History of the Lakers: Origins of “Cancun 1-2-3!” Cheers, explained

Among the many fun regular clips on NBA on TNT, the song “Gone Fishin” ranks as the most popular. When the seasons come to an end in the post-season period or even if a franchise is disqualified from the playoff competition, you can expect TNT to have a sketch with players captured by photoshoot at various vacation destinations.

The tradition stems at least in part from the sarcastic saying “1-2-3, Cancun!” Who has lived within NBA circles for years. It’s a cynic that centers around the idea that NBA players have mainly been taking vacations to Cancun – for at least several years – and how their focus shifts from the current season to what happens after the season once their fate becomes clear.

But did you know the origins of “1-2-3, Cancun!” includes a Lakers Which team will eventually become the 3rd Peat Champion?


Although the Lakers eventually became the dominant force and franchise in the early 2000s, they had to endure some soul-shattering blows from Utah Jazz In the late 1990s to get to that point. Both the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons were ended by the Jazz with the Lakers winning only once in their nine post-season meetings.

These meetings are commonly remembered kobe ​​bryant air balls that helped shape his incredible journey to the top of the game, but also produced “1-2-3, Cancun!” cheers.

Towards the end of those two seasons, the Lakers had lost 3-0 in the series to the Jazz, and moments before Game Four, guard Nick Van Exel was hoping to lighten the mood a bit. As the team prepared to take to the field, the Lakers huddled, holding hands with each other in preparation for the “1-2-3, Lakers!”

But Van Ixel mixed things up, and instead Cancun finally screamed. In the years that followed, Van Exel confirmed that it was just a joke to lighten the mood, including in Howard Beck piece for Sports Illustrated in 2022.

“But I didn’t say it out loud for everyone to hear,” Van Axel recalls. “I guess it was only a few people who heard that. And they started laughing a little bit. And that was my point, it was to lose the group. … I’m a clown. I like to have fun, and put everyone away.”

The problem was, while Van Exel claims he was light-hearted, Shaq reportedly wasn’t laughing and went to the front office to claim his trade, According to the LA Times A week after Van Exel sent Nuggets for Tony Battie and draft rights to Tyronn Lue.

Captain Shaquille O’Neal went to management with the story, and requested a pledge from Jerry West that Van Axel would never wear a Laker costume again.

In the years since dealing with Van Exel, Shaq downplayed the situation, telling Beck and Sports Illustrated that it was “time to make changes” that led to the deal. No matter how involved Shaq is, the inclusion with “1-2-3, Cancun!” The hymn is you give up the team, something (expected) Returned to the Los Angeles Times in 1999.

“I say things all the time as much as, ‘Well, this is my last match with you guys. Seeing you again when I came here with 40, Van Exel recently said, “Just to keep the guys loose and laughing.”

“It’s only when things go wrong that someone says something wrong, especially me, that seems to be exaggerated and people tend to point the finger.

“Everyone who’s been in the locker room with me knows I’ll never give up on the team. But finger pointing happens. I didn’t mean anything wrong.”

As well-intentioned as Van Axel may have been, it was a joke that should have backfired and it’s no surprise that the team used that as part of the logic to trade it off.


Even if Van Axel lost his spot with the Lakers in part because of the joke, that didn’t stop him from getting into the NBA lexicon. Coaches, players, the media, and everyone else has pointed this out at some point, like Alvin Gentry after his team pulled out of the playoffs in 2018.

So, the next time you see a coach pointing to her in a post-game press, TNT doing a “Go Fishin” clip or — God forbid — a player yells at her during a pool on the field, you can rethink Nick Van Exel and the role in Invent one of the funniest sayings in the NBA.

for more Lakers Speak up, subscribe to the silver screen broadcast feed and roll ItunesAnd the spotifyAnd the Stitcher or google podcast. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at Tweet embed.

%d bloggers like this: