The National Football League is returning to Los Angeles.
Earlier this evening, NFL owners voted 30-2 (I would love to know who the two were) to approve Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s stadium proposal in Inglewood, located in Los Angeles County a few miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The Rams, played in St. Louis from 1995 through 2015, will play in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the next three seasons while the stadium in Inglewood is built.
The Rams will not be the first professional sports franchise to call Inglewood home.
Inglewood is the home of The Forum, which was the home of the NBA’s Lakers and the NHL’s Kings from 1967 through 1999, when both teams moved to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Clippers, who previously played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena from 1984-99, also moved into Staples Center.
The Forum was built by Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the Lakers and was awarded an NHL expansion franchise which became the Kings. Cooke was tired of the Lakers having to share the L.A. Sports Arena with USC and other events, and thus built his own facility for his teams.
The Lakers enjoyed their glory days in the Forum. Led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, Los Angeles won 33 consecutive games during the 1971-72 season en route to the franchise’s first championship in California. The Lakers won five titles when they were in Minneapolis, led by George Mikan, but had come up short time and again in L.A., losing in the championship series five times between 1962 and 1970.
Cooke traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975, and in 1979, drafted Earvin “Magic” Johnson out of Michigan State, and Showtime was born. The Lakers won titles in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988, abut more importantly, the Forum was the place to see and be seen. Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon and numerous other stars were regulars at Laker games.
The Kings were an afterthought during their first 20 seasons. They were mostly terrible, more often than not residing at or near the bottom of the NHL standings. Los Angeles often had to struggle to reach the playoffs, and that took some serious doing during the 1980s, when the Kings routinely battled with two other bottom feeders, the Winnipeg Jets (the team which is now the Arizona Coyotes) and the Vancouver Canucks, for to playoff spots.
Hockey became cool all of a sudden on August 9, 1988.
That Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours before the Cubs played their first official night game at Wrigley Field vs. the Mets, Wayne Gretzky was traded by the Edmonton Oilers, who won four Stanley Cups in five seasons with The Great One leading the way, to the Kings.
All of a sudden, the Kings were no longer the poor stepchild of Inglewood. Although the Kings never won the Cup with Gretzky–they lost in the ’93 finals to Montreal–the Kings’ success allowed the NHL to (regrettably, in my opinion) expand further into California and other southern locations.
When the Lakers and Kings left Inglewood, nobody could have dreamed the town would ever host a professional sports franchise again. Yet come 2019, the Rams will call Inglewood home.
The sad thing in all this is the Rams should have never left in the first place. I’ll get into that in this blog very shortly.