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Magic Johnson, Jerry West debate all-time greatest Lakers team

October 5, 2011 | 12:24 pm

Even if it didn't mark his first NBA title or even first one against the Celtics, Magic Johnson cherishes the 1987 NBA Finals the most. His junior hook that clinched Game 4 against the Boston Celtics never escapes his memory.

Even if he didn't even play on this championship team, Jerry West cherishes the 1985 NBA Finals the most. That team accomplished for the first time what no other Lakers team, including his own, could ever do: beat the Boston Celtics.

And so it goes. NBA2K12's launch event Monday at a local Best Buy served as a springboard into that discussion since the game allows users to play the classic teams. Just like Lakers fans are around this corner of the blogosphere, Johnson and West differed on which team was superior. 

Johnson's preference for the 1986-87 team seems reasonable. The Lakers' six-game Finals victory over the Boston marked the first of two consecutive championships and capped off a season in which they finished with the second-best franchise record (65-17). Johnson won his first NBA MVP award, Michael Cooper won the league's defensive player of the year honor and the team's trade for Mychal Thompson proved to be a significant addition to the Lakers' championship roster. 

"When you put together the balance of the inside-outside [game], the defense, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], James Worthy, myself, Mychal Thompson, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A.C. [Green] and Kurt Rambis, it was an amazing team," Johnson said. "Not just with the starters, but the guys coming off the bench. Plus Pat Riley was an outstanding coach."

But that assembled cast except for Thompson also played for the 1985 NBA championship team. There the Lakers overcame their demons in defeating Boston for the first time in nine attempts, despite losing in the first game, 148-114, dubbed the Memorial Day Massacre. 

"They had way too many good players," West said of the 1985 team. "I'm not just talking about average players. I'm talking about pro-caliber players."

But there's not too many fundamental differences between the teams. That's why Cooper perhaps summed up many Lakers fans' sentiments the best: "Any one of them. We could take some of these teams now."


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--Mark Medina

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