Kareem Abdul-Jabbar praises Byron Scott for speaking out
A three-time NBA champion with the LA Lakers, Byron Scott was a key player during the Lakers Showtime era. He was a shooting guard, who played alongside Magic Johnson at one point. He averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the postseason during his title years.
Byron Scott stayed on for a few seasons after Magic Johnson retired. He was in the public eye during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. The riots began after an African American named Rodney King was beaten by LAPD officers. The beating took place while King was arrested after a high-speed chase, for driving under the influence.
Despite substantial evidence, including video of the cops beating him for 15 minutes, the jury found the four officers in question not guilty. The acquittal was followed by six days of rioting, leaving 63 dead and more than 2,000 injured. In an interview, Byron Scott sympathized with the protesters. He said he understood how they felt, which immediately caused a backlash towards him.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discussed the incident in the docuseries “Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers.” He gave an overview of the situation at the time.
“At the time, the popular consensus was that cops couldn’t do any harm and that racism was an excuse black people used when they weren’t successful.”
“Every black person in the Lakers — and across America — understood how the protesters felt: angry, frustrated, dangerous, desperate. Saying it publicly took a lot of courage, something Byron has in abundance,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote.
Byron Scott and the LA Lakers played during the riots
As the City of Los Angeles awaited the verdict in the Rodney King case, the Lakers were in the middle of a first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers. On April 29, 1992, the Lakers hosted the Blazers after losing their first two home games. And Rodney King’s verdict came four hours before the game.
The game was tied in the fourth quarter when the announcer issued a warning, directing the crowd away from where the rioting had started.
“When they said, ‘Don’t go east on Manchester,’ I knew what was going on,” former Los Angeles Lakers guard Byron Scott said. “The riots had just about started.”
The LA Lakers ended up winning the game in overtime, despite Clyde Drexler dropping an impressive double-double with 42 points and 12 assists for the Blazers. Lakers players walked out of their arena to a desolate parking lot, which was usually filled with fans waiting for autographs.
The next game in the series was moved to Las Vegas for security reasons as the protest lasted for days. The Lakers’ season ended with a 26-point loss in Game 4 and Byron Scott was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.