The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers are widely believed to be one of the greatest teams of all-time. Even with Elgin Baylor retiring early on, the Lakers still had an excellent triumvirate of Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, and Wilt Chamberlain.
As a matter of fact, it was Baylor’s retirement that would kick off this amazing run that had never been seen before in any sport. The Lakers were utterly dominant during this time and it continued on this day 46 years ago.
On Dec. 22, 1971, the Lakers extended their NBA record winning streak to 27 games with a 127-120 win over the Baltimore Bullets. In doing so, they set a new record for the longest winning streak in all of professional sports, breaking a tie with Major League Baseball’s New York Giants who won 26 games in 1916.
As was usually the case it was West and Goodrich leading the way offensively. West finished with 37 points and Goodrich put in 28. The Lakers also got big contributions from Jim McMillan and Happy Hairston who scored 25 and 18 points, respectively.
Chamberlain only scored six points, but during this time his role was mainly as a rebounder and rim protector, and he played it perfectly.
Of course, the Lakers would extend this streak to 33 games, a mark that still stands today. The closest a team has come to matching it was the 2013 Miami Heat led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, who won 27 straight.
This win brought the Lakers record to a ridiculous 33-3 and they would finish the season at 69-13, then an NBA record that has still only been surpassed twice.
The 1971-72 Lakers are one of the NBA’s greatest teams for a reason, but on this day they didn’t just make NBA history, they made sports history.
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