The Lakers and New York Knicks played their first regular season game on November 11th, 1948 when the Lakers resided in Minneapolis. Although that specific game is lost in the minds of basketball fans, it marked the beginning of a new NBA “rivalry.”
The Lakers and Knicks would meet each other in two consecutive NBA titles from 1952 and 1953. After a grueling seven game series Minneapolis beat the Knicks in ’52 Finals, and they saw the same results in 1953 when they handled the Knickerbockers in five games. Although the Lakers-Knicks hatred was on the verge of explosion, the franchises did not meet again in the Finals for another 17 years.
After a long placid period, NBA fans were once again given the opportunity to see the Lakers and Knicks in the NBA Finals. The first finals meeting of the 70s occurred in 1970, and many prognosticators predicted that Jerry West and the Lakers would ultimately raise the trophy. However, their paradigm turned out to be the antithesis of what actually happened. The Knicks beat the Lakers in another tough seven game season, and Willis Reed’s emotional return was a watershed moment in the series.
Both teams met again in the year 1972, but this time the Los Angeles Lakers were without the legend Elgin Baylor. Nevertheless, the Lakers were still a very powerful team and they lost only two games going into the Finals.
Unlike their previous meeting with the Knicks in 1970, the Lakers captured the title in five games. Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain won their first championships, and more importantly the team avenged their Finals loss from two years prior.
Unfortunately, these team have never again faced each other in the NBA Finals. The Lakers have been a very successful franchise since ‘72, and they have been featured in several championship series. But the same can not be said about the New York Knicks. Perhaps there could have been another series battle if the Knicks had actually put together a successful team.