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