When it comes to Lakers icons you don’t have to look any further than the purple and gold jerseys hanging in the rafters in STAPLES Center. Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and most recently Jamaal Wilkes and Shaquille O’Neill had iconic Lakers careers, personality, and success. They’re jerseys are visual proof of one thing that we already knew, they would not be forgoten.
But there is another Laker who is just as iconic who is coming back to Los Angeles. Mark Madsen is every bit as iconic in LA over the last 15 years. And even if he has no coaching accumen, from a PR standpoint there is no one outside of Phil Jackson who could be better at making the struggling D-League relevant.
Madsen’s individual statistics are about as unimpressive as they come for a 9 year NBA career. But he won 3 NBA titles with the Lakers before signing with the Timberwolves as a free agent.
Mad Dog might not dance on the floor like Marquette’s Buzz Williams, but I know his enthusiasm is infectious, and strongly believe he was a pivotal contributor to the Lakers’ three-peat despite his limited playing time.
Madsen was the Lakers backup center in the days of the Big Diesel’s interior domination. But he routinely came into the season out of shape. Madsen hustled at levels unseen in the NBA. NBA fans have been looking for hustle as fervently as anyone has looked for Bigfoot, and Mad Dog brought it. But he wasn’t regarded as a very skilled player.
If Shaq was lazy and out of shape, and he played against the hustle monster that is the questionably skilled Mark Madsen, I believe that Madsen embarrassed Shaq into shape. At some point Shaq Diesel’s pride would have come into play, and worked hard enough to get back into shape, and to stop being embarrassed by Madsen. You are only as good as who who practice against, and Madsen was the best.
Before being named to their current positions, I doubt many coaches in the NBA D League earned an MBA from Stanford Business school. But despite his circuitous route back to Purple and Gold, Mark Madsen is the perfect match for the LA professional development team.