December 13, 1971
The president of National Fairways, Inc., a golf course acquisition and management company, leans back in a plush leather chair in his Greenwich, Conn., office. On his walls are diagrams and photos of some of the company's 15 courses; on the floor lies a carpet the color of a putting green. That Gail Goodrich, a self-described hack with a 15 handicap, has an air of success about him isn't surprising. As a 6'1" guard, he scored a team-high 25.9 points per game for the 1971-72 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, whose 33-game winning streak remains a record for professional sports. "I'm not sure that will be broken for a while," he says.
Goodrich weighed just 135 pounds when he led Poly High in the San Fernando Valley to the Los Angeles city championship in 1961. He was called Twig at UCLA, where he helped the Bruins to the first two of their 11 NCAA titles, setting a then championship-game record with 42 points against Michigan in 1965. When Goodrich joined the Lakers that year, he was given an even less flattering nickname. " Elgin Baylor called me Stumpy," he says, "because I had short legs and long arms."
The moniker may have described his stature but not his game. With a hair-trigger, lefthanded release, Goodrich had a gift for cutting taller players down to size. Along with Jerry West, he formed one of the finest backcourts in NBA history. "We complemented each other so well," says Goodrich, 55. "If Jerry went one way with the ball, I knew exactly what he was going to do."
Goodrich made five All-Star appearances over 14 seasons—nine with the Lakers, two with the Phoenix Suns and three with the New Orleans Jazz—before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. He got involved in golf course development through contacts he made while helping to run the basketball venue during the '84 Summer Olympics in L.A. Six years ago he moved to Greenwich, where he lives with his second wife, Toni. Goodrich has three children from his first marriage: Brien, 25, and twin daughters Jaime and Linsay, 21.
On Nov. 20, 1996, the Lakers retired Goodrich's number 25. An eight-foot-high copy of his jersey hangs from the ceiling at The Forum alongside those of former teammates Baylor, West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain and fellow greats Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Not bad company for a lefty named Stumpy.