Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lakers 14th Man - Gary Vitti

Usually I write about the players and how well or bad they played the previous night. Now its time to pay my respects to the one man the Lakers saved their 14th spot for, Mr. Gary Vitti.

When most NBA teams have 14 players on their rosters to cap out their talent, the Los Angeles Lakers have only 13. Why would the champs not fill their 14th spot? Well, to have the best training staff in the league, that's why. Gary Vitti has been with the Lakers for over 25 years now making him the leagues longest active tenured athletic trainer.

Since the Lakers are among one of the most injury prone teams in the NBA, Gary Vitti definitely has had his hands full throughout his career. Even though critics have said in the past that he has on occasion mishandled and misdiagnosed player injuries, Vitti has worked diligently since day one to help condition players for a quick recovery. Gary being the exclusive Lakers athletic trainer for this long speaks for itself. His professionalism and composure under enormous stress to somehow magically fix these athletes overnight through several Laker dynasties is why Vitti holds the 14th spot. He is as important and as the players themselves and the Lakers organization knows that.

Its not hard to think of Gary Vitti and include him into your Lakers memory museum as he's been with the team since the "Showtime" era. His entire career has exclusively been devoted to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won the Trainer of the Year award back in 1991 and has quite the collection of Laker championship rings for being team trainer.

He's bandaged all the Laker greats. From Magic to Kobe, he's been there through the aches and pains. The one memory I have of Vitti is when he had to pull Magic out from I think Game 2 of the 91 NBA Finals. This season, Gary has helped Gasol, Bynum, Sasha, Luke, Artest and especially Kobe from their injuries already this season.

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