The Los Angeles Lakers are an American professional basketball team based in Los Angeles. The Lakers compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league’s Western Conference Pacific Division. The Lakers play their home games at Crypto.com Arena, an arena shared with the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in the history of the National Basketball Association, and have won 17 National Basketball Association championships, tied with the Boston Celtics for the most in National Basketball Association history.
The franchise began with the 1947 purchase of a disbanded team, the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League. The new team began playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers. Initially a member of the NBL, the Lakers won the 1948 NBL championship before joining the rival Basketball Association of America, where they would win five of the next six championships, led by star George Mikan. After struggling financially in the late 1950s following Mikan’s retirement, they relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season.
Led by Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, Los Angeles made the National Basketball Association Finals six times in the 1960s, but lost every series to the Celtics, beginning their long and storied rivalry. In 1968, the Lakers acquired four-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Wilt Chamberlain, and won their sixth National Basketball Association title—and first in Los Angeles—in 1972, led by new head coach Bill Sharman. After the retirement of West and Chamberlain, the team traded for superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would win three MVP awards as a Laker. While the team was unable to advance to the Finals in the late 1970s, two momentous changes came in 1979 that would inaugurate a new golden era for the franchise. First, Jerry Buss purchased the Lakers, and as the team’s owner, pioneered a vision of basketball games as entertainment spectacles as well as sporting events. Second, the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 National Basketball Association draft.
The combination of Johnson, a passing prodigy point guard, and a dominant center in Abdul-Jabbar provided the Lakers with two superstars to anchor their roster. The promotion of head coach Pat Riley in 1981 and the addition of forward James Worthy through the 1982 draft established the Lakers as an National Basketball Association powerhouse throughout the 1980s. The team was nicknamed the “Showtime Lakers” due to its fast break, transition offense facilitated by Johnson. The franchise won five championships in a nine-year span, including winning two out of three marquee Finals matchups against the Celtics. The Lakers were defeated by their Boston archrivals in the 1984 Finals, but triumphed over the Celtics in 1985 and 1987.
After Riley departed and Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, and Worthy all retired, the Lakers struggled in the early 1990s. It was not until 1996 when the team traded with the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant and signed star center Shaquille O’Neal that the Lakers returned to dominance during the early 2000s. The superstar duo of Bryant and O’Neal, along with Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, led the Lakers to three consecutive championships between 2000 to 2002, securing the franchise’s second “three-peat.” The dynamic but tumultuous “Shaq-and-Kobe” era ended when the Lakers traded away O’Neal after the team lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals. It was not until after the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol that Bryant and Jackson returned to the National Basketball Association Finals, losing to the Celtics in 2008 but winning two more championships in 2009 and 2010. The 2010 Finals marked the latest matchup of the Lakers and Celtics, with Los Angeles winning its 16th title against its ancient rival in a seven-game series.
Jackson retired from coaching in 2011, and after a string of tumultuous playoff exits, the Lakers endured their longest playoff drought in franchise history. Gasol departed as a free agent in 2014, and Bryant retired in 2016 after twenty years as a Laker. After multiple rebuilding seasons with young, highly rated prospects, the Lakers signed superstar LeBron James in 2018. In 2019, the team traded several of those prospects for star big man Anthony Davis. The Lakers—led by James, Davis, and head coach Frank Vogel—won the team’s 17th championship in 2020, tying the Celtics for the most titles in National Basketball Association history.
The Lakers hold the record for National Basketball Association’s longest winning streak, 33 straight games, set during the 1971–72 season. Twenty-six Hall of Famers have played for Los Angeles, while four have coached the team. Four players—Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O’Neal, and Bryant—have won a combined eight National Basketball Association MVP awards with the Lakers.
1947–1954: Beginnings and Minneapolis dynasty with George Mikan
The Lakers’ franchise began in 1947 when Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen of Minnesota purchased the recently disbanded Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League for $15,000 from Gems owner Maury Winston. Minneapolis sportswriter Sid Hartman played a key behind-the-scenes role in helping put together the deal and later the team. Inspired by Minnesota’s nickname, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, the team christened themselves the Lakers. Hartman helped them hire John Kundla from College of St. Thomas, to be their first head coach, by meeting with him and selling him on the team.
The Lakers had a solid roster, which featured forward Jim Pollard, playmaker Herm Schaefer, and center George Mikan, who became the most dominant player in the NBL. In their first season, they led the league with a 43–17 record, later winning the NBL Championship that season.
In 1948, the Lakers moved from the NBL to the Basketball Association of America, and Mikan’s 28.3 point per game scoring average set a BAA record. In the 1949 BAA Finals they won the championship, beating the Washington Capitols four games to two. The following season, the team improved to 51–17, repeating as champions. In the 1950–51 season, Mikan won his third straight scoring title at 28.4 ppg and the Lakers went 44–24 to win their second straight division title. One of those games, a 19–18 loss against the Fort Wayne Pistons, became infamous as the lowest scoring game in National Basketball Association history. In the playoffs, they defeated the Indianapolis Olympians in three games but lost to the Rochester Royals in the next round. They then defeated the New York Knicks to win their second straight championship. The team won its third straight championship in the 1950s and fifth in six seasons when it defeated the Syracuse Nationals in seven games.
1954–1958: Post-Mikan dry spell
Following Mikan’s retirement in the 1954 off-season, the Lakers struggled but still managed to win 40 games. Although they defeated the Rochester Royals in the first round of the playoffs, they were defeated by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the semifinals. Although they had losing records the next two seasons, they made the playoffs each year. Led by Lovellette’s 20.6 points and 13.5 rebounds, they advanced to the Conference Finals in 1956–57. The Lakers had one of the worst seasons in team history in 1957–58 when they won a league-low 19 games. They had hired Mikan, who had been the team’s general manager for the previous two seasons, as head coach to replace Kundla. Mikan was fired in January when the team was 9–30, and Kundla was rehired.
The Lakers earned the top pick in the 1958 National Basketball Association draft and used it to select Elgin Baylor. Baylor, who was named National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year and co-MVP of the 1959 National Basketball Association All-Star Game, averaged 24.9 ppg and 15.0 rpg helping the Lakers improve to second in their division despite a 33–39 record. After upsetting the Hawks in six games in the division finals, they returned to the National Basketball Association Finals, but were swept by the Celtics, beginning their long rivalry.
1958–1968: Move to Los Angeles and Celtics rivalry
In their last year in Minneapolis, the Lakers went 25–50. On January 18, 1960, the team was coming off a loss and traveling to St. Louis when their plane crash-landed. Snow storms had driven the pilot 150 miles off course when he was forced to land in a cornfield. No one was hurt. Their record earned them the number two pick in the 1960 National Basketball Association draft. The team selected Jerry West from West Virginia University. During the 1960 off-season, the Lakers became the National Basketball Association’s first West Coast team when owner Bob Short decided to move the team to Los Angeles. Led by Baylor’s 34.8 ppg and 19.8 rpg, Los Angeles won 11 more than the year before in West’s first season. On November 15 that season, Baylor set a new National Basketball Association scoring record when he scored 71 points in a victory against the New York Knicks while grabbing 25 rebounds. In doing so, Baylor broke his own National Basketball Association record of 64 points. Despite a losing record, the Lakers made the playoffs. They came within two points of the National Basketball Association Finals when they lost in game seven of their second round series against St. Louis.
Led by Baylor and West at 38.3 and 30.8 ppg respectively, the Lakers improved to 54–26 in 1961–62, and made the finals. In a game five victory, Baylor grabbed 22 rebounds and set the still-standing National Basketball Association record for points in a finals game with 61, despite fouling out of the game. The Lakers, however, lost to the Celtics by three points in overtime of game seven.
Los Angeles won 53 games in 1962–63, behind Baylor’s 34.0 ppg and West’s 27.1 ppg but lost in the National Basketball Association Finals in six games to the Celtics. They lost again to Celtics in the Finals however, this time in five games.
Los Angeles lost in the finals to Boston in seven games again in 1966, this time by two points. Down by 16 entering the fourth quarter, and 10 with a minute and a half to go, the Lakers mounted a furious rally in the closing moments, which fell just short. After dropping to 36 wins and losing in the first round of the 1967 National Basketball Association playoffs, they lost in the finals to the Celtics again in 1968. In his first season as a Laker, Chamberlain set a team record by averaging …
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