Los Angeles Lakers

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 13:32

History of Los Angeles Lakers

Information about the NBA team Los Angeles Lakers.


Etched on records of the most successful basketball franchises of all time is the Los Angeles Lakers. As of 2006, the LA Lakers have already recorded an average winning rate of 61.5%, having 29 appearances in the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals, and a total of 2,806 wins. What’s more to boost its supporters’ pride is their 14 NBA titles as of 2006, being second only to the Boston Celtics, who have garnered 17.

Playing as the Detroit Gems

The franchise of the Los Angeles Lakers was born even before the NBA was formed. Founded in 1946 as the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL), the LA Lakers boast of a long list of great basketball players, including Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and George Mikan.

Then owned by King Boring, an entrepreneur from Dearborn, Michigan, the Gems fought for only one season in the NBL, ending with a record of 4-40, and consequently getting equally bleak finances. Thus, Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen purchased the Gems for $15,000 in 1947 and moved the team to Minneapolis.

Playing as the Lakers

There, the team played at the Minneapolis Auditorium, though the “team” that Berger and Chalfen bought was composed only of equipment, since its players had already been assigned to other NBL teams. Nevertheless, Berger and Chalfen renamed the franchise as the “Lakers,” owing to the thousands of lakes gracing Minnesota. The two Lakers’ owners dragged Max Winter along to become the general manager.

Having the worst record in the NBL, the Gems, now called the Lakers, were given the privilege to take the first picks off the dispersal draft in the 1947 Professional Basketball League of America. Through that, the Lakers acquired George Mikan, which would later become one of the greatest team centers in his time. George Mikan, new coach John Kundla, and some of University of Minnesota’s players formed a team that shook the rest of the league as it bagged the NBL championship in its first season.

The Lakers moved to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) the following year and likewise won the championship on their first. This 12-team association is considered as the direct ancestor of the NBA.

In the succeeding year, the BAA and the NBL merged to form the NBA, where the Lakers debuted as the first champions. This third consecutive championship on its third year can be credited to Mikan, Vern Mikkelsen, and Bud Grant, who was to become a National Football League coach.

The team's streak of championships was broken only in 1951, when the Rochester Royals won over them in the NBA Western Division Finals. However, the Lakers managed to get the championship back the following year, and hold it for 3 consecutive years. The team then became considered as the first NBA “dynasty”, winning five championships since it started in BAA. In these years, among the Lakers’ strong pillars are Hall of Famers Slater Martin, Jim Pollard, and Clyde Lovellette.

After Mikan

After the 1954 season, Mikan had to retire due to injuries, but was forced to go back in the 1956 season due to the sharp decline in the Lakers’ performance. However, he had to retire again for good, halfway into the season. The succeeding years were low for the Lakers, and they had their first bottom-of-the-league position in the 1957 season with a 19–53 record.

However, they got to pick first in the draft, and they chose Elgin Baylor, who eventually became the NBA Rookie of the Year awardee. Through Mikkelsen and Baylor, the Lakers once again took flight and got past the Hawks into the NBA finals, but fell to the Boston Celtics, who were then a rising power. Thus, the 1958 NBA season marked the beginning of the two teams’ long-standing rivalry.

The team’s finances suffered after Mikan’s retirement, as its game attendance dropped off dramatically. The Lakers was purchased by Bob Short, who moved the team to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season. The Lakers became the first West Coast team of the NBA, keeping their name despite the scarcity of lakes in this part of the country.

The addition of point guard Jerry West, his college coach Fred Schaus, and Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn as play-by-play announcer powered up the team once more. Hearn was to announce for the Lakers in the next 41 years. The Baylor-West tandem proved to be a lethal Lakers weapon, and they both made it as among the NBA's top 10 scoring leaders for the succeeding four years.

When Baylor was obliged to go to active military duty in the 1961–1962 season, the Lakers still made it to the finals, but they already lost to the Boston Celtics, who were already at the peak of their basketball glory.

Under a new ownership

In 1965, the Lakers was sold to Jack Kent Cook, a Canadian-American entrepreneur, for $5 million. He moved the team to its brand new arena, the "Fabulous" Forum with its new coach Bill van Breda Kolff in 1967. After their loss to the Celtics in 1968, Cooke acquired Philadelphia 76ers’ Wilt Chamberlain to counter the Celtics’ Bill Russell. Though their performance and records improved, they still lost to the Celtics, who at that time had already won 11 championships out of 13 NBA seasons.
 
In 1969, Jerry West won as the first Finals MVP, making him the only member of the losing team who has ever won the award. The Lakers got back to the finals in 1970 and had to face the New York Knicks instead of the Celtics. Though West managed to force an overtime play through his memorable 60-foot shoot as the 4th quarter buzzer sounded, the Knicks still won the game.

Bill Sharman became the new coach and on November 9, 1971, Baylor retired due to injuries. That evening, the Lakers won the first of their 33-game winning streak, which still remains as the longest ever in any major American sport in history.

In 1972, the Lakers defeated the Knicks into their first NBA championship since 1954. Sharman was awarded as the Coach of the Year, and the team led the whole league in scoring.

In 1976, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar entered the team and won his fourth NBA MVP Award, though the Lakers did not make it to the playoffs again.

On December 9, 1977, NBA fans witnessed one of the most dreadful moments in the history of professional sports, as Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets had to rush to the court to try to break the fight between the Rockets' Kevin Kunnert and the Lakers' Kermit Washington. However, he ended up cracking his skull and nearly ending his NBA career due to a devastating punch from Washington.

Washington was fined and suspended for 60 games. Tomjanovich, however, had to spend five months in rehabilitation, but came back as an NBA all star. Tomjanovich eventually became a Lakers coach.

One of the strongest NBA teams

As years passed, the NBA Western Conference team Los Angeles Lakers continued to go through ups and downs in its basketball history, eventually acquiring more basketball superstars such as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and Shaquille O'Neal. But the legend continues for the first “dynasty” in NBA history. Its glory from its inception has been successfully maintained through the decades and restored through destructions, making it among the brightest constellations in NBA history.