovator. A hybrid owner who placed winning as a priority while still having the business acumen to find new ways to bring in money for the team and the building. He was the first owner to sell the naming rights to a building. In a move that was painful to most fans and begat such silly names as Petco Park, Buss had the Forum renamed The Great Western Forum in a licensing deal that would net $17.8 million dollars.

But the lack of luxury boxes to attract corporate buyers would be the death knell of the Lakers stay. And in 2000 the Lakers would baptize their new building with another championship. Ringed with luxury boxes and having “cheap seats” that were ridiculously high above the action would solidify the perception that the Lakers were a team of the famous, the corporate, and the privileged.

But last year in a move that was applauded by all, the team paid homage to the charm of the Forum with its Lakers only “Lights Out” theatrical flair.

Championships clinched in the Forum:

West and Riley hugging as they ran off the floor in 1972

Cooper battling Dr. J as the Lakers would take the title in 1982

Kareem and Magic hitting big free throws down the stretch in 1987

Isaiah Thomas’ valiant effort in defeat and Big Game James Finals MVP in 1988…

Other memorable non-Laker Forum events:

1968: The first Forum concert featured the duo of Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington.

1973: Muhammad Ali defeats Ken Norton in a split decision, avenging a loss that saw Norton break Ali’s jaw.

1984: Venue for the basketball competition of the XXIII Olympiad in which both USA teams won gold.

I was 11 in 1981 when I saw my first game… When was your first time? What are your best memories?

A Laker I Miss… The Fabulous Forum

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

  • Michaelmichael

    I miss it too I remember when i was 5 years old so obssesed with the lakers and eddie jones and nick van exel and shaq and kobe my dad and my mom took me too see a game and they made a arrangement for me to meet all the players and get there auto graphs and a nba ball and the forum was awesome miss it we should play our pre season there.

  • David

    I’ll never forget my first game, I was 10. Lakers/Suns in 93. I remember Elden Campbell shooting 3’s from the top of the key sitting down in the warmups. Too bad we lost by like 16 pts.

  • Michael_23

    The return of Magic Johnson out of retirement. That team could of gone all the way …

    They were still a young team, even with Magic back.

  • Tim M.

    i fell in love with basketball at the forum.
    fantastic piece.

  • marky

    I was four, nosebleeds with my mom, dad and sister. 1982

  • Fred A.

    If the Knicks want to propose a trade to the Grizzles, I say cut in and try this deal. :)
    From the math prospective:
    This would save us about 3.5 mil. That so we could cut Lamar Odom contract to about 10 mil/per year and cut Chris Mihms contract to about 1.75 mil/per year when there contracts are done. This would put us in the position to resign Bynum to probably a 10 mil/per year salary. This would be good for all 3 players to sign back again.

  • Sam Araghi

    Hey guys,

    I’m the current Marketing Manager here at The Forum and I really enjoyed reading this article written about this amazing building. As a Laker fan and LA native I am truly honored and lucky to be working everyday of the week in a building that hosted some of the greatest events in the history of sports.

    Thank You

    Sam Araghi
    Marketing Manager
    The Forum aka The Fabulous Forum aka The Great Western Forum

  • Sam Araghi

    Also don’t forget to add The Forum on Myspace

  • hibachi

    paul pierce ruled this place too bad he burned it down by a classic game 4 comeback and a 39 points beat down in boston… thanks for another nba history… banner 18 will be next…

  • Gregory Wright

    I remember being in the building and the Lakers losing to the Seattle Super Sonics in the play offs.
    The announcer ended the game with, “BE sure to return to the Faulous Forum next year for a MAGICAL SEASON”

    They drafted Magic Johnson and the rest is history!

  • Gregory Wright

    I spent many days and nights inthe Forum. I moved to LA in Feb. 78. I saw Mitch injure his knee, Cooper hold Larry Birdto 8 points, George Gervin go for36 on a number of finger rolls,
    even the triple header preseason games where great. We could pass by Chick and say hello and seeing Mike Mcgee park and walk in to the building. the east west ame ( Hope I got the year right) and the Hakeem in the playoffs. I hated to see Kevin Johnson torch them in the playoffs but each memory is special. Coming here from St. Louis and being a fan of the Hawks and Spirits ( hating West and Elgin) this was a move to the big time for me. Thanks for the memories and for the new ones to come…fyi I met Vic the Brick at Pomona last week and got a pic with him…Lakers for ever and I still and always have HATED THE CELTICS!

  • Steve

    Besides only seeing two Lakers games there (one being “Elgin Baylor Night” and the other the incredible 63 point blowout of Golden State during the 33 game win streak), I saw numerous rock concerts, George Harrison, Paul McCartney (with & without Wings), Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Crosby/Stills/Nash…including my first rock concert ever, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

    After so many years of going to events (including many Kings games during the Vachon/Dionne era), I had discovered the quickest ways in & out of the parking lots and still never missed a minute of a game or concert. (except the one Kings/Rangers game that I didn’t drive…it was 3-0 Rangers by the time I entered the building with 15:00 left to go in the first period)

    The closest I’ve gotten to Staples Center is driving by at 70mph going north on the 110. For some reason it doesn’t have the same appeal for me to attend a game…and Arrowhead Pond (uh, excuse me, the Honda Center, in Anaheim is much closer for me to attend concerts).

    As much as I miss the Forum, I miss the voice of Chick Hearn even more. (sorry, I just am not a Joel Meyers fan)

  • Showtime 88

    Lakers win game 7 vs. the Pistons and are Champs, Back 2 Back in 1988. I was 9 years old, living a few miles down Prairie Ave in Lawndale. My dad has the family jump in the van, and we cruise toward the Forum right after the game. People partying and celebrating all over the streets in the City of Champions.

    One of my greatest Laker moments of all time, high fiving and celebrating with the ’88 Laker Nation right outside of the Forum as a kid. Incredible.

  • Jonny Blaze

    My first Laker game at the Forum was during the 1988-89 season when the expansion Miami Heat came to town for the first time. The game was a total blowout. Magic had something like 23 assists tying his record. I still have the ticket stub