When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960 they had an established superstar in Elgin Baylor, as well as the second pick in the draft that year, which they used to select Jerry West from West Virginia. The Lakers would make the NBA Finals six times between 1962 and 1970 but could not get over the hump, mainly because of the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics.
When the 1971-72 season began, you had to wonder whether the Lakers would ever taste the championship again. But with four of the 10 greatest Lakers of all-time on the roster (Baylor, West, Gail Goodrich, and Wilt Chamberlain) and excellent role players like Happy Hairston and Jim McMillan, things were looking up.
Unfortunately, after only nine games Elgin Baylor decided to retire as he felt he was holding the team back due to his deteriorating health. Baylor apparently knew himself and his team well because the Lakers promptly won an NBA-record 33 consecutive games on their way to an impressive 69-13 regular season record.
After defeating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Milwaukee Bucks in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers were met in the NBA Finals by the New York Knicks. The same team that defeated the Lakers just two years earlier in seven games to capture the 1970 NBA Championship.
This Laker team, however, would not be stopped. They defeated the Knicks four games to one as Wilt Chamberlain would win the NBA Finals MVP. Chamberlain averaged 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds including a 24 point, 29 rebound performance in the clinching Game 5.
This team is considered by many as one of the greatest of all-time. With their regular season and playoff success, along with their collection of stars and role players, it makes sense that they are in the same category as all of the other elite teams. And they got the city of Los Angeles their first taste of basketball glory.
On this Throwback Thursday, Lakers Nation salutes the 1971-72 team for winning the first Laker championship in Los Angeles.
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