When the Lakers completed the 1975 season, the team found themselves in a very unfamiliar place; out of the playoffs. This marked the first time that the Lakers would not qualify for the post-season since arriving in Los Angeles, 15 years prior.
When something is broken, a fix must be instilled; and that is what the Lakers did. At the close of the season, the Lakers sent center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, and then standout rookies Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman in return for reserve center Walt Wesley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kareem had requested a trade in October 1974 due to his cultural needs. Los Angeles would quickly prove to be the place for Abdul-Jabbar.
On October 23, 1975, the new-look Lakers opened up at Madison Square Garden against future Laker coach Phil Jackson, and the New York Knicks.
The excitement did not phase Kareem, who was just 28 years old and entering the prime of his career. The Lakers defeated the Knicks, 104-101 and seemingly would give hope to a team that was accustomed to make the playoffs year-in and year-out.
The end result was very familiar though. For the only time in Los Angeles Lakers history, the team missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons after finishing with a record of 40-42.
5. He’s Back!
Retirement could not keep Phil Jackson away for too long. After just a season apart, and two head coaches later, the Lakers found the answer to their solution (again) in Jackson.
This time the challenge was tougher. Phil no longer had Shaq, or Derek Fisher, or Robert Horry. This was a completely new Laker team. Let’s not forget that he did have Kobe though.
But still, Jackson went right to work with what he had. Fans wondered about the risky trade made by the Lakers on August 2, 2005 that would send Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.
In essence, Brown would be Shaq, while free agent signing Smush Parker would attempt to be Fisher.
Nonetheless, the excitement was there because the zen master was back. If anybody could clean up such a mess, it was definitely Phil Jackson.
On November 2, 2005, the Lakers played a thriller on the road against the Denver Nuggets. Both teams were back and forth throughout the night; so much that the game needed as extra period to settle the outcome. It was in overtime that Kobe with 0.6 seconds left, welcomed Jackson back to the Lakers in grand fashion with the game-winning jumper, just in front of the three-point stripe; lifting the Lakers to victory by the score of 99-97.
Bryant scored eight of his 33 points in the extra period. The excitement was evident as Kobe ran to the other side of the court and clenched his fist, then bumped chests with Devean George.
Jackson did indeed get this young squad to overachieve. The team would claim the seventh seed out West, but would fall in seven games to the Phoenix Suns.