When LeBron James peaced out on the city of Cleveland this summer, he became only the second player ever to change uniforms after an MVP season. Who was the first? Hall-of-famer and former Laker great, Wilt Chamberlain, who was dealt to the Lakers in 1968 for Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark and Jerry Chambers. Fresh off yet another record-setting season, where he became the first center to lead the league in assists (he still holds that record to this day) and won his fourth Most Valuable Player award, Wilt brought a Hollywood-sized personality to the biggest stage in the world.
The man called “Stilt” carried with him a 1-6 record in playoff series against the Lakers’ storied nemesis Boston Celtics, however, he also provided LA with a dominating presence down low to compliment the hall-of-fame play of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Although the Lakers would go on to win only one title in four finals appearances during Wilt’s five seasons with the team, they were able to establish arguably the greatest record in sports history during their lone championship season.
Nine games into the 1971-72 NBA season, Baylor, a future hall-of-famer and team captain, ruptured his achilles tendon and announced his retirement. The night of his announcement, the Lakers, led by Wilt, the team’s new team captain, and Jerry West, earned the first victory of what would end up being a 33-game win streak–the longest in American professional sports history. The Lakers would finish the 1972 season with an all-time league best, 69-13 record, which would remain untouched until Jordan’s 72-win Bulls topped it 24 years later.
While Wilt may not have posted the scoring numbers that he did in Philadelphia and San Francisco, his dominance on the glass and presence down low allowed him to cement his name next to the other Laker legends while helping the Purple and Gold win first title since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles; a feat that any Laker fan can respect. It may have been overdue, but with Wilt anchoring the team from down low, it was finally time for a tradition of winning to begin in Los Angeles.
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