EL SEGUNDO, CA-The Los Angeles Lakers were light years away from other NBA teams when the Laker Girls first came on the scene. A thank you should be in order for Dr. Jerry Buss for that vision.
It was Dr. Buss who came up with the idea of hot looking women providing entertainment to the fans while players were getting game strategy barked at them on the sidelines during timeouts or being drawn up at halftime.
The Laker Girls were the first of their kind. As you can imagine, when you are the first of something, it is a pretty good notion that shock and awe are going to be part of the verbiage used to describe your initial introduction. Of course, that is what the Lakers and the Laker Girls went through.
They shocked and wooed fans and critics alike. The fact of having beautiful women perform sexy dance gyrations to music while dressed in skintight shorts or mini-skirts was an immediate eye-popper. It grabbed people’s attention like nobody’s business.
It also proved to be a winner for Buss, the NBA and for other professional sports teams.
Today, lining up the loveliest women who combine personality, beauty, dance professionalism and a community-minded concept is about as common a sight as watching SportsCenter. What is not common are the Laker Girls. The Laker Girls are still considered to be the Gold Standard for which sports dance teams try to emulate.
There are the Laker Girls, and then there is everybody else. This is why the team annually checks in hundreds of women during the summer for open auditions. Novices and experienced pros alike that believe they have what it takes to become a Laker Girl.
That seemed to be the sentiment of many of the women going through the tryout process at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, California on Saturday, July 9. Some participants, like Stantasia, came out an hour and a half early before the 9 a.m. check-in time.
“My mom has always told me if you’re not the first in line, you’re always late,” Stantasia said. So if someone has the same passion as I do in dancing, I would be an hour early. I came out here because I have always wanted to be a Laker Girl. It’s always been one of my dreams.”
Coming into the tryout, Stantasia had never auditioned to be a Laker Girl or for any other sports teams. Her dance experience was more on the regular cheer side. A runner in college who participates in a whole plethora of events, including the hurdles and sprints, Stantasia likens dancing to the movement of a hurdler.
“I think that hurdles is more like dancing because you have to have techniques, you have to have rhythm, you have to have a perfect start, a perfect finish, and in between the hurdles and going over the hurdles,” she said. “There so much motion that you have to do at the same exact time, so it’s more similar to it.”
Maria is a big-time Laker fan. When it comes to the best of the best, Kobe Bryant is her all-favorite player. But what drew Maria to the Lakers is the philanthropy work the franchise does. She particularly likes the community involvement of the Laker Girls.
“I love the community that they have. I love being community-involved,” Maria said. “I grew up in this community. They give back a lot, and being part of an incredible franchise is better than me doing it alone and no one knowing who I am. It’s better when you work for a team, and as a team, because you can cover more ground and help your neighborhood.”
When it comes dancing, Maria covers quite a bit of ground herself. Her repertoire as an entertainer includes bellydancing, salsa dancing, ballet and hip hop. She came to the audition a little rusty after taking a year off to concentrate of wrapping up her degree in broadcast journalism from Cal State Fullerton.
“I’ve been dancing for the majority of my life, and I quit about a year ago,” said Maria, who danced in Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” video. “Every year I tell myself that I am going to try out for the Lakers and try out, and I never did it. I live about ten minutes away from here, so I finally gained the courage to come out.”
Dance squads are the boon in sports these days. Everybody wants to one up each other in the hotness category. Bikini calendars have become a routine thing for fans to add to their memorabilia items. The NFL and the NBA lead the way as dance teams become as much as an integral part of a franchise almost as players have become.
Just how big have they become? Well, now the media has annual rankings of the top dance teams in the NBA. Rant Sports, The Richest, USA Today and Uproxx are several publications that have gotten hot and heavy over ranking the hottest cheer and dance teams around.
The Laker Girls, the NBA’s version of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, still have a way of turning heads wherever they go in that category.
Jolene Fisher’s aspirations of making the 2016-2017 Laker Girls team got a little better when she survived the first round cut. It was her first attempt at trying to become a Laker Girl. Being part of a team is something that Fisher said she was drawn to.
“I love the concept of being part of a team,” Fisher said. “I love that it is all about symmetry and collaboration, and I just want to be part of this family.”
The audition process is something that isn’t new to Fisher. She danced for a professional basketball team (London Lightning) in Canada. But because of the endless entertainment opportunities Los Angeles has to offer, Fisher decided to move to Southern California several years ago to see if she could make something happen in that direction.
Acting is one avenue she’s interested in pursuing, just in case the dance thing doesn’t work out for her. The characteristic of being a Laker Girl is something she says she identifies with.
“I love basketball,” Fisher said. “I love the excitement. I love the crowd. I’m totally like a hype-up junkie. Being a Laker Girl means being part of family of really strong women.”