Honoring Past Laker Champions, By Simply Remembering Them

The Los Angeles Lakers are widely considered as one of the greatest franchises in sports history. Some other sport franchises that are considered when talking about the greatest are the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Celtics, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Dodgers, St Louis Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, San Antonio Spurs and Montreal Canadians. But one thing has been more consistent with the Lakers than with any other franchise: WINNING.


The Lakers are the greatest franchise in sports, period. Even though they do not have the most championships in the NBA they are without a doubt better than the Celtics (the proof will come after this years NBA Finals). In the Lakers 63-year legendary history, they have won 16 championships. (17 if you count the NBL championship - but I'll get into that a little later) They have the highest winning percentage of any team in the MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL with an amazing .619.

The Lakers have only missed the playoffs five times. So, they have made the playoffs 58 out of 63 seasons, a 92.0 percent. They have won their division 32 times and they have won the conference championship an unheard 31 times, just under half of the seasons they have played. On top of that, they only once had consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs.

Since the modern sports era (which many consider 1970) they lead all teams in any league with 11 championships and 19 Finals appearances. The team also has had arguably the best owner ever in all of sports in Jerry Buss. Since Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, the winning percentage of the Lakers had been .660 and they have made the playoffs in 29 of the 31 seasons.

The Lakers also have had two of the best coaches ever in Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Riley won 4 rings with the Lakers while Jackson has won 5 rings while having 7 Finals appearances. The team also had as good as any GM in any sport in Jerry West, who orchestrated the signing of Shaquille O'Neal and the trade for Kobe Bryant. "The Logo" is one of the greatest Lakers ever, considering what he did in his playing career as well as after it.

{Phil Jackson and Pat Riley}

The Lakers also arguably have had 8 out of the 25 greatest players in the history of the league in Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and George Mikan. They also had arguably the best team ever in the 86-87 Lakers when the league was in the most competitive era it has ever seen. That Lakers team dominated the league and finished the regular season with a record of 65 - 17, and beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals, 4-2.

The 1986-87 team consisted of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, AC Green, Michael Cooper and Mychal Thompson, all of who averaged double digits points for the entire season. Some other players on that team were Kurt Rambis and Billy Thompson. And this is the reason I am creating this post. To brush up on history and honor all of the past Lakers championship teams, by simply remembering them. When you read this post, you are honoring each team by remembering what they have done for the greatest franchise in sports history.**

**Much of this information was taken from Wikipedia and Marcel Mansour, a senior analyst at Bleacher report. See his original article here:



The Beginning of The Lakers (1947)

The Lakers' franchise was founded in 1946 in Detroit, Michigan when Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen bought the Detroit Gems of the NBL for $15,000 before moving to Minneapolis in 1947, and borrowing from the state's nickname, "Land of 10,000 Lakes," to christen themselves the Lakers. The Minneapolis Lakers first season of organized basketball came in 1947 under the National Basketball League.


1947 - 1948 Minneapolis Lakers (NBL - Title #1)

{Herm Schaefer (24), Don Carlson (18), Paul Napolitano (11), Tony Jaros (13), Don Smith (22), Bob Gerber (16), Jack Dwan (38), James Pollard (17), George Mikan (99), not pictured: Warren Ajax, Bill Durkee, Ken Exel, Jack Rocker, Coach John Kundla}

When most people count all of the Lakers championships, they leave this one out. This is the Lakers 17th championship! Simply because the Lakers won the title in the NBL (National Basketball League), which eventually formed with the BAA (Basketball Association of America) to form the NBA (National Basketball Association). The NBA considers the Baltimore Bullets the champions that year, as they were part of the BBA, which was more lucrative than the NBL because it housed big-city franchises like the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Warriors and Chicago Stags.

The Minneapolis Lakers' first season was 1947-48, when the team entered the NBL. A strange series of events early that year landed the Lakers the biggest prize in the game at that time, center George Mikan. Mikan, who was nicknamed Mr. Basketball, was a 6'10" giant of a man who had dominated college basketball in his four years at DePaul. He joined the Chicago American Gears at the end of the 1945-46 season, then led the Gears to the NBL Championship the following year.

Prior to the 1947-48 campaign, Maurice White, president of the American Gear Company and owner of the Chicago team, pulled the club out of the NBL. White's plan was to create a 24-team circuit called the Professional Basketball League of America, in which he would own all of the teams and all of the arenas. But the new league lasted barely a month, and the players on White's teams were distributed among the 11 NBL franchises. As a consequence, every team had a 9.1 percent chance of obtaining the basketball prodigy. The first-year Minneapolis Lakers landed Mikan strictly by chance.

{George Mikan (99)}

The Lakers were a good team even without Mikan. The club featured a fine forward named Jim 'The Kangaroo Kid" Pollard and one of the better playmakers in the league in Herm Schaefer. Coaching the squad was John Kundla, who had been hired away from the University of Minnesota. But once the bespectacled Mikan joined the Lakers there was no stopping them.

Minneapolis walked away with the NBL crown that season. After winning the Western Division by 13 games, the team beat the Oshkosh All-Stars, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and the Rochester Royals. Minneapolis lost only two games during the postseason, one in the first round and one in the finals against the Royals. Mikan led the league in scoring during the regular season with 21.3 points per game and was tops in postseason play with an average of 24.4 points per contest.


1948 - 1949 Minneapolis Lakers (BAA - Title #2)

{Donnie Foreman (22), Herm Schaefer (10), Don Carlson (15), Don Smith (12), Tony Jaros (13), Johnny Jorgensen (16), Earl Gardner (14), Arnie Ferrin (18), Jack Dwan (19), Jim Pollard (17), George Mikan (99), not pictured: Mike Bloom, Whitey Kachan, Coach John Kundla}

Before the 1948-49 season began the Minneapolis Lakers, Rochester Royals, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and Indianapolis Kautskys (later renamed the Jets) jumped to the Basketball Association of America. The BAA was already an eight-team league. The addition of the four NBL teams now gave the league the big-name players it needed.

The biggest name of all was Mikan, and fans flocked to see him in every BAA city. When the Lakers arrived in New York to face the Knickerbockers, the marquee at Madison Square Garden read "George Mikan vs. Knicks." John Kundla was the coach of the Lakers at led the Lakers to a 44 - 16 record.

{coach John Kundla being carried off the court by George Mikan and The Lakers}

Rochester and Minneapolis dueled for the top spot in the BAA's Western Division, but the Royals edged out the Lakers by one game, even though the tall, broad-shouldered, and extremely agile Mikan played with unstoppable force. His 28.3 points per game led the league and accounted for one-third of the Lakers point production. Apart from Mikan, only Philadelphia's Joe Fulks, who became one of the co-inventors of the jump shot, and Chicago Stags player Max Zaslofsky managed to average 20-plus points.

Minneapolis swept the Chicago Stags in the first round of the 1949 playoffs before attention shifted to a division finals matchup that pitted the Lakers against the Royals. Minneapolis squeezed out a one-point win in Game 1, then stormed back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to take Game 2 and sweep the best-of-three series.

The BAA Finals came next, and the Lakers faced the Washington Capitols, who were coached by Arnold "Red" Auerbach. Minneapolis notched three quick wins to open the best-of-seven series. In Game 4 Mikan sustained a broken wrist, and the Capitols came away with a win. Mikan played Game 5 with a cast on his hand and still pumped in 22 points, but Washington prevailed. Game 6 was played on the Lakers home court, and Minneapolis came away with a 77-56 win and a BAA Championship. In that playoff series, Mikan averaged an incredible 30.3 points per game, despite playing half the series with a broken hand.


1949 - 1950 Minneapolis Lakers (NBA - Title #3)

{Slater Martin (22), Billy Hassett (11), Don Carlson (15), Herm Schaefer (10), Bob Harrison (16), Tony Jaros (13), Coach John Kundla, Normie Glick (20), Arnie Ferrin (18), Jim Pollard (17), Vern Mikkelsen (19), George Mikan (99), not pictured: Bud Grant, Gene Stump, Paul Walther}

The BAA and the NBL merged after the 1949 season, and the NBA was born for the 1949-50 campaign. In its first year the NBA consisted of 17 teams competing in three divisions. Minneapolis was assigned to the Central Division (the new league's strongest division), where the team once again went head-to-head with Rochester.

If anything, the Lakers were even better than they had been the season before. The team included a trio of promising first-year players in forward Vern Mikkelsen and guards Slater Martin and Bud Grant. (Grant went on to greater fame as coach of the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL).

Minneapolis seemed to have a lock on the top spot in the Central Division, but Rochester put together a 15-game winning streak as the campaign wound down, and the teams ended the regular season tied for first with identical 51-17 records. The Lakers then edged the Royals by a single basket in a one-game playoff to claim the division title.

For the second season in a row Minneapolis waltzed through the preliminary rounds of the postseason. The powerful Lakers defeated the Chicago Stags in the Central Division Semifinals, swept the Fort Wayne Pistons in two games in the division finals, and then dusted the Anderson Duffey Packers in two games in the NBA Semifinals.

The first NBA Finals pitted the Lakers against the Syracuse Nationals. The Nats had the home-court advantage, but the Lakers took Game 1 in Syracuse when reserve guard Bob Harrison heaved in a 40-foot shot at the buzzer to give Minneapolis a two-point victory. The Nationals evened the series the next night. When the Finals reconvened in Minnesota five days later, Minneapolis pounded out a 91-77 win, then followed that with a victory in Game 4.

{Bob Harrison, in the dark jersey on the right, releases his 40 footer to win the game}

Syracuse postponed the inevitable by shutting down Mikan in Game 5, but the Lakers came back with a 110-95 victory in Game 6 to earn the first NBA Championship. Mikan, who had led the league in scoring during the regular season with 27.4 points per game (only one other player topped 20.0 ppg), poured in 31.3 points per contest in the playoffs.


The Leg That Ruined The Lakers 4th Championship (1950 - 1951)

The Lakers were on pace to win the 1950 - 1951 NBA championship, but were detailed when Mikan fractured his leg. Mikan still played with the injury, but the Rochester Royals ended up winning the series 3-1. Despite basically hopping around court on one foot, he still averaged more than 20 points per game.

Also in the 1951 season, Mikan participated in one of the most notorious NBA games ever played. When the Fort Wayne Pistons played against his Lakers, the Pistons took a 19-18 lead. Afraid that Mikan would mount a comeback if he got the ball, the Pistons passed the ball around without any attempt to score a basket. With no shot clock to force them into offense, the score stayed 19-18 to make it the lowest-scoring NBA game of all time. The shot clock would come four years later. In that game, Mikan scored 15 of the Lakers' 18 points, thus scoring 83.3 percent of his team's points, an NBA all-time record which will be probably never be broken.


1951 - 1952 Minneapolis Lakers (Title #4)

{Slater Martin (22), Joe Hutton (15), Pep Saul (18), Bob Harrison (16), Jim Pollard (17), Howie Shultz (12), Vern Mikkelsen (19), Lew Hitch (11), George Mikan (99), not pictured: John Pilch, Whitey Skoog, Coach John Kundla}

The NBA decided to widen the foul lane under the basket from 6 feet to 12 feet. As players could only stay in the lane for three seconds at a time, this forced big men like Mikan to play the post position from double the previous distance from the basket. The new regulation was dubbed "The Mikan Rule", but the rule change had a minimal effect on "Big George." He still averaged 23.8 points, but he lost the scoring title to Paul Arizin, a sharp-shooting forward with the Philadelphia Warriors.

While Mikan still scored an impressive 23.8 points per game, it was a far cry of his 27.4 points per game the previous season, and his field-goal accuracy sank from .428 to .385. Still, he pulled down 13.5 rebounds per game, asserting himself as a top rebounder, and logged 3.0 assists per game. Mikan also had a truly dominating game that season, in which he scored a personal-best 61 points in a victory against the Rochester Royals. At the time, it was the second-best performance of all time, next to Joe Fulks' 63 point outburst in 1949. Mikan's output more than doubled that of his teammates. 

The Lakers went into the season with essentially the same lineup. Rochester took the Western Division crown by a game, but the Lakers ousted the Royals in four games in the division finals to set up an NBA Finals matchup between the Lakers and the New York Knickerbockers.

{George Mikan and The Lakers celebrate after winning the NBA championship}

This qualified as one of the strangest Finals series in NBA history, as neither team could play on their home court in the first six games. The Lakers' Minneapolis Auditorium was already booked, and the Knicks' Madison Square Garden was occupied by a circus. Instead, the Lakers played in Saint Paul and the Knicks in the damp, dimly lit, 69th Regiment Armory.

Perpetually double-teamed by Knicks future Hall-of-Famers Nat Clifton and Harry Gallatin, Mikan had a hard time asserting himself. Minneapolis took Game 1 at St. Paul but needed overtime to do so. The Knicks prevailed in Game 2. Back in New York, Games 3 and 4 were split between the teams, and Games 5 and 6 were split as well. Game 7 was all Minneapolis. In the only true home game, in the Minneapolis Auditorium, the Lakers won 82-65 to claim their second NBA crown in three years.


1952 - 1953 Minneapolis Lakers (Title #5)

{Coach John Kundla, Slater Martin (22), Pep Saul (18), Jim Holstein (12), Vern Mikkelsen (19), Lew Hitch (11), George Mikan (99), Jim Pollard (17), Bob Harrison (16), Whitey Skoog (20), not pictured: Howie Schultz}

The Lakers out muscled the Royals during the regular season to finish atop the Western Division by a four-game margin. Mikan's scoring output dipped a notch to 20.6 points per game, second best in the league. He was joined in the NBA's top 10 by teammate Vern Mikkelsen, who finished eighth with 15.0 points per game. Mikan led the league in rebounding, pulling down 14.4 boards per contest.

In the 1953 NBA All-Star Game, Mikan was dominant with 22 points and 16 rebounds, winning that game's MVP Award. In the playoffs the Lakers and the Knickerbockers marched toward an NBA Finals rematch. Minneapolis whipped past Indianapolis and Fort Wayne in the preliminary rounds. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Division, New York downed the Baltimore Bullets and then the Boston Celtics.

{Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen and George Mikan}

The NBA Finals opened in Minneapolis, and the Knicks stunned the Lakers with an eight-point win in Game 1. Minneapolis barely beat the Knicks in Game 2, winning by a slim two-point margin. The next three games were scheduled for New York, and with the series tied at one game apiece, the Knickerbockers had hopes of unseating the defending champions.

But the Lakers would have none of that. They took all three contests at Madison Square Garden to win the series and become the NBA's first repeat champs. With five championships in six years (including the BAA in 1949 and NBL crown in 1948), the Lakers staked a claim as professional basketball's first dynasty.


1953 - 1954 Minneapolis Lakers (Title #6)

{Slater Martin (22), Pep Saul (18), Jim Holstein (12), Jim Pollard (17), Clyde Lovellette (34), George Mikan (99), Vern Mikkelsen (19), Dick Schnittker (15), Whitey Skoog (20), Coach John Kundla, not pictured: Bob Harrison, Jim Fritsche}

The 1953-54 season saw Mikan's production dip again. Bad knees were beginning to take a toll on the 29-year-old center, and he scored only 18.1 points per game. But the Lakers signed a promising rookie named Clyde Lovellette, who was more than capable of spelling Mikan at the center position.

Minneapolis won the Western Division in 1953-54, posting the NBA's best record at 46-26. The playoffs got off to an odd start when the league experimented with a round-robin format in the first round. Minneapolis survived, then downed Rochester in the Western Division Finals. The expected NBA Finals rematch between the Lakers and the Knickerbockers failed to materialize because New York was eliminated in the Eastern Conference round-robin. Instead, the Lakers faced Syracuse.

The Nationals surprised Minneapolis with a two-point win on the Lakers' home court in Game 2, tying the series at one game apiece. The Lakers then took two out of three games in Syracuse, and the teams returned to Minneapolis with the Lakers leading, 3-2. Syracuse survived Game 6 with another two-point victory, but the Lakers made it three titles in a row with an 87-80 triumph in the deciding game, making it their 3rd championship in a row and the 6th in 7 years; the only time they lost had been when Mikan fractured his leg. The Minneapolis Lakers NBA dynasty has only been convincingly surpassed by the great eleven-title Boston Celtics of 1957-69.

{Jim Pollard, (left of trophy) George Mikan, (right of trophy) and Clyde Lovellette (crouching) celebrate the championship with Coach John Kundla (right of Mikan)and other Laker players}

After the season, Mikan stunned the sports world when he announced his retirement, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. Injuries also were a factor, as Mikan had sustained ten broken bones in his career and often had played through these injuries. Without Mikan, the Lakers made the playoffs, but were unable to reach the 1955 NBA Finals.

In the middle of the 1955-1956 NBA season, Mikan surprised the basketball world by returning to the Lakers lineup. He played in 37 games, but his long absence had taken its toll. He averaged only 10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists, and the Lakers lost in the first playoff round. This prompted Mikan to retire for good.

{George Mikan in 2002}

He was inducted into the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame class of 1959, and was declared "Greatest Basketballer in the First Half-Century" by the Associated Press.


The Move To Los Angeles (1960)

After George Mikan's retirement, attendance at Lakers' games dropped off sharply, and not even the play of the electric Elgin Baylor could bring audiences back. The team was nearly sold in 1957 to Kansas City interests who planned to relocate it there, before local interests headed by a businessman named Bob Short purchased the team from Berger and kept it in Minneapolis. The new ownership was unable to cure the team's financial ills, however.

{Elgin Baylor (22)}

In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers of Major League Baseball moved to Los Angeles and quickly became a huge financial success. Short did not fail to notice this. After considering moves to Chicago and San Francisco, Short decided to move the franchise to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season, making the Lakers the NBA's first West Coast team. The Lakers did not change their name after this second move, despite the general scarcity of natural lakes in Southern California. Minneapolis, meanwhile, would remain without an NBA franchise until the debut of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989.


Many Finals Appearances, But No Titles (1960 - 1971)

The 1960's would come and go with one trend that kept repeating itself over and over and over: The Lakers loosing to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. From 1959 - 1969, The Lakers would make the Finals 7 times, and every one of those times they were beaten by the Boston Celtics. Elgin Baylor, Vern Mikkelsen and newcomer Jerry West carried the team in the early 60's, but were never able to overcome to mighty Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics.

{Jerry West (44)}

An important event would occur on November 20, 1965. The Lakers played the San Francisco Warriors in Las Vegas. This game was notable because Chick Hearn was not present to announce it. He had gone to Fayeteville, Arkansas to announce a college football game, and inclement weather had prevented his flight from being able to leave in time for him to make it to Las Vegas for the Lakers game.

It was only the second game he had missed for the Lakers since starting with the team in 1961. It was also the last game he would miss for the next 36 years. Beginning on November 21, 1965, Hearn announced the next 3,338 consecutive Laker regular season and playoff games.

{Chick Hearn}

Even a move to the Los Angeles Forum in 1967 couldnt shake the Celtics off. It had become clear that the Lakers needed to counter Bill Russell, and thus Lakers' owner Jack Kent Cooke obtained Wilt Chamberlain from the Philadelphia 76ers, hoping to supplement the aging and ailing Baylor. The move seemed at first to have worked, as the 1968-69 Lakers proceeded to compile a better record than did the Celtics.

The two clubs met once again in the 1969 NBA Finals, but for the first time the Lakers had the advantage and also for the first time were clearly considered the better team entering the series by most observers. However, they once again couldn't get past their rivals and the Celtics emerged from the series with their 11th NBA Championship in 13 seasons. However, that 1969 championship series is notable in that Jerry West was named the first-ever Finals MVP; this remains the only time that a member of the losing team has won the award.

1970 saw the Los Angeles Lakers return to the Finals, and for the first time did not have to face the Celtics. This time it was the New York Knicks, a team which included future Lakers coach Phil Jackson. West made a memorable 60-foot shot as the 4th quarter buzzer sounded in Game 3, forcing that game into overtime and helping West earn the nickname "Mr. Clutch". But the Knicks recovered from what might have seemed a crushing blow and took the game in overtime.
{Jerry West hitting a 60 footer to send game 3 of the NBA Finals into overtime}

In Game 5, Knicks center Willis Reed tore a muscle in his leg and it looked as if he would not play again in the series. However, the Knicks found a way to win Game 5 without him. Afterward the Lakers took Game 6 to force a seventh and final game back in New York. With everyone speculating as to his status for the game, Reed created one of the most memorable moments in NBA history as he came out of the Garden tunnel and onto the court to start Game 7.

To the roar of the crowd, Reed scored the first two baskets and the Knicks were off and running. Reed left the game for good at halftime, but the inspired Knicks already had 24-point lead at that point, and went on to rout the Lakers—Los Angeles' seventh NBA Finals failure in the last nine years.

The next year would not be the Lakers' year either. Baylor played in only two games due to injuries, and the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), defeated Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals. That year, however, did see the Laker debut of their future coach Pat Riley.


1971 - 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #7)

{back row: Assistant Coach KC Jones, Gail Goodrich (25), Jim Cleamons (11), Pat Riley (12), Jim McMillian (5), Jerry West (44), Flynn Robinson (21), Trainer Frank O'Neil, front row: Keith Erickson (24), Happy Hairston (52), Leroy Ellis (14), Coach Bill Sharman, Owner Jack Kent Cooke, undetermined, Wilt Chamberlain (13), John Trapp (31), Elgin Baylor (22)}

No one could have foreseen the team's domination the next season. Bill Sharman had been installed as the new head coach, and on the afternoon of November 9, 1971, just nine games into the season, the legendary Elgin Baylor retired, finally accepting that his injuries would no longer allow him to play professional basketball.

That very evening, the Lakers proceeded to win the first of what would turn out to be a 33-game winning streak, before losing to the Bucks on January 9, 1972. The streak shattered the previous NBA record of 20, which happened to have been set by the Bucks the year before. To this day, the Lakers' 33-game winning streak remains the longest winning streak in the history of any major American professional sport.

The Lakers amassed 69 regular season wins that year, which was also an NBA record, one which stood for nearly a quarter of a century (Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls won 72 in 1995–96). The team led the league in scoring, rebounds, and assists, and Sharman was named Coach of the Year.

{Wilt Chamberlain (13)}

The Lakers breezed right through the playoffs, sweeping the Chicago Bulls in the conference semifinals, ousting the Bucks in six games in the conference finals, and then zipping by the Knicks in the Finals, four games to one. After years of frustration the Lakers had finally earned an NBA Championship, the team's first in Los Angeles and the first for the franchise since 1954. Chamberlain was named Most Valuable Player of the Finals.


The Arrival Of "The Captain" (1970 - 1978)

In the 1970's we saw Chamberlain retire, and West shortly follow suit. Before the 1975-76 season, the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks. Abdul-Jabbar had an MVP season for Los Angeles that year. He led the league in rebounding, blocked shots, and minutes played and finished second in scoring and field-goal percentage. But the big trade paid higher short-term dividends for Milwaukee than it did for Los Angeles, as the Bucks went from last to first in the Midwest Division.

{Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975}

During the 1977 offseason the Lakers picked up Jamaal Wilkes from Golden State and signed first-round draft pick Norm Nixon. But the 1977-78 season got off to a horrendous start. Just two minutes into the campaign's first game Abdul-Jabbar punched Milwaukee's Kent Benson in retaliation for an overly aggressive elbow. Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand and was out for two months.

Then, in one of the ugliest incidents on an NBA court, on December 9, the Lakers' Kermit Washington got into a tussle with Kevin Kunnert of the Houston Rockets. Houston's Rudy Tomjanovich ran downcourt to break up the fight. Washington saw Tomjanovich running at him from behind and responded with a devastating punch that nearly ended Tomjanovich's career. Washington was fined and suspended for 60 days. Tomjanovich missed the entire season and underwent a series of operations to reconstruct his jaw, eye, and cheek. Tomjanovich spent the next five months in rehab, eventually returning to play as an NBA all-star.
{Kermit Washington's devastating punch on Rudy Tomjanovich}

The Lakers struggled through the next couple seasons but the pieces were beginning to settle into place for the Lakers. During the 1978-79 season the team got a sneak preview of the future with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and Norm Nixon all turning in fine performances.


The Jerry Buss Era (1979)

During the 1979 offseason, owner Jack Kent Cooke sold his sports empire, which included the Lakers and the Great Western Forum, to Santa Monica real estate developer Jerry Buss for $67.5 million. Buss brought in Jack McKinney as the new head coach.

{Owner Jerry Buss in 1980}

When the Lakers had let Gail Goodrich go to free agency prior to the 1976-77 season, they had no idea how significant Goodrich's departure would be for the team's future. Because Goodrich signed with the New Orleans Jazz as a veteran free agent, the Jazz had to compensate the Lakers. New Orleans did so by giving Los Angeles three draft picks, including its first-round pick in 1979.

When the Jazz (who moved to Utah in 1979) finished with the league's worst record in 1978-79, the Lakers found themselves holding the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. Los Angeles picked Earvin "Magic" Johnson, an electrifying 6'9" point guard who had led Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA Championship. "Showtime" had arrived, and a dynasty was established almost overnight.


1979 - 1980 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #8)

{back row: Coach Paul Westhead, Butch Lee (15), Brad Holland (14), Mark Lansberger (54), Kenny Carr (7), Michael Cooper (21), Norm Nixon (10), Assistant Coach Pat Riley (far right), front row: Owner Jerry Buss, Spencer Haywood (31), Jamal Wilkes (52), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Magic Johnson (32), Jim Chones (9)}

The 1979-80 season was one of intense drama for the Lakers. With the team at 10-4, Head Coach Jack McKinney suffered a serious injury in a bicycle accident and was replaced by Paul Westhead. The Lakers rallied to finish the season at 60-22, tops in the Pacific Division. Inspired by NBA All-Rookie Team member Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar turned in the best all-around performance of his career and earned his sixth and final Most Valuable Player Award.

The Lakers were talented and deep - Jamaal Wilkes, Jim Chones, and Abdul-Jabbar made for an intimidating front line, and the backcourt of Johnson and Nixon could stand up to any guard tandem in the country. The Lakers' bench included Michael Cooper and Spencer Haywood.

Los Angeles walked all over Phoenix and Seattle in the first two rounds of the playoffs, taking each series in five games. The NBA Finals pitted the club against the Julius Erving-led Philadelphia 76ers, and the two teams split four close games to start the series. Abdul-Jabbar sprained his ankle in Game 5 but still scored 40 points to give the Lakers a 108-103 win.

{Magic Johnson, 1980 NBA Champion and Finals MVP}

Abdul-Jabbar was unable to play in Game 6, but Johnson stepped up to turn in one of the most remarkable performances in NBA Finals history. Still just a 20-year-old rookie, Johnson moved from guard to center and tallied 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists, single-handedly carrying the Lakers to a 123-107 victory and the NBA Championship. Johnson earned the first of three NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards.


The Season With Not Enough Magic (1980 - 1981)

The 1980-81 season was a major disappointment. The Lakers lost Magic Johnson for much of the season to a knee injury. Behind another brilliant year from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (26.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg), the team turned in a 54-28 record and finished second behind the Phoenix Suns in the Pacific Division. But Los Angeles was stunned by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Led by Moses Malone, the Rockets bumped the Lakers in a best-of-three series, notching both victories in Los Angeles.


1981 - 1982 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #9)

{back row: Coach Pat Riley, undetermined, Eddie Jordan (5), Kevin McKenna (30), Mitch Kupchak (41), Bob McAdoo (11), Mark Lansberger (54), Mike McGee (40), front row: Owner Jerry Buss, Jim Brewer (8), Kurt Rambis (31), Jamaal Wilkes (52), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Michael Cooper (21), Norm Nixon (10), Magic Johnson (32)}

Owner Jerry Buss fired Coach Paul Westhead after the Lakers went 7-4 to start the 1981-82 season. Buss promoted Assistant Coach Pat Riley, a former Lakers backup point guard, to head coach on November 19, and the team won 17 of its next 20 games.

The Lakers took the Pacific Division title and then embarked on one of the most impressive playoff journeys in NBA history. They swept both Phoenix and the San Antonio Spurs with an average margin of victory of 11 points. Los Angeles then stretched its postseason winning streak to nine games by taking the first contest of the NBA Finals from the 76ers.

{Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holding the championship trophy}

Philadelphia came back to win Game 2, but the Lakers prevailed in the series, four games to two, to win their second title in three years. The team's playoff record that year was 12-2. Furthermore, they found themselves again with the top overall draft pick, thanks to a trade two years earlier with the last-place Cleveland Cavaliers. This marked the first time that a reigning NBA champion also had the first pick in the draft.


The Addition Of "Big Game" James Worthy (1982)

The Lakers used the first pick in the 1982 draft to select James Worthy. Worthy had a strong rookie campaign, but he broke his leg at the end of the season and could only watch helplessly as the Lakers, also hobbled by injuries in the post-season to Bob McAdoo and Norm Nixon, were swept by the powerful 76ers, led by regular season and Finals MVP Moses Malone, in the 1983 NBA Finals.

Byron Scott joined the team the next year, in a trade for the popular Norm Nixon, and the Lakers got off to a roaring start. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set the NBA all-time scoring record against Utah on April 5, 1984, topping Wilt Chamberlain's 31,419. The Lakers returned to the finals to face Larry Bird's Boston Celtics. Just as it had been in the 1960s, Boston came out on top, with the Celtics claiming a 111-102 victory in Game 7 at Boston Garden.


1984 - 1985 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #10)

{back row: Coach Pat Riley, Byron Scott (4), Larry Sprigs (35), James Worthy (42), Mitch Kupchak (25), Ronnie Lester (12), front row: Owner Jerry Buss, Mike McGee (40), Kurt Rambis (31), Jamaal Wilkes (52), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Bob McAdoo (11), Magic Johnson (32), Michael Cooper (21)}

The 1984-85 season saw the Lakers win the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year, this time by an NBA-record 20 games. They also set team records for field-goal percentage (.545) and assists (2,575). Los Angeles reached the NBA Finals after eliminating Phoenix, Portland, and the Denver Nuggets, chalking up an 11-2 record on the way.

For the ninth time, they faced the Celtics in the finals. The championship series got off to a horrid start for the Lakers, losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals by a lopsided score of 148-114, in what is now remembered as the "Memorial Day Massacre". But the Lakers were resilient and behind 37-year old Finals MVP Abdul-Jabbar, they were finally able to topple Boston in six games.

{Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Jerry Buss after the 1985 NBA Finals}

The team gained an extra measure of satisfaction from winning the title in the Boston Garden, the site of so many past agonies for the Laker franchise, thus making the 1985 Lakers the only visiting team to ever win an NBA championship on the famed parquet floor. The 1985 series marked the ninth time that Los Angeles and Boston had met in the NBA Finals but the first time that the Lakers had come away with the crown.


The Original Twin Towers In Houston (1985 - 1986)

The Lakers were expected to meet Boston in the finals again the next year, and started the 1985-86 season on a tear, going 24-3. They finished with 62 wins and topped the record they set the year before by winning their fifth-straight division title by 22 games.

However, the Houston Rockets had their own plans for the playoffs. Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson proved to be too much for Abdul-Jabbar (in his NBA-record 17th season) to handle, and the Lakers fell in five games in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets won the series when Sampson hit a 20-foot jumper as time expired in Game 5 at The Forum.


1986 - 1987 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #11)

{back row: Coach Pat Riley, Wes Matthews(1), Billy Thompson (55), AC Green (45), Mike Smrek (52), Mychal Thompson (43), Adrian Branch (24), front row: Owner Jerry Buss, Kurt Rambis (31), James Worthy (42), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Michael Cooper (21), Byron Scott (4), Magic Johnson (32)}

Abdul-Jabbar turned 39 in the 1986-87 season, but Pat Riley had changed the focus of the offense to fall on Magic Johnson's shoulders. The strategy worked, and the Lakers accumulated 65 wins, the second-most in franchise history up to that point. Johnson also won his first MVP award. It should be noted that although the Showtime Lakers were famous for their scoring, they were also a great defensive team.

Michael Cooper won the NBA Defensive Player of The Year Award in 1987. Johnson then notched his last Finals MVP award as the Lakers defeated their arch-rival Celtics in the finals, highlighted by Johnson's running "baby hook" shot to win Game 4 at Boston Garden with two seconds remaining. This time, the decisive game was at home, giving the Los Angeles fans their first-ever chance to witness in person their team conquer the hated Celtics.
{Magic Johnson's "Baby Hook" versus the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals}

Johnson earned the NBA Finals MVP Award to go with his regular-season MVP trophy. At the Lakers' championship celebration in Los Angeles, Coach Riley brashly declared that the Lakers would repeat as NBA champions in 1987-88. It was a bold statement that served to motivate the team throughout the next season.


1987 - 1988 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #12)

{back row: Coach Pat Riley,Wes Matthews(1), Billy Thompson (55), AC Green (45), Mike Smrek (52), Mychal Thompson (43), Jeff Lamp (3), Milt Wagner (20), front row: Owner Jerry Buss, Kurt Rambis (31), James Worthy (42), kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Michael Cooper (21), Byron Scott (4), Magic Johnson (32)}

Los Angeles made no major moves before the 1987-88 campaign. The Lakers opened the season with an eight-game winning streak but lost six of their next nine games. They snapped out of the uncharacteristic slump with a 115-114 victory in Boston on December 11 that ignited a 15-game winning streak, the second longest in franchise history.

The club finished with a 62-20 record and a seventh consecutive Pacific Division title. After sweeping San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs, Los Angeles was forced to the limit in each of the next two series. The Lakers struggled against both the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks before winning each series in seven games.

In the NBA Finals the Lakers had a new opponent in the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons had grown into an Eastern Conference power thanks to Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman. Detroit had managed to unseat the Celtics in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

{James Worthy (42)}

The NBA Finals represented a clash of styles, with the run-and-gun Lakers battling the physical Pistons. The series went a grueling seven games, with players on both sides turning in heroic performances. The most heroic of all was turned in by James Worthy, who had a triple-double in Game 7 to lead the Lakers to a 108-105 victory. Worthy was named Finals MVP, and Los Angeles became the first club to repeat as NBA champions since the Boston Celtics in 1968-69.


The Three-Peat That Was Not Meant To Be (1988 - 1989)

It didn't look to be the beginning of the end, as the 1988-89 Lakers won their division yet again and Magic Johnson collected his second MVP award. The team then swept their first three playoff series (against the Trail Blazers, SuperSonics and Suns respectively) to set up a rematch with the Pistons in the Finals.

But the three-peat was not to be, as Johnson and Byron Scott both were injured and the Pistons swept the Lakers in the 1989 NBA Finals. Following the series, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement at the age of 42, after 20 spectacular years in the NBA.

The Lakers seemed to adapt well to Kareem's absence. New center Vlade Divac helped the team to a 63-win season in 1989-90 and their ninth consecutive division title, and Johnson took another MVP award. However, the Phoenix Suns had the Lakers' number that year in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, defeating the Lakers in a surprisingly easy five games. Pat Riley decided to leave and was replaced by Mike Dunleavy as head coach. Michael Cooper, another great from the Showtime years, also retired.

{Vlade Divac (12)}

Johnson became the NBA's all-time assist leader, surpassing Oscar Robertson the next season, as Dunleavy's new philosophy incorporated a slow and deliberate style, instead of the fast breaking Showtime style of the Pat Riley era. After a slow start the Lakers finished with a 58-24 record, defeated the strong Portland Trail blazers 4-2 for the conference championship and returned to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for the Lakers, though, a new dynasty was just beginning elsewhere, as Michael Jordan and the Chicago bulls, under second-year coach Phil Jackson, won the first of their six championships by ousting the Lakers four games to one.


The Announcement That Shocked The World (1991)

On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson shocked the world with his announcement that he had contracted HIV and would retire immediately. Despite his retirement, he was selected to the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, where he earned the MVP award.

The 1991-92 Lakers struggled with the news of Magic's retirement and serious injuries to key players. They did manage to win 43 games and qualify for the playoffs for a then-NBA-record 16th consecutive time, thanks in no small way to the offseason recruitment of guard Sedale Threatt. However, playing without the injured James Worthy and Sam Perkins, the Lakers were over matched by a powerful Portland Trail Blazers team and lost the first round series three games to one. That series featured one of the Lakers' "home" games being played in Las Vegas due to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

The Lakers went through many good players during the 1990's, and were very competitive throughout the decade. They only missed the playoffs once in 1994. Vlade Divac and Nick Van Exel led the way in the middle of the 90's, with swing man Eddie Jones. Elden Campbell and Cedric Ceballos were also key contributors.

{Nick Van Exel (9)}

On January 30, 1996 Magic Johnson returned to the Lakers as a reserve power forward and registered 19 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds in his first game back against the Golden State Warriors. Johnson played well in the first few weeks of his return and sparked the Lakers to a 29-11 record while he was back in uniform. However, as the season progressed the wheels began to fall off as Johnson's age and time away from the game began to affect his performance.


The Formation Of A Power House (1996 - 1999)

During the 1995-96 season, team captain Cedric Ceballos was suspended by the team, Nick Van Exel was suspended for seven games for shoving a referee, and Johnson even lost his cool, getting ejected from a late-season game for bumping an official. The imploding Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the defending champion Houston Rockets three games to one. Magic Johnson retired again following the season.

However, the summer leading up to the 1996 season would prove to be one of the greatest in the history of the Lakers organization. Jerry West pulled off one of the great signings in the history of the NBA when he landed free agent Shaquille O'Neal. Additionally, he traded Vlade Divac for 17-year-old draft pick Kobe Bryant. During the season, the Lakers also traded Cedric Ceballos to the Phoenix Suns for Robert Horry.

{Shaquille O'Neal in 1996}

The Lakers went on to win 56 games and defeat the Portland Trail Blazers three games to one in the first round of the playoffs. But despite Horry's NBA-record 7-for-7 three-point shooting, the Lakers lost to Karl Malone and John Stockton, at the height of their careers with the Utah Jazz, who swept the Lakers in the 1997 Western Conference Finals.

The next year, the Lakers were the only team without a player over the age of 30, and their youth and energy showed, helped by the addition of Rick Fox from the Boston Celtics. They finished with a 61-21 record, losing the division championship only on a tiebreaker to Gary Payton and the Seattle SuperSonics. O'Neal was dominant, finishing only second to Michael Jordan in scoring, and leading the league in field-goal percentage (.584).

{Rick Fox (17)}

In the 1998 Western Conference Quarter-Finals, the Lakers once again met the Portland Trail Blazers and defeated them three games to one. In the semi-finals, the Lakers had a meeting with the Seattle SuperSonics, which the Lakers were ready for. They managed to avenge their divisional tiebreaker with the SuperSonics by defeating them four games to one. But once the Lakers reached the Western Conference Finals, they were beaten for a second straight year by Utah, who would again lose to Chicago in the Finals.

The 1998-99 season was shortened due to a lockout, but the shorter season didn't mean there would be any less drama for the Lakers. Nick Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets, Del Harris was replaced by Kurt Rambis, prolific scorer Glen Rice was picked up in a trade for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, and the flamboyant Dennis Rodman joined the team, though he was cut after just 23 games. The Lakers played poorly at times and finished the 50 game long season with a 31-19 record.

They defeated the Houston Rockets 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs, but were swept in the second round by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, closing the series by losing the last two NBA games ever played at the Great Western Forum (as The Forum was known at that time). There was a new era in laker Basketball just around the corner, as the Lakers would have a new home floor at Staples Center, newer, more modern jerseys replacing the ones worn by the Lakers since the late 70's, a new coach in Phil Jackson, and a new system: the triangle offense.


1999 - 2000 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #13)

{back row, center: Coach Phil Jackson, center row: Tyronn Lue (10), Devean George (3), Ron Harper (4), Rick Fox (17), Kobe Bryant (8), Brian Shaw (20), John Celestand (11), Derek Fisher (2), front row: Glen Rice (41), Robert Horry (5), Shaquille O'Neal (34), Owner Jerry Buss, Travis Knight (40), John Salley (16), AC Green (45)}

The new philosophy from the triangle offense proved to be potent, as the Lakers started off strong, winning 31 of their first 36 games. They also were able to string together winning streaks of 16, 19, and 11 games, becoming only the third team in NBA history to have three double-digit win streaks in one season.

Despite topping the league with a 67-15 record in the regular season, the Lakers found themselves struggling in the playoffs, needing all five games to knock off the Sacramento Kings and coming back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against Portland.
[Kobe Bryant's Alley-Oop to Shaq to secure a Finals berth}

The Indiana Pacers, coached by the Lakers' old nemesis, Larry Bird, proved to be slightly less of a problem, however, and in six games, the Lakers claimed their first NBA championship since 1988. Shaquille O'Neal picked up both MVP and Finals MVP awards in 2000. Having also shared the 2000 All-Star Game MVP award, he was only the third player in NBA history to win all three awards in the same season.

Kobe Bryant was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team, the youngest player to earn the honor. Bryant had blossomed under Coach Jackson, as had Lakers role players such as Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry. Shaq average 29 points and 13 rebounds on the season, while Kobe averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. The Lakers next leading scorer was Glen Rice at almost 16 points a game.


2000 - 2001 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #14)

{back row, center: Coach Phil Jackson, center row: Tyronn Lue (10), Mike Penberthy (12), Ron Harper (4), Rick Fox (17),  Kobe Bryant (8), Brian Shaw (20), Isaiah Rider (7), Derek Fisher (2), front row: Devean George (3), Stanislav Medvedenko (14), Greg Foster (40), Shaquille O'Neal (34), Owner Jerry Buss, Horace Grant (54), Robert Horry (5), Mark Madsen (35)}

The Lakers certainly looked the favorite to repeat as champions in the 2000 - 2001 season, but they had a tougher time of it, accumulating 16 losses by the All-Star break, one more than they had had the entire season before. Nevertheless, they pulled together and were able to edge the Sacramento Kings for the division title.

Kobe and Shaq formed one of the greatest duo's ever in the history of the NBA. During the regular season, Shaq averaged 28.7 points and 12.7 rebounds a game, while Kobe averaged 28.5 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists a game. Derek Fisher was thriving in the triangle offense and was putting up almost 12 points a game, while shooting almost 40% from 3 point range.

{Derek Fisher (2)}

The team went on a tear in the playoffs, sweeping the first three playoff series. Nobody was a match for the Lakers. The Lakers-Spurs series in the conference finals was the most lopsided conference finals series in NBA History, with the Lakers winning by an average of 22 points per game.

{The Lakers celebrating after their 2001 NBA Finals victory}

The Lakers lost the first game of the NBA Finals to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers, but that only proved to be a temporary blip, as they swept the next four games to claim their second consecutive championship. O'Neal collected his second Finals MVP and Derek Fisher set a playoff record with 15 three-pointers in the series against San Antonio. The Lakers concluded the 2001 playoffs with a staggering 15-1 record, the best single season playoff record in NBA history.


2001 - 2002 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #15)

{back row, center; Coach Phil Jackson, center row: Lindsey Hunter (10), Brian Shaw (20), Rick Fox (17), Kobe Bryant (8), Mitch Richmond (23), Derek Fisher (2), front row: Devean George (3), Jelani McCoy (6), Stanislav Medvedenko (14), Shaquille O'Neal (34), Owner Jerry Buss, Samaki Walker (52), Robert Horry (5), Mark Madsen (35)}

The Lakers certainly thought a third consecutive championship was possible, and they started strongly in the 2001-02 season, winning 16 of their first 17 games. But an arthritic toe hobbled O'Neal for much of the season and the Lakers lost the division crown to the Sacramento Kings.

Thus began a memorable post-season for Robert Horry, who sealed the first series against Portland with a game-winning three-pointer, enabling the Lakers to sweep. The Lakers followed with a 4-1 defeat of San Antonio in the second round.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers faced the immensely talented Sacramento Kings, a team many believed was ready to finally make it over the hump and get to the NBA Finals. The series, which will most likely go down as one of the most exciting Conference Finals in NBA history, was neck and neck throughout.

The Kings were only seconds away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 in Los Angeles before a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Robert Horry saved the Lakers, tied the series at 2-2, and enabled the Lakers to push the series to a seventh and deciding game in Sacramento.
{Robert Horry's game winning shot vs the Kings in the 2002 WCF}

Game 7 proved to be as dramatic as the previous games in the series, with the Lakers eventually defeating the Kings in overtime and advancing to the NBA Finals. The championship series against the New Jersey Nets was a mere formality, as the Lakers swept all four games in one of the most lopsided NBA Finals ever. By securing their third straight NBA Championship, the Lakers of 2000-02 earned their place in NBA history.

{Kobe and Shaq, with Magic, after the 3-peat}

O'Neal won his third consecutive Finals MVP award joining only Michael Jordan as players to have achieved such honors, and Jackson won his ninth championship as a head coach, tying Celtics legend Red Auerbach, while surpassing Pat Riley as the coach with the most playoff victories.


What Could Have Been (2003 - 2005)

The Laker juggernaut seemed unstoppable, and a fourth consecutive championship was in their sights. However, they started off poorly the next season, with Shaquille O'Neal missing the first 12 games while recovering from toe surgery, and then taking time to get into game shape. At Christmas, the team was 11-19, but then Kobe Bryant turned in the best sustained performance of his career, setting NBA records for youngest player to reach 10,000 points, most three-pointers in a game (12), most three-pointers in a half (8), and most consecutive three-pointers in a game (9).

Additionally, he set a team record for most points in a half (42), scored 40+ points in 9 consecutive games (joining Chamberlain and Jordan), scored 35+ points in 13 consecutive games (trailing only Chamberlain), became the third player to average 40 points in a month, and became the first Laker to record a triple-double in consecutive games since Magic Johnson in 1991.
{Kobe's 55 points (42 in one half) vs Michael Jordan and the Wizards}

The Lakers finished the season with a 50-32 record, their 27th 50+ victory season since moving to Los Angeles. In the playoffs, the pivotal moment was a familiar one. With the series tied at two games apiece, the Lakers were already missing one of their tri-captains in Rick Fox, who had torn a ligament in his left foot during the Minnesota series.

San Antonio led by as many as 25 points in the game before the Lakers' poise and confidence once again emerged down the stretch. Down 18 in the final period, Los Angeles dug deep and rallied, leaving themselves a two-point deficit with a mere 14.7 ticks left on the clock.

The game would come down to a familiar hero in a familiar situation. Following the inbounds pass and with 3.6 seconds remaining in the game, Robert Horry let fly the potential game-winning three-pointer, only this time the Lakers saw the ball go in, then inexplicably rim out. A shot that had always fallen in the past would not this time around.

It was a moment that legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, who had died shortly before the season after 42 years as the only play-by-play announcer the Los Angeles Lakers had ever had, would probably have described by exclaiming, "In and out, heartbrrrrreak!

Rather than rejoicing in another last-second victory that would have given them a 3-2 series lead and a chance to finish the Spurs off back home in Los Angeles, the Lakers instead faced the dejection of having been so close, but now facing a 3-2 deficit and now being on the brink of elimination. The Spurs did not waste their chance to finish off the Lakers. They swarmed the Lakers in Game 6 and put an end to the Lakers' dreams of a fourth consecutive NBA championship.

Determined to reclaim the title in Dr. Buss' 25th year of ownership, the Lakers brought in free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and started the 2003-04 season with a bang, winning 20 of their first 25 games, during which time Malone became the oldest player to record a triple-double. But then Malone went down with a knee injury, and other ailments to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant soon followed, leaving Payton to lead the younger players in an offensive system with which he wasn't particularly familiar. Additionally the team faced the ongoing distraction of Bryant's sexual assault case and the sniping between O'Neal and Bryant which had ensued after Bryant was charged.

{Kobe, Malone, Shaq and Payton formed an incredible hall of fame starting unit}

Still, the team managed to keep things together long enough for everyone to recover, closing the season in style with 14 victories in 17 games, and a Pacific Division title thanks to Bryant's two buzzer-beating three-pointers against Portland: one to tie the game at the end of regulation, and the second to win it in double-overtime. Without Horry in the playoffs, it was up to Fisher to save the team with a game-winning buzzer-beater. Again the Lakers were down 0-2 to San Antonio (at this time, the defending champions) in the semifinals.

Again they were able to tie the series two games a piece at home. Again they were down as Game 5 drew to a close. Fisher's miraculous basket, coming off of an inbounds play that began with just 0.4 seconds left in the game, would achieve acclaim as one of the NBA's most amazing playoff moments. This time, the Lakers returned home for Game 6 indeed relishing the joy of their improbable win, and they took advantage of their chance to finish off the Spurs, taking the game to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
{Derek Fisher's 0.4 Second Game Winner vs the Spurs}

After storming through the number one seed Minesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers were expected to run over their NBA Finals opponents, the Detroit Pistons. But it wound up being the other way around, with the Pistons winning the series easily in five games, playing a team-oriented game featuring a particularly stingy defense.


Trying To Find The Right Pieces (2005 - 2007)

The following summer, the Lakers imploded. Jackson was burned out, and the Lakers' management was unwilling to pay the kind of salary that he wanted to continue. The tensions between Kobe and Shaq finally came to a head. When Jackson was not retained as coach, O'Neal demanded a trade and it was granted; he went to the Miami Heat in return for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant.

{Kobe with Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant}

Bryant tested the free-agent market, apparently coming very close to signing with the LA Clippers before deciding to stay with the Lakers. Jackson retired and Rudy Tomjanovich came in as the new head coach. Gary Payton was dealt to Boston and Karl Malone retired after undergoing knee surgery, but not before the possibility of his return was eliminated when he and Bryant had a falling-out.

Despite all of the offseason movement, the Lakers did manage a 24-19 start at the beginning of the 2004-05 season, but it was at this time Tomjanovich left the team for health concerns. The Lakers struggled without Tomjanovich, but were still able to manage a 32-29 record and were in position to make the playoffs. However, the Lakers were not able to overcome late season injuries to Bryant and Odom, and went on to lose 19 of their last 21 games, finishing with a record of 34-48. The Lakers missed the playoffs for only the fifth time in Lakers history.

From the 2006 season to the 2008 season, the Lakers seemed to be a one man show as Kobe did not have enough talent around him to make a deep push into the playoffs. The team seemed to be a bunch of mediocre players surrounded by a great role player in Lamar Odom and a superstar in Kobe Bryant. But an injury in the middle of the 2008 season would change all of that.


The Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant Era (2008)

The Lakers started the 2007-08 season surprisingly well. Fueled by the emergence of Andrew Bynum as a main option at center, the Lakers would even enjoy being the number one team in the Western Conference for three days. Capped by an early season trade for Trevor Ariza, rumors of Bryant wanting to leave Los Angeles were finally beginning to die.

{Trevor Ariza (3) and Andrew Bynum (17)}

However, before the Lakers could savor their new success, Bynum would go down with a knee injury that would take him out for the remainder of the season. Suddenly, the contending Lakers would lose three straight games. The remainder of the season looked bleak for the Lakers, who were struggling to win games. It seemed that injuries, once again, would cripple another Laker season.

On February 1, 2008, the Lakers dealt the unpopular Kwame Brown (who was booed viciously by the fans for his many turnovers in recent games), rookie Javaris Crittenton, veteran Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol, and first round picks in 2008 and 2010 for Spaniard all-star forward Pau Gasol (Marc's older brother) and a second round draft choice in 2010.

{Pau Gasol}

With the Lakers now having a center and power forward who are both 7 feet tall, analysts have referred to Gasol and Bynum as "the twin towers," similar to famous NBA duos such as Tim Duncan and David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright, and the original named duo of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. Even while waiting for Bynum's return, the Lakers were playing very well and got a second taste of being best in the Western Conference.

With Kobe Bryant leading the charge with his MVP-caliber season, the month of April was very triumphant for the Lakers, who quickly surged to the top of Western Conference. Aided by Gasol's versatile abilities and Lamar Odom's stellar play as a third option, the Lakers clinched their playoff berth for the 55th time in their 60 years with the league, won the Pacific Division from the Phoenix Suns (their first since Shaq left in 2004), and clinched the number one seed in the Western Conference for the first time since the 1999 - 2000 season.

{Kobe Bryant is the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player}

Bryant was also named the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player. Entering the post-season, The Lakers would post a 12-3 record entering the Finals. However, problems suddenly arose when the Lakers faced the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals. The Celtics, the best-record team during the regular season, convincingly beat the Lakers 4-2 in the best of 7 series with an absolutely incredible defensive effort throughout the series.


2008 - 2009 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #16)

{back row, center: Coach Phil Jackson, center row: Derek Fisher (2), Shannon Brown (12), Adam Morrison (6), Kobe Bryant (24), Sasha Vujacic (18), Jordan Farmar (5), front row: Luke Walton (4), Josh Powell (21), DJ Mbenga (28), Pau Gasol (16), Owner Jerry Buss, Andrew Bynum (17), Lamar Odom (7), Sun Yue (9), Trevor Ariza (3)}

In the 2009 season, the Lakers had only one goal in mind: "ring" (their huddle chant throughout the season). In January, the Lakers would again lose Andrew Bynum to injury. The Lakers remained focused on their one goal, even with their starting center on the shelf, and continued to win games. Bynum would return for the last few games of the regular season, and the Lakers ended up with a record of 65-17.

In the playoffs, Los Angeles easily beat the Utah Jazz in the first round, but faced a tough Houston Rockets team the next round. Though the Rockets stunned the Staples Center crowd with a Game 1 win, the Lakers took the series in seven, with most games of the series ending as a blowout.

{Kobe Bryant (24)}

The Denver Nuggets kept the next round tight for L.A., until the Lakers blew them out in Game 6, winning the conference championship. In the Finals against the Orlando Magic, several games were close, but the Lakers, behind stellar play from Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant as well as clutch shooting from Derek Fisher, still won 4-1 and were crowned NBA Champions for the first time in 7 years. Kobe Bryant was named the Finals MVP.


2009 - 2010 Los Angeles Lakers (title #17)

{back row, center: Coach Phil Jackson, center row: Derek Fisher (2), Shannon Brown (12), Adam Morrison (6), Kobe Bryant (24), Sasha Vujacic (18), Jordan Farmar (1), front row: Luke Walton (4), Josh Powell (21), DJ Mbenga (28), Pau Gasol (16), Owner Jerry Buss, Andrew Bynum (17), Lamar Odom (7), Ron Artest (37)}

On July 3, 2009, the Lakers signed Houston Rockets forward Ron Artest to a five year contract to replace Lakers forward Trevor Ariza who signed with the Rockets. The Lakers had little resistance in the Western Conference and once again won the Western Conference. The only thing that seemed to be able to stop them were injuries.

{Ron Artest}

Bryant broke a finger in the middle of the season but never missed any time from that injury. He did sit out a few games to rest an ankle however. Bynum, for the third year in a row, got injured. He sat out a few games to rest his Achilles Tendon. Upon returning for the playoffs, he partially tore his meniscus in his knee. He, like Kobe, fought through it and didnt miss any games in the playoffs, even though he was limited.

The Lakers made it past a young Oklahoma City Thunder team who ended up being their biggest threat. They swept the Utah Jazz in the second round and beat the Phoenix Suns in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals, and made it to their third straight Finals.

In the Finals, the Lakers were rematched with the Boston Celtics. Faced against much of the same roster that they had played with in 2008, the series played out very tightly, with both teams trading wins for the first four games. After the Celtics won a decisive game 5, the series moved back to Los Angeles where the Lakers would win in a rout. Coming down to the fifth game 7 in the rivalry's history, Boston played well in the early goings of the match.

However, the Lakers would rally in the fourth quarter to a raging Staples Center crowd. Led by Bryant and Gasol's rebounding, and with clutch shots from Ron Artest and Derek Fisher, the Lakers would win their franchise's 17th^ NBA Championship. Bryant was awarded his second consecutive Finals MVP.

^If you count the Minneapolis Lakers first championship with the NBL in 1948, this is the Lakers 17th championship.

{The Los Angeles Lakers Win the 2010 NBA Finals}

The Lakers finally had gotten revenge on the Celtics for the embarrassing defeat in game 6 of the 2008 Finals. With most of the key players on the team in place for an additional 3 years, the Lakers seem prepared to do quite a bit more celebrating in the upcoming years.


2010 - 2011 Los Angeles Lakers (Title #18) be continued...........................................

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