Today we Greeks stand proud when we hear the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s an NBA star and a household name. But not too long ago, another Greek made his mark in the NBA, winning four championships. It’s a long way to go for Antentokoumbo if he’s ever going to catch up with Kurt Rambis a/k/a Kyriakos Rambidis – former NBA player who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the 1980 NBA draft, Rambis was drafted as the third round, fifty-eighth pick by the New York Knicks, but was subsequently waived by them. He played in Greece in the Greek League for club AEK Athens, under the name Kyriakos Rambidis, and won the Greek Cup in 1981. Since he was of Greek descent, he also acquired Greek citizenship.
The Knicks re-signed him in 1981 but never played a game for them. His success as an NBA player started when he was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981. Rambis spent most of his fourteen seasons in the NBA with the Lakers, winning championships in 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988, as part of their Showtime teams, and was extremely popular for his hard-nosed blue-collar play.
During his playing days, Rambis was a favorite among the Lakers fans because of his status as an overachieving underdog and ultimate team-player. Known for his defensive and rebounding skills, he was remembered in Los Angeles for his all-out effort and willingness to do the “dirty work” that many players do not embrace. Rambis usually wore a thick mustache and trademark thick-rimmed black glasses, prompting Lakers announcer, Chick Hearn, to nickname him “Superman” (in reference to the character’s alter ego, Clark Kent). He was also called “Rambo.”.
Rambis also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings before returning to the Lakers in 1993. Rambis retired as a player with the Lakers in 1995. In his NBA career, Rambis accumulated 4,603 points (5.22 ppg), 4,961 rebounds (5.6 rpg), and 931 assists (1.1 apg)
Darrell Kurt Rambis was born on February 25, 1958, at Terre Haute, Indiana, but his family moved to Cupertino, California, graduating from Cupertino High School. He attended and graduated from Santa Clara University, playing basketball for the Broncos. During his senior year, he was named Player of the Year in the West Coast Conference. He was the team’s second-leading rebounder and all-time leading scorer with 1,736 points. His jersey #34 was retired on December 29, 2008.
Rambis became an NBA coach in 1994 and has served as head coach for the Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Knicks. He also won two league championships as an assistant coach with the Lakers. In 2018, Rambis joined the Lakers as a senior basketball advisor.
Off the court, Rambis has had roles in several television series including, 7th Heaven as Coach Cleary, Sweet Valley High, The Commish, Married with Children, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and Malcolm & Eddie. He is also mentioned in lyrics of several songs, including “Blao!” by rapper Hot Karl, where he raps, “I’m wearing the goggles that Kurt Rambis used to sport.”