Affectionately called “Stumpy”, the diminutive Gail Goodrich had one of the sweetest jump shots in the league from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. He began his career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the their powder blue days. However, those first three seasons were spent as a reserve behind Jerry West and Archie Clark.
Given this glut of guard talent, the Lakers left Goodrich unprotected in the 1968 expansion draft and he was snagged by the Phoenix Suns. Busting loose in the Arizona desert, Goodrich averaged 22 points, 7 assists and rebounds over his two-year tenure with the Suns.
Lucky for Los Angeles, they got a second chance at Goodrich. They sent the center Mel Counts to Phoenix in a trade straight up for Goodrich in 1970 in what is one of the more baffling trades in NBA history. Goodrich continued his career ascendancy back in L.A.
With Goodrich playing alongside Jerry West in the starting lineup now, the Lakers featured one of the highest scoring backcourt combos in NBA history. And also one of the shortest. Neither man stood above 6’2″. The towering Wilt Chamberlain more than made up for their lilliputian attributes. Goodrich scored time and time again off West’s beautiful feeds on the break or off the give-and-go game he and Wilt perfected.
Or Stumpy could rise up and hit any jump shot he damn well pleased.
Goodrich, West and Wilt spearheaded Los Angeles to their memorable 33-game winning streak, 69 total wins, and the NBA title all in 1972. That season also saw Goodrich begin a streak of four straight All-Star appearances. He was lauded as one of the league’s premier scoring guards and snagged a spot on the 1974 All-NBA 1st Team. By 1976, the Lakers had shifted from West and Wilt to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. However, Goodrich only enjoyed one season with Kareem.
He signed as a free agent in the summer of 1976 with the New Orleans Jazz where he teamed with another legendary guard, Pete Maravich. Early on in his first season with New Orleans, though, Goodrich tore his Achilles. He recovered to produce two more good seasons with the Jazz before retiring in 1979.
(Incidentally, New Orleans had to send compensatory picks to the Lakers for signing Goodrich. One of those picks became Magic Johnson)
Today, Goodrich doesn’t come to mind instantly when fans discuss the great shooting guards of all-time. Lakers fans surely know him best thanks to his #25 jersey being retired and his help in creating the longest win streak in NBA history with those 1972 Lakers.
Examining Goodrich in his own time helps to further relay his greatness. Upon his retirement in 1979, he was the NBA’s 11th leading scorer ever. He also had handed the 9th most assists while being one of just 12 players to log over 1000 career games.
Safe to say that Stumpy stood tall in his era and deserves towering recognition for his game today and beyond.
Seasons Played: 1966 – 1979
All-NBA 1st Team (1974)
5x All-Star (1969, 1972-’75)
NBA – 1031 Games
18.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 45.6% FG, 80.7% FT