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Showtime: Montana State's Derrick Abell recalls growing up around 1980s Lakers

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Posted at 1:00 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 18:19:51-04

Derrick Abell has that championship feeling again.

More than 35 years ago, he played a key role on Montana State's 1984 national title football team. Now his childhood-favorite NBA team is on the brink of winning another.

Abell is now the Chief of Police in Manhattan Beach, Calif., not far from where he grew up in Inglewood. Most die-hard sports fans know what's synonymous with Inglewood: Showtime Lakers Basketball of the 1980s. And Abell, figuratively, had a front-row seat.

"Going back to Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Magic (Johnson)," Abell recalled to MontanaSports.com from his police office, "... I can remember very distinctively when Magic came to the Lakers at the age of 19 and took them to that championship. And (I remember) what we were doing that year in high school. I think we all remember that time when he scored 42 points -- as a center! -- playing for the Lakers."

Abell, who at one point thought about becoming a sportscaster, said he took a job after college with the L.A. Times thinking that might be his first step. Instead, it sparked interest in law enforcement. He's pulled duty on the SWAT Team and was a young officer who worked the civil unrest of the 1990s LA riots.

After graduating from MSU, Abell and his wife were living back in Inglewood when the neighborhood was set on fire.

"I remember very distinctly, Manchester, the street we lived near, was on fire and people were looting businesses and taking things," Abell told MontanaSports.com in June.

The Lakers no longer play in Inglewood. They're in downtown Los Angeles at Staples Center and closing in another NBA title, holding a 2-1 lead over the Miami Heat in their current best-of-seven series. The Lakers can tie the Boston Celtics for most NBA World Championships with 17 if they close out the Heat.

This year's run brings Abell back to his glory years of living only a bike ride away from the Great Western Forum where Showtime drew a who's who of A-list celebrities.

"It's funny you say that, I used to ride my bike down Forum Way -- my 10-speed -- that I used to go to and from football practice two-a-days," he said. "Standing by Forum Way, the doors to the entrance downstairs where the superstars and all the movie stars went, is where you would hang out as a kid waiting for just one Laker to show up and get a chance to maybe have an autograph or at least see them."

Abell said he never got that chance, but recalled memories that proved even more genuine.

"When I had hair, I went to a barbershop in Inglewood, Morningside Park Barbershop," he said. "You can't imagine how many Lakers would show up. But Magic was always the guy in the community who showed up, got his hair cut there and talked to people as if they were just people from the neighborhood and that's what makes barbershops so special. He would talk to people as if you had known him for years and I appreciated that about him. He came down to earth. He didn't have to do that, but he would talk to us on our level and it was pretty special."

You can bet those Inglewood barbershops are buzzing again.