L.A. native John Block was ‘difference-maker’ in Bucks ending Lakers’ 33-game winning streak

Milwaukee, WI - 1972: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers at the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Arena, Sunday, January 9, 1972. (Photo by Arthur Shay /Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seeks to get a pass from colleague Oscar Robertson, who is secured by Jerry West on Jan. 9, 1972, when Milwaukee ended the Lakers’ historical winning streak. (Arthur Shay / Getty Images / Disney General Home Entertainment Material)

John Block was a high school sophomore when the Lakers altered his life for the very first time.

It was 1960 and a 16-year-old Block, who had actually constantly felt more major about baseball maturing in Glendale, started to feel a pull towards basketball as the Lakers got here in Los Angeles from Minneapolis. As Block grew to 6-foot-9 and employers took notification, he remained near to house at Glendale Neighborhood College prior to starring at USC. He had hopes his Pac-8-record scoring and size would be found by the franchise of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

“That was my desire,” Block stated. “I wanted to be in the NBA. And I wanted to play for the Lakers.”

He did, when the Lakers utilized a 1966 draft tease a forward who discovered himself investing his novice season hearkening colleague Rudy LaRusso’s recommendations to observe West and gain from whatever he did, from his practice routines to his propensities.

Block’s only season betting the Lakers is not why complete strangers often still inquire about a video game he calls “easily the most memorable” of his 10-year profession, one that leads him to often check out YouTube to enjoy rough video called by Keith Jackson and Costs Russell.

That minute is still booked for his enduring, if mostly neglected, function as a Lakers challenger — assisting the Milwaukee Bucks end the Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game winning streak 50 years back on Jan. 9, 1972.

Lakers coach Bill Sharman talks to his team during a timeout on Jan. 9, 1972, in Milwaukee.

Lakers coach Costs Sharman speaks to his group throughout a timeout on Jan. 9, 1972, in Milwaukee. (Arthur Shay / Getty Images / Disney General Home Entertainment Material)

The streak was lastly squashed under the weight of naturally fantastic efficiencies by a set of future Hall of Famers in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (39 points, 20 rebounds) and Oscar Robertson (17 points, 9 helps), the Bucks’ star duo. Yet that piece of Southern California history was likewise ended due to the fact that of the forward whose roots started there. As time has actually passed, Block has actually ended up being a footnote to among the more amazing video games in NBA history however a force to those who lived it.

“A player that I came into the league with … that was sort of the unsung hero was a guy by the name of John Block,” stated Pat Riley, who prior to ending up being a Hall of Popularity coach and executive was a Lakers guard in 1971-72. “I remember John Block got like 20 points in the game, and even though they had Kareem, that he was a big, big difference-maker in that game.”

His contributions formally stand at 17 points and 10 rebounds, and integrated with the 18 points scored in 19 minutes by guard Lucius Allen — whose embellished UCLA profession was another L.A. connection to the streak’s undoing — the Bucks’ bench assisted complete an effort that had actually been developing for 24 hr, after Milwaukee beat Detroit the night prior to and lastly turned its sights on the Lakers.

“When we left that locker room [after beating Detroit] there was the beginning of the electricity that was going to mount the next day,” Block stated. “We were anticipating something that we’re going to be a part of. And I woke up that next morning and I said, ‘Wow, this is just this is going to be some day.’ Didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it was going to be some type of day and so when we walked in the locker room, there was that electricity, just that focus, that there’s no way that the Lakers are going to be able to beat us.

“You get into a zone where just you’re in the right spot at the right time and things just happen. And that was the case for me. It was just, it was one of those games that just flows. It just happens. When I came into that game. I was fired up and ready to go.”

Block had actually signed up with Milwaukee months previously in the offseason following the franchise’s 1971 NBA champion, however his past had actually prepared him to change rapidly to a brand-new group headlined by stars.

At neighborhood college and USC, Block bet coaches who were amongst the leaders of the triangle offense, an experience that made him extremely versatile at checking out colleagues and playing as a cutter and passer. As a novice with the Lakers, his colleagues consisted of such stars as West and Gail Goodrich, who stayed on the lineup that got here in Milwaukee on that January day, and Baylor, whose surprise retirement in the early months of the 1971-72 season instantly preceded the start of the streak. And in the 4 seasons that followed with the San Diego Firecrackers, Block had actually dealt with offending rebounds like valuable treasure while playing along with scorers such as Elvin Hayes, Stu Lantz and Calvin Murphy.

Most notably, Block had actually understood Abdul-Jabbar for 6 years by the time he got here in Milwaukee. As part of a short-term objective journey sponsored by the church he went to, Hollywood Presbyterian, and Young Life, Block invested the summer season of 1965 living in Harlem and playing, typically as the only white gamer, pickup video games at renowned Rucker Park, where his colleagues sometimes consisted of Earl Manigault, the famous play area gamer.

By summer season’s end, the church sponsored 2 New york city gamers to go to school in Los Angeles — among whom was good friends with the then-Lew Alcindor, the very best high school gamer in New york city and the nation who quickly headed west, too, to UCLA. When Block hung out at the trainee’s apartment or condo on the Hollywood Presbyterian school, he’d typically discover Alcindor there, too. Pickup video games followed.

“I had this relationship playing ball, and playing bigger ball, and doing all this stuff with Kareem before I even played against him or anything,” Block stated. “So it was an easy flow.”

In the years in between their conferences in L.A. and Milwaukee, Alcindor had actually altered his name however stayed the very same, dominant existence. His rookie-of-the-year project was followed by a 2nd season in 1970-71 that saw him picked the most important gamer of the league and NBA Finals amidst Milwaukee’s champion run, the start of a dazzling 20-year profession that ended as the league’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time MVP.

However by Jan. 9, Milwaukee had actually lost 4 of its previous 9 video games. Evaluated versus the shine of the Lakers’ unbeaten November and December, the Bucks “were undeniably left behind — once proud world champions, now by comparison tarnished and brooding giants,” as Sports Illustrated composed at the time.

“If my memory serves me correctly, it was a game they had kind of circled,” previous Lakers guard Jim Cleamons stated. “Whether anybody on their side will admit to that, I don’t know.”

Rockets forward John Block drives the baseline and getting a screen from teammate Stu Lantz.

Firecrackers forward John Block drives the standard and getting a screen from colleague Stu Lantz versus 76ers forward Billy Cunningham at Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 1969. Block would bet 7 groups in 10 seasons. (Rusty Kennedy / Associated Press)

There was little doubt, Block confessed. When the Bucks got here prior to tipoff, “we walked in and everybody was in the zone,” Block stated, a peaceful focus quickly stired by a howling house crowd. Not understood for his on-court feelings, Block at one point clenched a fist in event after making a shot in front of the Lakers bench, a minute caught by a Sports Illustrated professional photographer.

“You cannot help but just both be really, really fired up,” Block stated. “Goodrich and Pat, Keith Erickson — all really good guys that I’d known for years. They were pretty ticked off that I played so well.”

Block had 11 points by halftime, consisting of a basket he’d angled around Wilt Chamberlain after getting an offending rebound over the Lakers’ dominant center. The unforeseen nature of his introduction as an aspect was heard in the tone of the halftime analysis provided by Jackson and Russell on the ABC broadcast. As Jackson spun for audiences a carousel embellished with hand-placed names and stats, the renowned play-by-play commentator called Block a “definite surprise.”

“The reason that the Bucks are ahead, principally, is John Block,” Russell stated. “Because the Lakers have not screened him off of the offensive boards. They’ve done a very poor job in that, because you can’t give a guy like that, who is what you call an outside player, in other words he’s sixth or seventh man, if you let him come in and get points, those are points that hurt you.”

En path to the 1972 champion, the Lakers beat Milwaukee in 6 video games in the Western Conference finals, and Block invested the next season in Philadelphia and Kansas City as part of a winding profession that was ended by injury in 1976 after 618 video games with 7 groups. He coached for the next 25 years, at colleges throughout California, drawing from a deep resource of contacts that consisted of Tex Winter season.

Block and his spouse, Margie, have actually resided in San Diego for 22 years, and in the last 2 they have actually interacted on an autobiography of Block’s life and its moving impacts, faith and basketball. The work has actually undoubtedly led Block to gather the threads of his 77 years. 2 include the Lakers — when he joined them and when he beat them. The memory of the latter is simply a click away on YouTube, a 1-hour and 57-minute window into the most unforgettable video game of his life.

“I’ve watched it with some people, actually, and some friends,” Block stated. “And my grandboys are getting into the age where I might be watching it with them, again.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.