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IRELAND:Former Sea King no paper boy

Q&A WITH JOHN

The sportscaster on TV with KCAL Channel 9 and on the radio with ESPN got his start delivering the local newspaper back in the day.

August 07, 2007|By Matt Szabo

A: It's very fun. Sometimes it's hard to take off my "Laker fan" hat. I make no apologies for the fact that I grew up a Laker fan, and I'm still a huge Laker fan. But sometimes you've got to go on the air and say, "They're playing terrible tonight. They look awful, and that's the story."

The guy who convinced me that's what you've got to do is [the late Lakers broadcaster] Chick Hearn. Chick would say, "John, you grew up here, so it must be fun covering the Lakers. Remember though, you've got to tell the truth." We owe a debt of gratitude to Chick, because he made it OK to tell the truth.

Chick used to get yelled at by Jack Kent Cooke, the old owner of the Lakers. He would say, "Mr. Hearn, you said nothing nice about my Lakers." And Chick would say, "It's 28 to 4! What nice would you like me to say?" So Chick kind of gave all of us a free pass to tell it like it is, and that helped a lot.

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Q: Covering the Lakers three-peat of NBA titles [in 2001-03], was that the most fun thing you've ever covered?

A: Yeah, those three were fun. I kind of got to know that team as it grew up. I watched Shaq and Kobe get swept out of the playoffs by San Antonio, and lose in five games to Utah. I watched the growth process … and we did some really fun stuff at those NBA Finals, in Indiana, Philly and New Jersey.

I think because I had spent some time with those guys, they were comfortable letting me do some goofy stuff with them. I remember one time I did a story and I gave all of them a history test. [Robert] Horry and [Mark] Madsen and [Derek] Fisher and [Rick] Fox, all of those guys would play ball with me. That was the highlight of my time at KCAL, covering those three titles.

Q: What do you think about Kobe this summer? It seems like all of Los Angeles didn't know what would happen next.

A: I think he's really frustrated, but I think a lot of Laker fans are also really frustrated. I think they understand where he's coming from. And I talk to the front office a lot, and they're not happy with what's happening. But I think most fans agree with Kobe. They think the Lakers should either make a trade, or go get Jerry West, and until they do one of those things he won't back down.

In this particular case, he's got fan support on his side. Obviously it hasn't always been on his side, with all of the stuff he's gone through, but with this it is.

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