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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. 

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-- Mark Medina

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Photo: The 1971-72 Lakers in their team photo. Credit: Los Angeles Lakers

Looking at how Lakers overcame 0-2 deficit in 1969 first-round matchup with San Francisco Warriors


A somber feeling permeated throughout the Lakers' locker room, at least the ones remaining after falling to a 0-2 deficit against the Dallas Mavericks.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum immediately divulged his feeling that the team has deeply rooted "trust issues." Lakers forward Pau Gasol uncomfortably admitted his own shortcomings, and outward optimism about the team's resiliency seemed forced, given the tepid and squeaky tone he delivered it. And though Lakers guard Derek Fisher maintained a stoic and calm demeanor, he acknowledged that this adversity feels different.

"We don't like being in this position. It's not familiar. But we are where we are," Fisher said. "We have to make sure we stay together as a group and figure this thing out. We're trying to make history here, and that's not easy."

It certainly isn't. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Fisher can draw on their experience in 2004 when the team overcame a 0-2 deficit to the San Antonio Spurs before winning the series in six games, but those two losses came on the road. Only three times in NBA history has a team won a seven-game series after losing the first two home games, and only 14 times out of 238 seven-game series in NBA history has a team overcome a 0-2 deficit. One of those teams includes the 1969 Lakers, which beat the San Francisco Warriors in the first round after losing the first two home games.

These history lessons aren't exactly inspirational tales. The Lakers' 2004 team lost to Detroit in the Finals in five games, and ended with Jackson being let go, Shaquille O'Neal being traded, Fisher leaving via free agency and Bryant left alone without much talent around him. The Lakers' 1969 team faced the Boston Celtics in the Finals that year and lost in seven games, incidentally enough after winning the first two. But for the sake of the Lakers' quest to get out of their current jam, beginning with Game 3 tonight at Dallas' American Airlines Arena, they can at least lean on that Lakers' squad 42 years ago for a bit of perspective.

"If you want to make history," Bryant said, "you have to do historic things."

Below the jump is how it all went down.

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All-time Lakers versus all-time Celtics ... guess who wins?

Kobe_400 The Celtics may have a slight lead over the Lakers in NBA championships, 17-16, but which of the two storied franchises would win if their all-time best players and coaches squared off?

According to the Bleacher Report, it's the Lakers.

After comparing each team's all-time best players (at their peak), position by position, and doing the same with the coaches, the site gave the Lakers a 4-2 advantage.

The Lakers edge the Celtics at center ("Shaq playing at his peak level would be the most dominant force. Boston would have no one that could effectively stop him one-on-one"), shooting guard ("Behind Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West are the best shooting guards in the league's history"), point guard ("A great aspect of the Lakers' backcourt is its versatility. Besides Goodrich and Magic, Kobe and West would be perfectly adept at running the point") and coach ("While Auerbach is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Phil Jackson is arguably the best. ... Perhaps right behind Jackson and Auerbach in the annals of NBA coaching greats is Pat Riley.").

Boston gets the edge at power forward ("The power forward position is one of the weaker areas on the all-time Lakers team. By default, Pau Gasol is the best pure power forward in the team's history") and small forward ("Although the talent on the Lakers' side is impressive, Boston has a better counter punch. Larry Bird may be the best premier shooter in NBA history. ... Paul Pierce is another excellent all-around player for the Celtics").

Just some interesting summer reading ...

-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Kobe Bryant celebrates as the game clock ends and his team defeats the Boston Celtics to win Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17. Credit: Mike Blake / Reuters

Lakers' eight consecutive losses at Portland's Rose Garden show trends

It's been close to five years since the Lakers tasted victory at the Rose Garden against the Portland Trail Blazers, a drought that may remind Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton they've been with the Lakers for a while. They're the only players remaining that experienced the Lakers' last win at the Rose Garden on Feb. 23, 2005.

Parsing the results of those eight losses since then may appear strictly to be an apples-oranges comparison because the team's personnel, dynamic and success have drastically changed. Case in point, you won't be seeing Tierre Brown playing in tonight's game.

And though the Lakers may be going through a frustrating moment after Wednesday's loss to the Clippers, the Lakers' league-leading 28-7 record doesn't exactly put them in the same position as they were on April 20, 2005. The Lakers' 106-103 loss to Portland that day not only began this current road-losing streak. It also capped off a disappointing regular season in which the Lakers lost two of their last 21 games, and Bryant missed the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Nonetheless, taking a look through the game stories and box scores of those past eight games is still instructive. Taken as a whole, three trends emerge that are still practical to tonight's game. And as far as I can tell, weather and differing travel arrangements have little to do with it. 

Instead, the three areas include the Trail Blazers' tendency to lock in on Bryant, the Lakers' poor starts and defensive lapses.

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Kobe Bryant is a loser on Christmas

Celticslakersxmas Hard to believe but, yes, Kobe Bryant has a losing record---at least in Christmas Day games. He and the Lakers are 5-6 on Dec. 25th since he entered the NBA in 1996.

Of course, on Friday Bryant can reach the .500 plateau on Xmas if the Lakers beat the Cavaliers--and LeBron and Shaq--at Staples Center in one of the league’s marquee games. The other big match-up: Boston Celtics at the Orlando Magic.

This will be the Lakers and Kobe’s 11th straight Christmas game. (I knew a Florida businessman named Edward "Buddy" LeRoux, a Celtics trainer during the Bill Russell-era in the 1960s, who told me he never had Christmas off till he left the NBA.)

The league has long offered up rivalries in holiday games, and if you look back at who the Lakers have played on Christmas, it’s a bit like the NBA version of an archaeological dig, one that reveals rivalries of long ago. On Christmas in 1999 the Lakers, then on the cusp of the Kobe-Shaq three-peat dynasty, played the Spurs—the other team of this decade--followed by Xmas battles against Portland, Philadelphia (rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals), Sacramento (Webber-Bibby-Divac-Stojakovic-Christie-Turkoglu), Houston, three contests against Miami and a former Laker center named O’Neal, Phoenix (D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-to-shoot team), and last year against the Celtics.

Here’s a snapshot of the Kobe-era Xmas games:

2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83. Lakers end Boston’s 19-game winning streak and, in a sense, the championship torch is passed in mid-season.

2007: Lakers 122, Suns 115. No D in this game. Kobe has 38 points, Andrew Bynum adds 28, and the new look Lakers stretch their wings.

2006: Heat 101, Lakers 85. The Lakers are flat and D-Wade pours in 40 points.

2005: Heat 97, Lakers 92. Kobe and Lamar Odom miss three-pointers late and the Heat holds on.

2004: Heat 104, Lakers 102. Kobe misses a three-pointer in overtime. Kobe gets 42 points, but Shaq gets the win.

2003: Rockets 99, Lakers 87. Kobe has a miserable shooting night: nine for 26.

2002: Sacramento 105, Lakers 99. It’s a modest revenge for Kings fans, given that the Lakers eliminated Sacto in seven grueling games in the playoffs that spring.

2001: Lakers 88, 76ers 82. Shaq is out with an injury, Kobe has injured ribs and scores only 12, while AI pours in 31, but somehow the Lakers overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

2000: Portland 109, Lakers 104. Shaq and Kobe combine for 61 points, but a late offensive foul call on Kobe nullifies a potential three-point play.

1999: Lakers 99, Spurs 93. Shaq gets 32 as the Lakers edge the defending champs.

1996: Lakers 108, Suns 87. Shaq drops 26 while Kobe, then 18 years old, plays only five minutes and is scoreless. Let’s assume he was watching and learning.

--Barry Stavro

Photo: Lakers Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom battle Boston’s Kendrick Perkins for a rebound in the Lakers’ win on Christmas Day 2008. Photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

Lakers are Sports Illustrated's franchise of the decade

Kobester 'Tis the season for lists. A lot of them.

Not only are we a week-and-a-half from a new year but also a new decade.

This one stood out, though: Sports Illustrated said the Lakers were the "pro franchise/college program" of the decade. Not the New England Patriots (No. 2), not USC football (No. 7), not the Detroit Red Wings (No. 6...they're a hockey team. I know this only because I covered the L.A. Kings for a year).

The Lakers were well ahead of the New York Yankees who, well, let's face it, didn't have a great decade in the first place until bookending it a couple of months ago with a title run. They finished No. 5 in SI's rankings.

Sports Illustrated also said Phil Jackson was the coach of the decade, ahead of Bill Belichick and Joe Torre.

The one that might rankle Lakers followers: Kobe Bryant was called the seventh-best male athlete of the decade.

Ahead of him were Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, Usain Bolt and Tom Brady. Should Kobe have been as low as he was? He was the NBA's highest-ranked player. (Tim Duncan was No. 12, Shaq was No. 14 and LeBron James was No. 16.)

It's a list, so it's very subjective, but there you have it.

--Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Kobe Bryant in action this month. Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

Can you name the Lakers career points leaders?

First, I want to thank all of you for sticking with us during the blog transition. Up on our site right now: A photo gallery with the Lakers top 10 career points leaders. Think you can name all 10 before you look at the gallery? Do any of the names surprise you? Try to name all 10, then go look at the gallery here.

-- Houston Mitchell

Kobe and Jordan: A look back

Perhaps the most famous intersection in the careers of Michael Jordan, set for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame Friday, and Kobe Bryant came at the 1998 All Star Game. Jordan was in his 13th season, on theKobe Bryant and Michael Jordan 1998 All Star Game tail end of his iconic tenure in Chicago, Kobe his second, just ramping up his in LA. Rather famously, the two went head to head for much of the game, giving the crowd- and NBC execs- the show they were looking for. 

When it was over, Jordan's side had the victory (and MJ took the game's MVP trophy), and the link between the two, already strong, was more solidly forged. Wrote Selena Roberts in the New York Times:

"...Beneath the commercial fluff of this game, there was a basketball court and a challenge. There was the daring teen-age pinup, Kobe Bryant, who was staring into Jordan's watery eyes. And the 19-year-old kid, the youngest player to start in an All-Star Game, was on the attack. It was the perfect remedy for Jordan. He watched Bryant's helicopter dunks and playground moves add up to 18 points. But in the end, Jordan had 23 points, a 135-114 victory for the East All-Stars and his third most valuable player trophy.

''He came at me pretty early,'' Jordan said of Bryant. ''I would if I was him. If I see someone that's maybe sick or whatever, you've got to attack him. He attacked. You know, I liked his attitude.''

Jordan saw a little of himself in the player so often picked to slip into his place after he retires. And Jordan had to admit it was a fun matchup...

The fun continues from there. 11 years later, Roberts' description of Jordan's game could just as easily be written about Kobe, while Jordan's comments certainly seem prescient. 

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Let Chick Hearn's description of a classic victory over the Celtics take the edge off your Monday

UPDATE: A few people have asked us about viewing summer league games (because for some, merely reading about Tony Gaffney isn't enough).  Click here for the link to the NBA's webcasting portal.  It's not free anymore, but what is these days?  BK

These vids were sent along to us at blog HQ over the weekend and Lakers fans will undoubtedly enjoy watching, particularly early on a Monday afternoon when there's far too much time to kill before the end of the work week.  It's Chick Hearn's call of Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals against the Celtics (i.e. Magic's hook to win) dropped in over the TV broadcast.  Very cool, and filled with calls uniquely Chick you may not have heard before. 

Part I here, Part II below the jump.  I also tossed in a link to a long interview Kareem Abdul-Jabbar conducted recently with Fox Sports Radio that's worth a listen.

Obviously Lakers fans loved the outcome, but putting that aside it was an amazing game.  Basketball at an incredibly high level.  (As an aside, I wish the audio had been preserved in that old Bruce Willis, Seagram's Wine Cooler ad. Just sayin'.)

Continue reading »

The Logo, The Mamba, (The) Magic, and cross-generational comparisons

Earlier this morning, reader "jimjoyce" posted an interesting question, asking if fans today would take Kobe over Jerry West or Magic Johnson over Kobe Bryant to start a team.  (I assuming he meant each player in his prime. If you made the choice right now, it's pretty easy.  No disrespect to West, but the man was born in 1938.)  Obviously I've seen a ton of Kobe, and lots of Magic as well.  But like a lot of people, I never had a chance to see Jerry West play in any Jerry_west_2 meaningful way, live or on television. There are a few great higlight packages of The Logo on YouTube, from TV bios (here and here, for example) or classic playoff clips (here, here), but clearly that's not enough to make an informed judgment. 

It did, though, make me think about something that always comes up in this type of debate (as it would this morning), specifically questions of athletic ability.  Invariably, the player from the older generation is docked for not having enough relative to the modern player.  But as my mom might say, "Here's the thing...":  Aren't seemingly all pros more athletic today, across sports?  Better, stronger, faster? (After all, we have the technology.)  Does it stand to reason that if Mr. Clutch, listed at 6'2" 175 on his Basketball Reference page, rose up through today's sports scene that he'd be 15 pounds heavier, or at least that much stronger, and quicker on his feet? 

All that, plus the textbook form on the J?  I still think Kobe would have the edge athletically (because he has it over virtually everyone on the planet), but isn't that sort of thing worth considering?  Or that his skill set would be more in line with the type of game that players enter the league with today (largely because of the influence of guys like West and Magic that came before?) Anyone else have suggestions on how to compare players who competed 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years apart from each other?  The inherent unanswerability of cross-generational comparisons means I don't take them all that seriously, but it's the same quality that also makes them fun.  We'd be doing the world a public service to find a formula, right?




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