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Los Angeles Lakers

A professional basketball team in the Western Conference of the NBA.

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Walking on Water

  • Aug 28, 2012
Rating:
+2
Among the major professional sports leagues (plus the NHL) in the United States, the NBA stands out in one very minor way. In the others, there's one team which is peerless in the fact that it's running away with more titles than any other team, to such a point that it would take years for the next-closest team in the league to catch them. In the National Hockey League, the Montreal Canadiens lead the way with 24 Stanley Cup victories. Next in line is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have 13, and the most dangerously consistent team in the league is currently the Detroit Red Wings, who have won it eleven times. In the National Football League, which prides itself on parity, the 13-time champion Green Bay Packers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Gr...merica_s_REAL_Team.html) are four titles in front of their closest rivals, the nine-time champion Chicago Bears (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Ch...218883-Da_Monsters.html) and eight-time champion New York Giants (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Ne...at_Giants_They_Are.html). As for Major League Baseball, come on! You have the 27-time champion New York Yankees (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/baseball_team/U...to_Wear_the_Iconic.html) lording over absolutely everyone else for miles. The only other team in the league with a double-digit number of World Series titles is the Saint Louis Cardinals (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...e_Good_in_Baseball.html) who only won their tenth title in 2006 and their eleventh last year.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-The_Big_Green_Men.html) would seem to have everyone else begging for mercy with their 17 titles. But the Celtics are actually feared by precisely no one right now. True, they've won more titles than any other team, but the Los Angeles Lakers could definitely give them a hell of a run. The Lakers are one of the oldest and most storied teams in the NBA. They were formed way back when the NBA was two separate leagues, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League. The NBA considers the BAA its official forerunner, though, so the NBA's official record has a bad habit of simply erasing the one title the Lakers won in 1948, before the two leagues merged. If the NBA would let them keep that one title, the Lakers would have 17 titles on the record themselves. As it goes, however, they unfairly have to settle for being behind Boston by one for the moment. Although, with Boston slipping more and more lately and the Lakers always excelling, it might not be long before the Lakers hold the lead in titles themselves. They also have 31 conference titles to add, which means there are 14 other times the Lakers went to the Finals and lost.

The Lakers actually don't have quite as long an existence in the NBL as one might assume. They were formed in 1947 as the Minneapolis Lakers when a couple of businessmen decided to buy a recently disbanded team called the Detroit Gems, another NBL team; rather, they bought the equipment since, with the Gems looking like they were out forever, the players had all been distributed to other teams by then. Then they moved the team to Minneapolis and, inspired by the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" nickname the state of Minnesota goes by, gave them the new name Lakers. They spent their first days balling at the Minneapolis Auditorium and Minneapolis Armory. Since the Gems had the worst record in the league, the Lakers had the first pick in the dispersal draft, which they used on George Mikan, the most dominant center of the time. Mikan led the team to the NBL title in their first season, switching to the BAA the following year and winning the title there too! The next year brought the merger, and the Lakers won it all again! That initial title streak was finally stopped by the Rochester Royals in 1951.

Those oldest Laker teams featured Mikan and Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, and Clyde Lovellette, and all those guys are in the Hall of Fame. You would think a team with that many players would be great fun and exciting, but see, the thing is, back then the sport of basketball didn't have a shot clock. As a result, a game could randomly turn into a big, boring game of keep away. That's what happened on November 22, 1950, when the Lakers lost the lowest-scoring game in NBA history to the Fort Wayne Pistons by a score of 19-18. That game was later a factor in the shot clock's creation, and unfortunately for the Lakers, when the shot clock was created in 1954, they had two things going against them: One was George Mikan's retirement. The other was the fact that they suddenly had to adjust to a whole new method of playing basketball that no one was used to. The Lakers got so bad, they coaxed Mikan out of retirement for the 1956 season. His play wasn't up to his old standards, so he re-retired halfway through, but the Lakers went to the playoffs anyway, so it wasn't all bad. They were booted from the first round by the Saint Louis Hawks. Without Mikan, the Lakers experienced the very same results the next year.

Mikan was always the face of the Lakers by that time, though, and so the team, in need of a calling card, decided to un-retire him yet again, this time to coach. To say something nice about that experiment, Mikan was a shitty, shitty coach. After going 9-30 for the 1958 season, Mikan quit for good, leaving the team with the original coach, John Kundla. The schedule expanded, but the Lakers were all of 19-53 for last in the league, and you know what that means - first draft pick! With the first pick, they chose Elgin Baylor, the first of many all-time greats to don the purple and gold in the shot clock era. In 1959, Baylor led the Lakers over the Hawks, finally taking them into the Finals, where the first major confrontation of their long rivalry with the Boston Celtics was created when the Celts beat them in four straight. The Lakers proceeded to lose to Boston in the 1962, 1963, 1965, and 1966 Finals as well, always the victim of the Red Auerbach dynasty that won eight in a row.

Mikan being a team face, attendance started dropping after he hung up his sneakers. The team was almost sold to investors in Kansas City and moved there before Bob Short bought the team and kept it in Minneapolis. He wasn't able to find a way to cure the team's financial ills, though, and when baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...ers_of_Los_Angeles.html) moved to Los Angeles and became a big time Hollywood success story, Short was well aware of it. Since it was basketball in 1961, no one in Minnesota made any effort to keep them. They decided to hold on to their now-nonsensical name. The move wasn't the only change the team made, either. They also hired a new announcer in Chick Hearn, who held the post for 41 years; a new coach in Fred Schaus; and a new point guard in Jerry West. For those who don't know, the player likeness silhouetted in the NBA's official logo is Jerry West. They don't do things like that for bench players. For the next four years, both West and Baylor finished among the league's top ten in scoring. They kept bringing the Lakers to the Finals, only to see them lose to the Celtics.

With Baylor aging, the team made a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...25-A_True_Original.html) for Wilt Chamberlain in order to counter their mighty center, Bill Russell. They went to the Finals in 1969, faced the Celtics, and were considered the better team by a considerable margin. They still lost. They went back to the Finals in 1970, and for the first time, it looked like they had an advantage in not having to face Boston again. No, this time they played against the New York Knicks (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...he_New_York_Groove.html)! They… Lost. Again. They faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the following Finals and lost to them, too. For those keeping count at home, that made eight Finals losses in ten years. The other two years account for years the Lakers didn't get that far.

Nine games into the 1972 season, Baylor finally accepted the fact that he was too battered and bruised to get any further and help his team. He retired. That turned out to be a case of monumentally bad timing, because the evening of his retirement, the Lakers immediately began a run of 33 straight wins, the longest winning streak of any professional sport in the United States. They went on to win an outlandish 69 games, a record which stood until the Chicago Bulls (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Ch...atest_Bullfighters.html) broke it over two decades later. Los Angeles led the league in scoring, rebounds, and assists, went to the Finals, faced the Knicks again, and finally beat their Finals hiccups to claim their first title since 1954, their first title as the Los Angeles Lakers.

Baylor, sadly, was only a very small part of that title. The Lakers returned to the Finals in 1973, but the ravages of age were catching up to Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, and the team fell. Chamberlain retired after that and West only stuck around for one more year, and the Lakers hit the bottom. In the meantime, the Bucks had this really awesome center named Lew Alcindor, who had led the Bucks to their first (and to this date, still their only) title. He changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar upon his conversion to Islam, something he did for cultural purposes - his family was brought to the US by slaveowners named Alcindor, and they had been Muslims. He never said said anything bad about the city of Milwaukee or its people, but he did believe it couldn't meet his cultural needs, so he needed out and would only accept a trade to the Lakers or Knicks. The Bucks obliged, although they didn't get much in return. That tends to happen when the only teams you can trade with don't have anyone all that awesome.

With Kareem as the new center, the Lakers spent the rest of the 70's middling. They did well, but were never a real threat. The most memorable moment to the team was when Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich ran on court to break up a fight between Laker Kermit Washington and Rocket Kevin Kunnert. Washington saw Tomjanovich running at him out of the corner of his eye and instinctively thought he was running out to attack, at which point he clocked Tomjanovich, who needed a lot of reconstructive surgery. In 1979, the Lakers managed the first pick of the draft, and they used it on a Michigan State player who had just won the NCAA Championship. That player, Earvin Johnson, went by the nickname "Magic" and was expected to help Kareem carry the team. After what felt like a thousand years of Finals frustration and all those conference titles culminating in just one title since the old Minneapolis days, Showtime had now begun in LA!

Kareem and Magic led a solid core of athletic, talented players like Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, James Worthy, and Byron Scott. From 1980 to 1989, the Lakers won eight conference titles. In 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988, those conference titles were followed by NBA Titles. In 1984, 1985, and 1987, they also came face-to-face with their old Finals foes, the Celtics. Although the Big Three Celtics were led by Larry Bird, the Lakers took the title in 1985 and 1987. Magic/Bird became one of the great player rivalries in league history. The two of them were always pushed to greater heights by each other, and their one-upmanship fights created an entire base of new NBA fans which helped the league - which was cash-strapped as recently as 1980 - begin to thrive the way it does today.

1988 was the beginning of the end for the Showtime Lakers, even though they won the Finals against the Detroit Pistons that year. The Lakers returned to the Finals the following year, but with age overtaking a lot of the core players, they lost the Finals to the very physical and brutal Pistons team they had beaten a year earlier. Showtime's final swan song was in 1991. They went to the Finals again and cleanly overmatched by a younger, up-and-coming dynasty which went on to dominate the 90's: The Chicago Bulls. The following year, Magic Johnson came out and announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV. Back then, HIV and AIDS were different. No one knew about them, and no one talked about them, and people who had them were treated like pariahs. Magic became the face of HIV, and being one of the league's classiest players, made it his mission to educate everyone he could about the virus. They said he would be gone within a few years, but Magic is fortunately still with us even after 20 years. Back then, though, the lack of education forced him into retirement, thus closing the Showtime era.

The 90's were a nondescript period for the Lakers. With them gone, the Western Conference vied and jockeyed itself over who would earn the right to go to the Finals and get killed by the Bulls in most years. Save a yearlong comeback from Magic, the Lakers were relegated to the same back of mind as the Celtics: Teams who had lost to them a lot in the past were abusing them. Relief came in 1996 when they traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...hese_Hornets_Sting.html) for their first round draft pick, a Pennsylvania high school senior named Kobe Bryant. They also added center Shaquille O'Neal, a free agent coming off a powerful stint with the Orlando Magic (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-Oh_oh_it_s_Magic_.html) and Derek Fisher from the draft. A year later, Robert Horry was brought in by trade from the Phoenix Suns. The next year, Rick Fox in a trade with Boston. The talent kept coming, and to make it really click, the 2000 season brought in the entrance of coach Phil Jackson, fresh off six titles with the Chicago Bulls and already one of the greatest coaches in NBA history!

Beginning in 2000, the Lakers won three titles in a row against the Indiana Pacers (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use..._in_Middle_America.html), Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets respectively. For the 2004 season they signed Gary Payton and Karl Malone, on their farewell tours and looking for their final chances at rings, being victims of Michael and the Jordanaires during their best days. The Lakers were outwardly looking for a title that year, and assembled that team for the sole purpose of winning one. They came close too, going to the Finals before falling to a Detroit Pistons team which surprised everyone. Detroit had no talent that year at all, except for coach Larry Brown. Jackson retired after that, but un-retired a year later.

Shaq and Kobe got into a nasty spat later, which resulted in Shaq's departure to the Miami Heat (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...mer_Heat_is_Brutal.html) where he won his fourth ring. The Lakers muddled for a bit mostly because no one was sure about Kobe Bryant, whose image had taken some dire hits for a sexual harassment lawsuit which was eventually dropped because the woman turned out to be making it up. It seemed like there was a new report on how pissed off he was every other day, and there was always speculation on what team he would depart for as a free agent or be traded to. Kobe apparently learned from all that, though, because he emerged a much stronger and more level-headed leader. In 2008 the team was back in the Finals, where they renewed their rivalry with Boston again, and lost to them again. But they returned the next two years, playing against Orlando in 2009 and Boston again in 2010, winning both matches. And Kobe has become the player everyone hoped he could be.

I've accused the Celtics and Heat of being the Yankees of basketball, the former by virtue of titles and the latter by virtue of talent acquisition. It's the Los Angeles Lakers who fit the bill of the basketball Yankees over anyone else, though, because they have both. Besides Kobe, they spent this past offseason grabbing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. In 2004, they tried the same approach with Payton and Malone. Nash and Howard still have gas in the tank, though, so it could work this time.

Besides, look at the list of names that have graced the Lakers: James Worthy, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson. That's a damn good all-time roster they have, and those names don't even begin to scratch it. They're the most valuable team in the NBA, and the most offensively spectacular - they've made their name on flash and glitz and glamour. Celebrities agree, and the Lakers are the chosen team of the rich, famous, and fabulous of Hollywood. Jack goddamn Nicholson is on the sideline every game, and he seems to be the guy who sums up Laker fandom more than anyone. The Lakers have had a million fantastic, talented, exciting All-Star players and all-NBA teamers.

The Lakers rivalry with Boston is one-sided. The Lakers have lost all but three Finals appearances against the Celtics. Currently, they're undergoing a surge of new rivalries against the powerful San Antonio Spurs, as well as the Suns, their two main divisional rivals. The Celtics rivalry is a lot fun and makes for great theater, though, because these two teams have won half of the total NBA Championships given out.

I personally hate these guys. Yes, I'm a diehard Yankees fan, but that's a legitimate territorial claim that even I find bemusing. There's no excusing the Yankee-like way they take the league's talent and crush all comers, which is why the Boston Celtics are seen as such an antidote. Like the Yankees, they're a worldwide corporation that seems to want to own everyone and everything. They're insufferably corporate. But, like the Yankees, the history and stories are amazing, and I rate them highly because of them. The colors of the Los Angeles Lakers are purple and gold, which are the colors traditionally associated with royalty. And the Lakers are most definitely royalty.

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September 08, 2012
You are entertaining me with these write ups, man. I did not know those things about the Timberwolves. With the Lakers I am a little more familiar and great stuff that you put on here.
September 10, 2012
I'm having fun writing these things! Maybe I'll branch into other leagues once I'm done with the big three plus the NHL.
 
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More Los Angeles Lakers reviews
review by . June 04, 2009
The NBA Finals start tonight and I am cautiously optimistic. They have had quite a run through the playoffs, losing games when they should have won and there are several external issues that have added to the drama surrounding this postseason. I was extremely nervous during both the Houston (7 games) and Denver (6 games) series as it seemed like both of those teams were playing with more fire than the Lakers. On paper, the Lakers should destroy the Magic...but they were not able to dominate their …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The Los Angeles Lakers are a National Basketball Association (NBA) team based in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers play their home games at Staples Center, which they share with their fellow NBA rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, and their sister team, the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.[1]

The Lakers' franchise was founded in 1946 in Detroit, Michigan before moving to Minneapolis, where the team got its official title from the state's nickname, "Land of 10,000 Lakes."[2] The Lakers won five championships before relocating to Los Angeles in the 1960–61 NBA season. The Lakers lost all of their eight appearances in the NBA Finals in the 1960s, despite having help from Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. In 1972, the Lakers won their sixth title under coach Bill Sharman. The Lakers' popularity soared in the 1980s when they won five additional championships during a nine-year span with the leadership of Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and coach Pat Riley, the franchise's all-time leader in both regular season and playoff games coached and wins. Two of those championships during that span were against their arch-rivals, the Boston Celtics. With the help of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers advanced to six of the ten NBA Finals in the 2000s, winning three of them consecutively from 2000 to 2002 and losing in 2004 and in the 2008 NBA Finals without O'Neal.

The Lakers hold ...

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Conference: Western Conference
Division: Pacific Division

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