"If you understand real flow and momentum, you've got to keep the crowd in it through them long TV timeouts," he says. "I know when to stay up. And when I stay up, they stay up. I just get a few of the Nicholson youth to join me." Grin.
Even if it's a minute amount, Nicholson is worth something to the Lakers. "He's kind of a distraction to the other teams," says Maurice Lucas, who played for L.A. last year. "Guys are always looking over and saying, 'Let's see what Jack is doing now.' Jack and his boys are always doing something. And he's always looking at you with those eyeballs."
The Lakers, of course, are as used to seeing Nicholson around as they are to seeing Chick Hearn. One time, in the middle of a fast break, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hollered at Nicholson out of the side of his mouth, "Nice socks."
They were lime green.
With a black suit.
If basketball is thrilled with Nicholson's company, Nicholson is equally thrilled with basketball's. "I think he appreciates what we do," says Kareem. "The way one artist appreciates another's work."
Ask Nicholson why he follows the NBA, and he usually gives it the "Well, it's the game they play at night." But if they played it at sunrise in Bakersfield, he would be there, because Nicholson has a serious crush on artists in high tops. "These guys make plays that are phenomenal," he says. "Like Coop [ Michael Cooper]. I could watch this guy runnin' like a coyote, penetratin' with the ball, bounding so gracefully, comin' from behind to block the layup. I could watch him all day and all night. It's a vision.... The more you know about the game the more you enjoy it. That's why I call it the classical music of sport."
Nicholson also once said of basketball, "When you miss a play, it's a matter of microseconds. Little moments of truth. A game of the immediate."
Ever dogged in his pursuit of the truth, Nicholson has dedicated himself to missing precious little of it.
One night during halftime warmups, Larry Bird dribbled over to Nicholson and said, "Hey, Jack, when you gonna get an honest job?"