They have been good since the dawn of time. They won the NBA Finals last year. This much you know. But what don’t you know about the Lakers?
The history of the Los Angeles Lakers begins in Detroit, when in 1947, owners purchased the Gems, a team in the National Basketball League. The purchase of the team did include any players, who had already been disbursed to other teams because it appeared that the Gems would fold. The team was moved to Minneapolis and became the Minneapolis Lakers, in accordance with the nickname of Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”
In a disbursement draft, the Lakers picked up center George Mikan who, when paired with head coach John Kundla and the addition of Clyde Lovellette, went on to win five championships in the first six years of existence. Mikan’s retirement in 1954 due to injury left the Lakers struggling and over the next seven years, the Lakers had only one winning season (1954-1955), but still managed to appear in the playoffs in every year in this span except for the year when they posted a 19-53 record. The Lakers left Minneapolis and drafted Jerry West in the 1960 offseason, but attendance was low in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, even with Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich. To make matters worse, the Los Angeles lost to the Boston in the NBA Finals four times in five years. In 1967, the Lakers moved into a new arena called The Forum, and the year after, Los Angeles acquired Wilt Chamberlain from Philadelphia. Neither was the key to success, however, as they lost the 1968, 1969, and 1970 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics (twice) and the New York Knicks.
In the 1971-1972 season, with new head coach Bill Sharman, Los Angeles set records for the longest win streak (33, the longest of any team in professional sports) and wins (69, a record that stood until the Bulls won 72 in 1995-96), on their way to Los Angeles’ first NBA title, defeating the New York Knicks, who exacted revenge the next season by beating the Lakers in the 1973 Finals. Hampered by a Jerry West leg injury and Wilt Chamberlain’s retirement the year before, the Lakers reached the playoffs, but were handily defeated by the Bucks in five games. Jerry West retired in the 1974 offseason and the Lakers missed the playoffs for two consecutive years (but only their second and third times that they had missed the playoffs in their storied history), despite a MVP-winning performance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1975-76 season. The following season, Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP, but Los Angeles was swept by Portland in the Western Conference Finals. In the offseason, the Lakers acquired Jamaal Wilkes and Norm Nixon, but it wasn’t enough to advance beyond the semifinals.
In the 1979 Draft, the Lakers had the first overall selection, which was used for Earvin Johnson. The Lakers believed in Magic, and he led them to a Finals victory over Philadelphia, but Johnson was injured next season and the Lakers lost in the first round. Now in Los Angeles’ “Showtime” era and led by coach Pat Riley, the Lakers went on to advance to the Finals eight times between 1982 and 1991 (Riley stepped down after the 1990 playoffs), winning four championships along the way, losing to Philadelphia, Boston (yet again!), Detroit, and Chicago.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Magic Johnson announced that he had tested positive for HIV, and immediately retired at the beginning of the 1991-1992 season. Without Magic, the Lakers suffered, losing in the first round two years in a row, before missing the playoffs for only the third time in 1994. Some more losing playoff seasons came to an end after the Lakers assembled Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Robert Horry in the 1996 offseason. O’Neal missed nearly half of his first season with the Lakers, but they managed to get the playoffs, where they were defeated in the Conference Semifinals by the Jazz. The following year, Shaq missed more time due to injury, but this time Los Angeles advanced to the Conference Finals, again losing to Utah. The following season, the Lakers acquired J.R. Reid, B.J. Armstrong, and Glen Rice, made the playoffs in the strike-shortened season, but lost to the Spurs in the following round.
The Lakers needed a change to push them to winning a championship, and in 1999, they found it in new coach Phil Jackson, moving to the downtown Staples Center, and acquiring veterans Brian Shaw, Ron Harper, John Salley, and A.C. Green. Los Angeles won three straight NBA Finals from 2000-2002. They faltered the following season, losing in the second round of the playoffs, but rebounded the following season (after acquiring Karl Malone and Gary Payton), reaching the Finals again (despite a lot of injuries to their players), but lost to the Pistons. In this time period, Kobe Bryant faced allegations of sexual assault, making him fodder for comedy (following video might be NSFW):
After their loss to Detroit, Los Angeles sent O’Neal to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler. Phil Jackson decided to not return as head coach, which, when compounded with injuries to Bryant and Odom, left the Lakers under .500 and out of the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history. With their resulting lottery pick, they selected Andrew Bynum. The Lakers returned to the playoffs, only to be defeated by Phoenix two years in a row. After Los Angeles acquired Pau Gasol and re-acquired Derek Fisher in the following season, allowing them to advance to the NBA Finals yet again, but their pesky rivals, the Boston Celtics, defeated them in six games.
This past season, the Lakers won its fifteenth NBA title, defeating the Orlando Magic in five games. Will the Lakers successfully defend their championship this season? Many experts seem to think so, and I’m inclined to agree. The Lakers have only gotten better, and will advance to the Finals, unless something terrible happens, like a meteor colliding with the Staples Center or something like that.
You may also know the Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA’s own version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
2008-2009 Record: 65-17 (16-7 in playoffs), 1st place in Pacific Division, 1st place in Western Conference
Coach: Phil Jackson
- Ron Artest: Ron Artest is one of our favorite topics to write about here at “Paints in the Point,” and when he signed with the Lakers in the offseason, it allowed us to write even more.
- Trevor Ariza: Ariza was a force on last year’s championship team, but decided that he wanted slightly more money than what the Lakers were offering him, and signed with the Rockets. Had Los Angeles not signed Artest this offseason, the departure of Ariza would have been more of an issue for the Lakers. Artest is expected to be even better than Ariza for the 2009-2010 season.
“It’s almost like we have ESPN.”
—Magic Johnson, on why he works so well
with teammate James Worthy.