Winning Ways: A Look Back on the 1972 Season

Written by: Dustin Malcolm

It all begins somewhere. If you walk around downtown Los Angeles on game night, an undeniable buzz fills the streets as the posters that drape down the side of the Staples Center proudly display the Lakers’ latest accomplishment. Winning has become an honored tradition for the World Champions. But it hasn’t always been that way.

American basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, wearing a University of Kansas uniform, sits in a chair and ties his shoelace. A basketball rests on the floor by his feet.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


The Lakers struggled with their hated rivals in Boston from the very beginning of their move to Los Angeles, losing in 6 NBA Finals appearances following the inaugural 1960-1961 season. There was no doubt that the Lakers had the talent, as players like Jerry West and Elgin Baylor continued to dominate the NBA with their performances. But 1972 was a year that an undeniable spark consumed a determined team and brought Los Angeles their first taste of glory.

The season began with all signs pointing to some Laker magic. Jerry West, who remains the only player in history to win the NBA Finals MVP on the losing squad (1969), was enshrined as legend in becoming direct inspiration for the new NBA logo, commemorating the league’s 25th anniversary. After a painful battle with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1971 Playoffs that featured the young and powerful Lew Alcindor, the Lakers were clearly favored in the following year.

Wilt Chamberlain was a force at his position for the ages, and with a high scoring backcourt tandem of West and Gail Goodrich, who would later combine for an average of over 51 points per game, the Lakers were in prime position to dominate the league in their ever elusive quest towards NBA immortality.

Next: Losing a Legend and Starting a Streak…

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