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Category: Wilt Chamberlain

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. 

Related Posts

All Things Lakers: 1971-72 season

All Things Lakers: 1986-87 season

All Things Lakers: Magic Johnson

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

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

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar questions Scottie Pippen's argument that LeBron James ‘may be the greatest player to ever play’

6a00d8341c506253ef01538e94dae3970b-320wi-1In a nearly two-week span, former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went from questioning the Lakers' loyalty to questioning Scottie Pippen's claim that LeBron James "may be the greatest player to ever play."

After arguing that the Lakers' failure to honor him with a statue serves as an example of the team disrespecting him, the NBA's all-time leading scorer is now arguing Pippen's willingness to prop up James on the heels of the Heat-Mavericks NBA Finals matchup reflects his lack of appreciation for NBA greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and even Pippen's former teammate, Michael Jordan himself.

You may agree with Abdul-Jabbar's assessment that a statue honoring him is long overdue and that he holds the credibility to question Pippen's knowledge on NBA history. You may disagree with the tactics, believing his public gripes about the Lakers come off as sour grapes and chastising Pippen comes across as bullying. But it still makes for interesting reading.

So without further ado, here is Abdul-Jabbar's open letter to Pippen, which was recently obtained by The Times:

How Soon They Forget: An Open Letter to Scottie Pippen

Dear Scottie,

I have nothing but respect for you my friend as an athlete and knowledgeable basketball mind. But you are way off in your assessment of who is the greatest player of all time and the greatest scorer of all time. Your comments are off because of your limited perspective. You obviously never saw Wilt Chamberlain play who undoubtedly was the greatest scorer this game has ever known. When did MJ ever average 50.4 points per game plus 25.7 rebounds? (Wilt in the 1962 season when blocked shot statistics were not kept). We will never accurately know how many shots Wilt blocked. Oh, by the way in 1967 and 68, Wilt was a league leader in assists. Did MJ ever score 100 points in a game? How many times did MJ score more than 60 points in a game? MJ led the league in scoring in consecutive seasons for 10 years but he did this in an NBA that eventually expanded into 30 teams vs. when Wilt played and there were only 8 teams.

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Amare Stoudemire's criticisms on the Lakers have the opposite effect

This isn't going to be a post decrying Amare Stoudemire for making such an easy stereotype by proclaiming Pau Gasol "soft."

This also isn't going to lead into a nuanced analysis that Gasol has evolved to be more than just a European punching bag and into a player more capable of absorbing physical contact, maintains his skillset as a finesse mid-range jumpshooter and occasionally falls into lapses where he could toughen up a bit.

As tired as it is hearing this regurgitating talking point, it's tiring enough having to respond to it. I've already addressed it in detail during the 2010 NBA Finals, during certain moments of last season and when some players, such as Kendrick Perkins, cling to this wide-held belief. So there's no use plowing old ground. Lakers center Andrew Bynum already took care of that via Twitter: "The NBA is a weird place! How can a man that plays 0 defense call a 2 time champion soft?"

But here's one thing that will surely comfort Laker fans about Stoudemire besides Bynum's assessment. Whenever Stoudemire opines about a Lakers subject, it seems to have an opposite effect. That doesn't mean his take is always wrong. But Stoudemire's commentary often paints the issue as black and white.

Here's a brief rundown.

Stoudemire calls Gasol soft: At a Foot Locker event, Stoudemire recently shared this about Gasol: "He's still soft. He's a good player, but he also has help with Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and those seven-footers down there. He has a supportive cast." Well, duh. But that's not a knock on Gasol. The Lakers are a pretty talented bunch. Gasol followed that up with 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting and 12 rebounds against Denver, but his early play surely featured him settling for too many jumpers despite the Nuggets giving him the space in the lane to drive. But after Nuggets center Nene committed a hard foul on Gasol in the third quarter, he returned to the game after a brief trip to the locker room. After receiving an MRI Monday that showed a bone bruise in his right knee, Gasol still pledged he's healthy enough to play Tuesday against Utah.

Continue reading »

How many points will Kobe Bryant finish with in his NBA career?

57575260Running back to the other side of the court, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wore a determined glare. It was fitting that Bryant displayed his trademark expression while accomplishing another milestone.

He had just become the youngest player in NBA history to surpass 26,000 career points, and that look on his face epitomized the hungry, relentless attitude that had defined his 14-year career.

The play with which he set that record also was representative of Bryant's career, with longtime teammate Derek Fisher setting him up on a turnaround jumper that came off one dribble, one spin move and one pullup in the third quarter over Denver guard Aaron Afflalo in the Lakers' 118-112 loss Thursday to the Nuggets.

Bryant's team-leading 34 points on 11-of-32 shooting keep alive the debate on when it's appropriate for Bryant to go on a scoring spree and when he should delegate, an argument that's become less of an issue with the Lakers' three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Kobe's new milestone also leads to the question: How many career points Bryant will end up with once he retires?

He currently ranks 12th on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 25,790 points in 1,021 games and still has a ways to go to catch up with league-leading Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who finished with 38,387 points in 1,560 games. It's possible for Bryant to surpass four players this season on the league-scoring list, including John Havlicek (26,395), Dominique Wilkins (26,668), Oscar Robertson (26,710) and Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946)  

The question arose last season when Bryant surpassed Jerry West as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, and "Mr. Clutch" himself predicted the Black Mamba would finish with at least 30,000 points. That means West believes Bryant would at least finish fifth on the NBA's all-time scoring list, ahead of Shaquille O'Neal's current mark of 28,255 points. Something tells me Bryant's well aware of that ranking.

But would Bryant be able to eclipse any of the 30,000-point scorers? That includes Wilt Chamberlain (31,419), Michael Jordan (32,292), Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387). With Bryant's contract with the Lakers good through the 2013-14 season, it's far from definitive but wouldn't be a huge surprise if Bryant decided to hang up his laces then. But a lot could happen before then to affect Bryant's place in scoring history, starting with this season. Through nine games this season, Bryant's has averaged 25.3 points with a so-so 42.2% shooting percentage, and it shouldn't be surprising that this follows a four-season pattern in which his scoring rate has dropped. It went from 2,832 points in the 2005-06 season to 2,430 in 2006-07, 2,323 in 2007-08, 2,201 in 2008-09 and 1,970 in 2009-10.


HoopData shows that, with his fractured right index finger, sprained right knee and sprained left ankle last season, a greater percentage of Bryant's shots were blocked, he finished with fewer and-ones and made fewer shots at the rim, dropping from 66% in the 2008-09 season to 58.6% during the 2009-10 season. But the four-season decline in scoring also speaks to Bryant's improved supporting cast, including Fisher and Pau Gasol, with greater reliability from Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Plus, Bryant missed nine games last season after playing all 82 games from 2007 to 2009.

Assuming Bynum returns soon after Thanksgiving, as expected, and the team continues to pace Bryant so he feels 100% with his surgically repaired right knee, it's not a stretch to predict Bryant will hover around 25 to 27 points per game. If he manages to play 82 games through the 2013-14 season, that means Bryant would score from 2,050 to 2,214 points each year, bringing his career total to 34,010 to 34,666 career points, putting him in third place, one spot ahead of Jordan and one spot behind Malone.

Should the NBA fail to reach a new collective-bargaining agreement, resulting in a lost or delayed 2011-12 season, that would throw all type of wrenches into Bryant's scoring quest. Both good and bad. Bryant would lose those games and his chance to increase that scoring clip, but it would give him more time to rest his assorted injuries and possibly even enable him to have surgery on his right index finger. It's not a stretch to predict Bryant's scoring rate would jump after that, although it's hard to say whether that would be enough to offset points lost due to a lockout.

So with all those variables in mind, how many points do you think Bryant will end up with? I'll feature the varied responses in a Monday post.

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, is fouled by Denver guard Chauncy Billups during the first quarter of the Lakers' 118-112 road loss on Nov. 11, 2010. Credit: Rick Giase / EPA

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, goes up for a layup over Denver guard Chauncey Billups during the first quarter of the Lakers' 118-112 loss on Nov. 11, 2010. Credit: Chris Schneider/Associated Press.

Caught in the Web: Check out Kobe Bryant's new Nike shoe

-- 54096500

-- gives you a sneak peek at Kobe Bryant's new shoes.

-- True Hoop's Henry Abbott credits Lamar Odom's work ethic in the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

--'s Fran Blinebury lists Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Fox and Wilt Chamberlain as part of the NBA's Benedict Arnolds.

-- AOL Fanhouse's Sam Amick talks to Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks, who reveals, among other things, that he's friends with Odom.

-- The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding shares a column he wrote last season about Odom handling his new celebrity.

-- Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin argues Matt Barnes is trying to portray himself as a family man by posting pictures of his kids on Twitter the day before his court date for getting arrested last week on suspicion of domestic violence.

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky features a round table of writers, including yours truly, and their take on which Western Conference team has the best chance to beat the Lakers in a seven-game series.

--'s Chris Sheridan believes Bryant will play in the 2012 Olympics, but doesn't believe Odom will make the cut.

-- Lots of NBA rookies tell Sports Illustrated how they'd love to match up with Bryant, even if it means getting embarrassed.

-- lists Bryant's fourth-quarter performance in Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals as the fourth best moment of last season.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano loved Odom's jack-of-all trades role with Team USA.

Tweet of the Day: "Jus met Kobe @shannonbrown and @steveblake. Shannon is mad funny behind the scenes lol Blake was laid back cool dude. And Kobe was Kobe! Lol ... This dude DC acts so much older than his age. He is only 22 and acts like he is 43 wit two kids, a wife , and a bad back lol -- DevinEbanks3 (Lakers forward Devin Ebanks)

Reader Comment of the Day: "PJ should leave everything like last year...No need to jinx the 3Peat...Same facial features...only thing acceptable should be a new hat with XII on it..." -- LEWSTRS

-- Mark Medina

[email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant just came out with a new pair of kicks from Nike. Credit: Mike Blake/Reuters

An expert's view on the Lakers' greatest centers


So, I'm highly unmotivated, but know I have to offer up something for the morning Laker-holics. I'm searching the Web for stuff that hasn't been discussed, thinking of things with which I might be able to entertain you.

Then it dawns on me. WWJMD? What would Jim Murray do? Not that perhaps the greatest sports writer of all time would be blogging at 3 a.m., but maybe I can draw inspiration from The Times' GOAT. Then the moment of clarity. I've got access to our archives. Let's follow the lead of LRob, one of our blog's historians, and see what Mr. Murray has to say about the great centers in Lakers history.

So, folks, I give you his column on Shaquille O'Neal's regular-season debut on Nov. 3, 1996. Enjoy.

-- Dan Loumena

"No Way He Misses This One"

By Jim Murray

I don't often feel this way, but somehow I felt I had to be there.

You see, I had been there when Sandy Koufax pitched his first game for the L.A. Dodgers. Saw him too, when he struck out 18 Giants in a night game.

Saw Bob Waterfield take his first snap as an L.A. Ram quarterback. Was there when Ben Hogan won his first U.S. Open at Riviera Country Club.

And I was on hand when the L.A. Lakers played their first home game at the Sports Arena. I was there when Wilt Chamberlain played his first home game as an L.A. Laker. Same when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his debut as a Laker. Also when Magic Johnson did.

So I had to be in on the start of the Shaquille O'Neal Era, didn't I? Had a ring of deja vu about it.

I don't remember too sharply Wilt's or Kareem's inaugural game. But I do recollect that the advent of Chamberlain had a deleterious effect on Elgin Baylor's game. Chamberlain seemed to be occupying the places Baylor wanted to go to perform his sleight-of-hand under the basket.

I also remember that Chamberlain, who used to throw up as many as 3,000 field-goal attempts a season--and make as many as 1,500--and who rolled up as many as 4,000 points a season, suddenly became a playmaker in L.A. Only 7-foot-1 point guard I ever saw. His field-goal tries descended into the low 1,000s. So did his point totals. His rebounds remained the same. He led the league every year in those. He went and got the ball and dished it off to the shooter.

Abdul-Jabbar more or less brought his game intact. His rebound total, never robust, was less of a factor than his shooting. Abdul-Jabbar relied on Oscar Robertson to seek out the ball for him in Milwaukee and Magic Johnson to do it in L.A.

But how do the Lakers wind up with these nuclear forces in the pivot in the first place?

Well, in the cases of Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar, you have to detect the fine covert operations hands of then-Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke. The CIA lost a fine prospect when Cooke elected to turn his talents to business dealings and, particularly, the business of professional sports.

No one ever knew for sure how Cooke maneuvered for Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar, how many arms he had to twist, how many favors he had to call in. Cooke was never one to leave a telltale trail. No DNA would ever attach to his machinations.

But it was well-known Chamberlain was fed up with Philadelphia and Abdul-Jabbar was mild about Milwaukee. Every franchise in the league would have wanted them, but Cooke was never one to let nature take its course. Cooke had paid $5 million in cash for the Lakers at a time when basketball was something you went to for the dance afterward and pro basketball was considered the preliminary game on a show featuring the Harlem Globetrotters as the main event.

So, Cooke got his show-stoppers in the pivot. He got Magic Johnson in a coin flip that, so far as anyone knows, was honest (although, when the New York Knicks got Patrick Ewing, you had to wonder).

When Jerry Buss bought the team (along with the hockey Kings and a couple of mountains of real estate up in Kern County) for $62 million, he got Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson, and the world championships came with some degree of regularity. The act was a show-biz smash known as "Showtime," the seats were full of film goddesses and leading men, season tickets cost just less than an all-expense cruise in the Caribbean.

But then, Abdul-Jabbar retired, Johnson hit the wall, and the Lakers were back to square one. No skyscraper in the pivot and no one to go get the ball for him if there were. Almost enough to make you yearn for a dance afterward.

But then, Buss comes up with a page out of the Cooke school of ownership. A major coup. The most visible player in the game, the modern successor to Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar shows up in a Laker uniform.

I hotfooted it over to owner Buss to see what subterfuge he had to resort to to bring off this master stroke, bringing Shaquille O'Neal to L.A. Whose arm did he twist, what markers did he have to call in?

Buss sighed and denied complicity. "Do you want the dramatic version, the emotional version -- or the truth?

"The truth is, I relied on [his general manager] Jerry [West]. I prayed a lot. We kept hearing Shaq wanted to play here, but when we got around to signing, it looked like it didn't.

"We got rid of Vlade [Divac] and kept our options open.

"My feeling is, L.A. really needs something like this. This town has lost its football teams, it has lost a lot of star players. The town has been good to pro sports. It deserves something better."

In New York, the Yankees are the Yankees again. Are the Lakers the Lakers?

O'Neal's debut opened to what Broadway would call "mixed reviews." He was a presence in the sense that Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar were. The visiting Phoenix Suns seemed to go in a circle-the-wagons mode when he hit the floor. When he left the floor (with foul trouble), they were somewhat less intimidated. The Shaq-less Lakers squandered a 19-point lead on one occasion when he was largely bench-bound.

He came within a foul of disqualification. It's well to remember Chamberlain never fouled out and Abdul-Jabbar fouled out only once in each of his last two seasons. Of course, it would have taken a very brave official to foul Chamberlain out of a game in the days when he was one of the league's few drawing cards. O'Neal's fouls, too, are apt to have a referee looking around to see who he can pin it on.

O'Neal's 23 points for his opening game were creditable for a guy who had to spend 13 minutes on the pine. His 14 rebounds were downright encouraging.

Is it the start of something big? Will it end in a ticker-tape parade at City Hall? Or will Michael Jordan and Co. prove it's going to be just a lot of Bull once again? Oh, well. Either way I can tell my great-grandchildren some day I was there on one more start--whether it's big or Bull.

Photo: No Wilt Chamberlain, but three generations of great Lakers centers: Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Mikan. Credit: Peter Read Miller / NBAE/Getty Images

Wilt-Kareem revisited: A blocked shot for the ages


I'm going to beat LRob to the reminiscing thread today. Or maybe actually start another.

I received an e-mail from a gentleman back east. He said he enjoyed the Wilt-Kareem post from the other day and relayed to me a game in which he witnessed what he thought was the greatest blocked shot of all time. I replied to his e-mail and asked him why he didn't post it in the comments area and wondered if he'd give me permission to do so. He was actually hoping that maybe I'd use it in a post.

So, to get the evening started and take your minds off gambling websites and the odds-on favorite Miami Heat, here's one man's account of the greatest blocked shot he's ever seen:

The reason I'm writing is, your article reminded me of a spectacular block that Wilt Chamberlain made on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  I think it may have been a playoff game, possibly in 1972 (I was only 12 at the time, so the memory is a little fuzzy).

In any case, Abdul-Jabbar received the ball on some type of [transition situation], where it was only Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar in the Bucks' frontcourt.  Kareem was to the right of the lane, just below the free-throw line extended. Wilt was about half way between Kareem and the basket.  Abdul-Jabbar decided to shoot his "Sky Hook" from that position and put up a beautiful, high-arching shot toward the basket.

Chamberlain had no chance to close the distance and try to "bump" Kareem ... and therefore the shot ... off target. So, he squatted down as low as he could get and exploded straight up in the air, big right hand extended as far as he could reach ... and he blocked the "Sky Hook" at it's highest point!  It was one of the two most amazing shot blocks I've ever seen! (The other was David Thompson's block of Bill Walton's hook shot in the NCAA semifinal basketball game in ... was it 1975?).

As the ball went sailing out of bounds, I remember Kareem just standing there, staring at Chamberlain in disbelief! I watched a lot of Bucks basketball back then and I don't remember ever seeing anyone else even come close to blocking the "Sky Hook." Maybe your research department can find the specific details.  Anyway, I just thought you might enjoy that story.

Terry Ruggles

Sorry, Terry. No such department exists at The Times. But fortunately for you, Lakers fans are about to search their memory banks to recall if they remember that play.

What about it gang? Anybody remember that game and shot?

-- Dan Loumena

Photo: Wilt Chamberlain started his professional basketball career with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958. Credit: Associated Press

The legend of prep star Wilt and his first battles with Kareem

Wilt_350 Not sure if any of you saw this, but we do a weekly Sports Legends feature on and this week it was on Wilt Chamberlain. The Sports Legends feature focuses on the truth behind rumors, hearsay or facts that have maybe been misconstrued or distorted over the years. 

It's kind of cool to go back in time. I know a lot of the youngsters are really into the here and now. I've got a pair of sons in the early 20s who really dig basketball, like we do, and I'm always going on and on about the '70s and '80s, when I was in junior high, high school, college and just starting my professional career (picture a teenager rolling their eyes now). Well, Sports Legends takes us back to those days. Hope you enjoy the article.

Now, to veer toward Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt. I'm going to paste in a thread from regular commenter LRob, who did a nice recap on the Derek Fisher thread regarding the early meetings between Wilt and Kareem. I really enjoyed it, and I know from comments many others did. So I'm going to share the first game for those people who possibly don't read the comments section.

My apologies for the plagiarism, LRob. Hope you're not offended. Here's his post (and others are in the comment section of the Derek Fisher/Motivational Speaker post):

It was fall of 1970 when Kareem & Wilt first met, (Wilt was injured during regular season Kareem's rookie year so they didn't face off)....and a lot was happening in 1970:
***4 students were killed by National Guards during an anti-war protest at Kent State University
***Brooksy magnetic glove play propelled the Orioles to WS champs and made amends for their 1969 humbling
***Monday night football made its debut
***Marcus Welby MD, Flip Wilson, Ironside and Gunsmoke were the top TV shows
***Top 3 songs of the year were
Bridge Over Troubled Water-Simon/Garfunkel
I'll Be There-Jackson 5
Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head-BJ Thomas
Anyway here's what happening in their long anticipated first meeting:

Game 1
Wilt Wins Duel With Alcindor
By United Press International
'Wilt Chamberlain won the battle but Lew Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks won the war.
Pro basketball's premier big men faced each other for only the second time Friday night and Chamberlain showed his experience in winning the battle of the seven-footers. But the Bucks were just too strong overall and handed the Los Angeles Lakers a 117-100 defeat. (first meeting was in pre-season).
Alcindor scored 29 points, one more than Chamberlain, but was outrebounded, 23,-13, and was in foul trouble most of the game. Alcindor was able to make good on only four of his first 12 shots and Chamberlain blocked three of his shots.
I think a couple of those blocks were shown on Wilt's highlight video posted earlier.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

--Dan Loumena

Photo: The Lakers' Wilt Chamberlain gets off a finger roll against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Milwaukee Bucks during a game in 1972. Credit: Los Angeles Times



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