It's less than five minutes before airtime, and James Worthy is still in his cubicle at the KCBS and KCAL studios in Los Angeles. He's fixing his tie, dabbing on makeup and teasing the interns for not doing any work. "Watch the game," he tells one, pointing at the TV screen behind him before swiping candy from the kid's desk. "Gotcha," Worthy says, laughing as he walks to the set.
It's been 11 years since he retired from the Los Angeles Lakers, but the 6'9" small forward known as Big Game James is still connected to the team, serving as a studio analyst for its telecasts. "I always wanted to get into broadcasting," says Worthy, who spent his entire 12-year Hall of Fame career with the Lakers. "I've worked with legends like Chick Hearn and Dick Enberg and interviewed guys like Tiger Woods, so I can't complain." He is also the senior vice president of RP & Associates, an integrated marketing-services and product-manufacturing company in Hermosa Beach.
A native of Gastonia, N.C., Worthy helped North Carolina win the 1982 NCAA championship with a Final Four MVP performance as a junior. Then he left for the NBA, becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft. He played behind Jamaal Wilkes for two seasons before his swooping one-handed dunks became as synonymous with the Lakers' Showtime era as Magic Johnson's no-look passes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhooks.
Worthy is probably best known for his Game 7 triple double--36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists--against the Detroit Pistons in the 1988 NBA Finals, which ended with L.A. winning its fifth championship in eight years and Worthy being voted Finals MVP. But his fondest memory is of beating the Celtics in Boston Garden for his first NBA title, in '85. "That's the one I cherish because it was my first and we did it in the Garden after losing to them for so many years," says Worthy. "I remember listening to [ Boston coach] K.C. Jones talking about Magic and Kareem after the game, then saying, 'But the guy that really did it for them was James Worthy.' I'll never forget that."
These days Worthy, who is divorced and lives in Bel Air with his daughters Sable, 15, and Sierra, 13, doesn't talk about his career unless someone brings it up. In fact, when he took his daughters to a Britney Spears concert at Staples Center three years ago, Sierra looked up at the rafters and said, "Look, Dad, someone has the same name as ours." Worthy looked to where Sierra was pointing, laughed when he saw his retired number 42 jersey and said, "That's me, Sierra."