Sporting News ranks 1971-72 and 1986-87 Lakers as second- and third-greatest NBA teams
The headline pretty much writes itself.
Based on interviews with current and former coaches, players, executives and journalists, the Sporting News determined in its latest issue that the 1971-72 Lakers and the 1985-86 Lakers are the second- and third-greatest NBA teams of all time. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were named as the best team for setting a league-record 72-10 regular-season mark en route to their first title of a second three-peat that decade.
The 1971-72 Lakers featured the team's first NBA championship since moving to Los Angeles, capped off with an NBA-record 33 consecutive victories. "Each game became a new challenge," said former Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons, who was a reserve on that Lakers team. "But the challenge wasn't not to lose. It was to find a way to win the game." Among the highlights:
--This season marked the 11th consecutive time Jerry West would average 25 points or more in a season.
--Wilt Chamberlain, at age 35, appeared in his second-to-last NBA season, averaging 14.8 points at a 64.9% clip and a league-leading 19.2 rebounds and picking up Finals MVP honors.
--Elgin Baylor retired nine games into the season after suffering numerous knee injuries
Overcame the loss of 37-year-old big man Elgin Baylor, who retired nine games into the season after suffering through a spate of knee injuries.
--The Lakers' championship run marked the first season for Bill Sharman at the coaching helm.
The 1986-87 Lakers finished with a 65-17 record (the second-best mark in franchise history) and beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals for the second time that decade. That season featured many memorable moments:
--Magic Johnson, whose "baby skyhook" in Game 4 against Boston became a highlight of that year's Finals, won both regular-season and Finals MVP honors. Michael Cooper was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
--The Lakers made a significant trade on Feb. 13, 1987, shipping Frank Brickowski, Petur Gudmundsson, an '87 first-round draft pick (Greg Anderson) and a 1990 second-round draft pick (Sean Higgins) to the San Antonio Spurs for Mychal Thompson.
--At the Lakers' championship parade, Coach Pat Riley guaranteed another title, a vow that he kept.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: The 1971-72 Lakers in their team photo. Credit: Los Angeles Lakers