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She has the last Laf

Model-turned-NBA scout breaks into man's world

Posted: Monday March 19, 2007 3:32PM; Updated: Monday March 19, 2007 5:39PM
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Bonnie-Jill Laflin
Whether it's NBA rings or magazine accolades, Bonnie-Jill Laflin is used to winning.
Rama Sobhani
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Bonnie-Jill Laflin always stands out when she's in a crowd. As a former cheerleader, model and actress it's hard not to. On this day, however, she's standing out more than usual. There's no crowd at the Los Angeles D-Fenders-Arkansas Rimrockers NBA Developmental League game at Staples Center, where Laflin is the only person sitting in the seats behind the D-Fenders bench.

While the game changes leads at breakneck speeds, Laflin, wearing a plaid blazer, Capri pants and folding her Dolce & Gabbana-boot-covered legs, is jotting down notes in a folder. It's an interesting sight for a woman who has been named one of Maxim's "Hot 100" Women and "Most Eligible" by FHM, but it begins to make more sense when Laflin heads to the D-Fenders locker room following the team's 136-132 double overtime win.

"We're getting there, boss," says D-Fenders assistant coach Chucky Brown to Laflin. "We're getting there."

Brown, who played 12 years in the NBA, isn't simply humoring Laflin, who instantly grabs the attention of everyone in the room as soon as she walks in. Laflin is the team's assistant general manager as well as the first female scout of the Los Angeles Lakers.

While Laflin chats about the game with Brown, Jackie Manual, who won a national championship with North Carolina two years ago and now plays for the D-Fenders, waves at her and makes sure he also talks with his boss before he leaves.

"The world is changing," says Manuel. "We got women starting to move in higher places and make their mark in sports. When I first saw her I saw a beautiful young lady sitting in the stands and one of the coaches told me that was our GM and I said, 'OK, that's cool with me.'"

Laflin's beauty is the first thing that comes to mind when anyone initially meets her. It's something she certainly doesn't hide from, whether it's her form fitting designer clothes or the scantily clad photos of her modeling on her Web site or even the pristine black-and-white head shot on her game credential.

"You see someone as pretty as she is and you wouldn't think she would know anything about sports," said Brown. "Like most pretty girls they just follow the good team but she knows about the game and we all listen to her opinion. I mean she's my boss so I have to listen to what she says."

In case the coaches or players ever doubt Laflin's knowledge of the game, all they have to do is glance at her meticulously manicured hands and look at two of the three NBA championship rings she owns as a Lakers scout. On this night she is wearing the first two rings she won with the Lakers, one on each hand, with her name etched onto the side. Sitting at home is her ring from the Lakers' last championship, which sits next to her most prized passion, a Super Bowl XXIX ring she won as a member of the San Francisco 49ers' Gold Rush Cheerleading squad in 1995. "Cheering at the Super Bowl was the most amazing experience," she says. "Being in front of all those fans and being so young (20 years old) and actually winning was incredible."

The fact that Laflin even owns a Super Bowl ring came as a surprise to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who has helped Laflin make the unusual transition from cheerleader to scout. "I was unaware that she had a Super Bowl ring," he said. "That's one thing a lot of people in the Laker organization do not have so maybe she could teach us something about football."

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