The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Magic Johnson

(Image/SBS)

This is the fifteenth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 2 – Magic Johnson. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his greatest plays as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Earvin Johnson, nicknamed Magic because of the things he could do with a basketball, played his whole 13 season career with the purple and gold. In those 13 seasons, he played 40,783 minutes in 1,096 games, scoring 21,408 points and accumulating 12,487 assists (1st all-time among Lakers). Since his early retirement in 1991, due to his HIV diagnoses, Johnson has worked for the Lakers as Head Coach, General Manager, an ambassador, and as President of Basketball Operations. He would also make a brief return as a player in 1996.

Following his arrival in Los Angeles in 1979, Johnson became a key piece of a dynamic duo, pairing his playmaking and court vision with the consistent greatness of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This would result in one of the most revered basketball pairings of all-time, bringing the Lakers 5 championships in their 10 seasons playing together.

In his years with the purple and gold, Magic had some truly legendary moments. One would come in his rookie season, Game 6 of the 1980 Finals. He would start at center due to an injury Abdul-Jabbar sustained in the game prior. A young Johnson would lead LA to victory, totaling 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. Another truly memorable moment from Johnson’s career would be his performance in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, finishing the game with 25 points and 9 assists. As he turned back the clock and created a brilliant highlight reel for fans to remember him by.

But for this recap, we have decided to look at the running hook shot he hit over Kevin McHale with 2 seconds left in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.

Magic Johnson’s Sky Hook:

It’s June 9, 1987. It’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers are up 2-1 against the Boston Celtics. The vicious rivals had already met in the Finals twice in the 80s, splitting championship honours as Boston won in ’84 and LA won in ’85. Going in, this finals series had the potential to be the deciding factor in answering the question ‘which team is better?’. Furthermore, ‘which player is better, Magic or Bird?’.

Going into Game 4 the teams had obviously already shared the court in 3 games prior. The first 2 were played in The Great Western Forum. The Lakers would take Game 1 as Magic Johnson and James Worthy would combine for 62 points and 23 assists, in a 126-113 victory. Game 2 would see Los Angeles hold home court once again as 5 players scored at least 20 points, Byron Scott (24), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (23), James Worthy (23), Magic Johnson (22) and Michael Cooper (21). Magic would also have 20 assists in his 31 minutes, as the Lakers won 141-122. Game 3 would see the series move coasts as the teams flew to Massachusetts. Boston would claim one back as Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson combined for 56 points, winning the game 109-103.

With the series at 2-1, Game 4 would act as a decider to whether the finals would become a 3 game series, or would the Lakers be able to put their foot on Boston’s neck. The 1st quarter ended in the Celtics’ favour, 29-22. As the Lakers leading scorer in the ’87 Playoffs, Worthy, didn’t score in the first 12 minutes.

The 2nd quarter would be more of the same as the Celtics kept the Lakers at arm’s length. It would conclude with a coming together between Worthy and Boston big man Greg Kite, as Worthy attacked the bucket. There is about 15 seconds left in the half as Worthy rises for the lay-up, Kite fouls him hard as he bounces on the parquet floor. Clearly annoyed, Worthy jumps to his feet and turns to begin an assault on Kite as the Lakers bench invades the court in their own expression of anger. Worthy swings a right hook at Kite’s head as he squares up himself, bodies flood the space between the two as they try and defuse the situation. Both coaches, Pat Riley and K.C. Jones, enter the court as they attempt to break up the skirmish. Riley puts his 6’4” frame into the body of the 6’11” Kite, in an attempt to protect his scoring wing.

The situation slowly cools from boiling point, both players are awarded technicals as Worthy steps to the line to shoot a pair of free throws. He hits both with the clock at 15 seconds. The Celtics come up the other way as McHale hits a fade-away jumper with 1 second left, concluding the 1st half, 55-47. Johnson led the Lakers in scoring in the first 24 minutes, with 19, the next best was Worthy with 7.

The 3rd quarter would first see the Celtics extend their lead further, going 8/9 and putting themselves up by 16, with 6 minutes gone in the half. A common problem the Lakers found when facing the slower-paced Celtics of the 80s was when they weren’t missing the Lakers wouldn’t get the fast-break opportunities their offence was built for. In an attempt to counteract this, Riley would make his team quicker. Going with a lineup of Cooper, Scott, Worthy, A.C. Green, and Mychal Thompson. As Magic leaves the game with 3:30 left in the quarter, he has 27 points. Boston continues to rally as the Lakers call a timeout, 2:55 left, 81-67 in the Celtics’ favour.

LA would come out with a reviewed defensive game plan. They would begin to run doubles at the ball handler, forcing the Celtics to make rushed offensive decisions. This paired with the elite speed of the line-up allowed a defensive player to leave their man, to double and return to the open offensive player before they had the opportunity to put up an open shot. This would work as intended, as the Celtics began to miss shots, the Lakers began to find fast-break opportunities. Something particularly effective with the quick foot speed of the group Riley had put on the floor. A specific game plan LA would use when Magic was on the bench, as Riley didn’t like using up Johnson’s energy chasing the ball around on the defensive end. Something both Scott and Cooper were built for.

This was working well before another fight broke out with a minute to play in the 3rd. Scott would be fouled by Bird as he went up for the lay-up on the fast-break. A.C. Green would follow up the court, applauding the officials’ decision. McHale took issue with this as he comes up behind Green and shoves him. Scott then shoves him back as he defends his teammate. The players then get into a pushing match as the Boston bench flood the floor and separate the 3. Yet another example of the burning rivalry between the two teams. This would see out the 3rd as the Lakers had managed to cut a 16 point deficit to 7. Boston lead 85-78.

The 4th quarter starts with a scare for the Lakers as Magic Johnson collides with Larry Bird and they bump knees. Johnson had chronic knee problems throughout his career and the Lakers couldn’t have hoped for a worse time for it to rear its ugly head. He would leave the game as his teammates tried to hold down the fort in his absence. This would only last a few possessions as the Lakers were desperate to get their MVP ball handler back on the floor. He returns after about a minute, suffering from a clear limp.

8 minutes left in the game and the lead sits at 93-86 in Boston’s favour. By the time the clock strikes 6 minutes left the Lakers have tied the score 93-93, thanks to a parade to the line powered by Boston’s foul trouble. The Lakers had pulled a 16 point deficit back level as they looked to assert some dominance in the 4th quarter. A call that the Celtics would answer first, going on an 8-2 run and forcing Riley to call a timeout. 4:22 left, 101-95.

The momentum is well and truly with the home team at the Boston Garden as the players come back. The clock continues to tick as the Lakers struggle to score. 2 minutes left, the score is 103-96. Los Angeles call another timeout. Mychal Thompson would go to the line to shoot 2 as the teams returned, he goes 1 for 2 as the score is 103-97.

Boston comes up the other way and gives the ball to Robert Parish in the post, something that had worked throughout the game for them. LA double him and snatch the ball as they run out on the fast-break. The ball finds Magic as he runs for the paint. He gives it up to Cooper on the right-wing as he is wide open. He shoots it from behind the arc and connects, 103-100, 1:30 left.

The Celtics come up the floor and throw it out of bounds 10 seconds into their possession. The Lakers inbound and run the ball up the court in a rush to make something happen, giving it to Worthy at the right short corner. He’ll dribble into the paint before he is doubled, pitching up a hook shot from the center of the paint as it snugs through. 103-102, 1 minute left. Boston calls for time.

They come back and the Celtics decide they are going to live and die with their star Small Forward, Bird. They bring it up the floor and Bird ends up throwing up a contested right short corner fade-away. It bounces off the rim as Thompson retrieves the rebound, 44 seconds left. Johnson brings the ball up the floor and sets up shop at the right-wing, letting his teammates initiate the play. Cooper sets a screen deep in the paint, allowing Abdul-Jabbar to catch-and-slam a wide-open ally-oop. The Lakers take their first lead since the first 3 minutes of the game, 104-103, 29 seconds left. K.C. Jones calls for time.

They’ll come back out as Boston has advanced the inbound into the frontcourt. Dennis Johnson will start with the ball, and he runs a pick-and-roll with Parish as they get the switch. He delivers the ball into Parish as he is doubled in the post. Parish bounces it back out to the open Johnson who is then doubled himself. Johnson gives it to an open Ainge as LA chase the ball around the floor. Bird is open in the left corner as the ball is projected towards him, he puts up the 3 and laces the net as it drops through. The Garden erupts as the Lakers call a timeout. 106-104 to Boston, 12 seconds left.

Cooper inbounds the ball when the teams come back. He gives it to Magic on the left wing who immediately floats the rock to Abdul-Jabber in the left high post. He backs down Parish and tries to put up a hook shot but is fouled, he’ll shoot 2 at the line, a chance to tie the game. The Boston crowd wave everything they can in an effort to distract the NBA’s All-Time leading scorer. He hits the first but misses the second as the ball is knocked out of bounds on the rebound. Lakers ball. The camera shows Riley checking with his bench that he has a timeout left. Confirmation given, he calls his final timeout. 7 seconds left, 106-105.

They come back in as Cooper will inbound once again. Magic and Worthy run a split play as they force the Celtics to switch. Magic receives the ball on the left corner as he is now guarded by McHale. He fakes a shot before dribbling in-and-out, 5 seconds left. LA spread the court as Magic drives towards the center of the paint. He picks up the ball with 3 seconds left, taking 2 quick steps as he runs across the paint. He jumps off his left foot with the ball in his right palm, McHale and Parish jump with him as they try and stop the ball. Magic floats up a hook shot as he swings his arm around to 12 o’clock and releases. The Spalding ball floats towards the rim as the clock strikes 2 seconds left. If this misses the Celtics have the ball game. But it doesn’t. The ball laces the net, creating the beautiful ‘swish’ sound as Magic connects for his only 2 points of the quarter. 2 seconds left, 107-106 to the Lakers.

Celtics call timeout as the energy is sucked out of the crowd inside the Boston Garden. When they come back they manage to get Bird an open shot from the same corner he had connected from just 10 seconds of game time before. He misses however, as the final buzzer sounds. Commentary exclaims “and the Lakers have won and Pat Riley and the Lakers dance off the court”.

The Lakers would go up 3-1 in the series, eventually winning 4-2 in 6 games. Magic Johnson would win his 3rd Finals MVP with averages of 26.2 PPG, 13 APG, 8 RPG and 2.3 SPG. A huge achievement that continues to be a key point between Bird and Magic fans to this day. A statistic that sits in Magic’s favour. This would also see an end to the Boston Celtics dominant period in the 80s, as the Lakers went on to win another championship the following season. Another key piece of history in a war that rages between the Lakers and Celtics to this day.

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/1985 NBAE)

In the summer of 1976, the New Orleans Jazz (later the Utah Jazz) would sign former Laker Gail Goodrich. At the time league rules stated that the signing of a high-level free agent required the team losing out to be compensated, this came in the form of draft picks. One of these draft picks would turn into the number 1 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The Lakers would use it to select a young Magic Johnson.

In his time with the purple and gold he a earned an All-Rookie Team selection, 2 NBA steals titles, 4 NBA assist titles, 12 NBA All-Star Selections, 2 NBA All-Star MVPs, an All-NBA Second Team selection, 9 All-NBA First Team selections, 3 NBA MVPs, 5 NBA Championships, 3 NBA Finals MVPs, and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1992 the franchise made it so no other Laker would wear number 32 again. Hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the 5th player to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. All these achievements more than cement his number 2 place as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

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The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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This is the fourteenth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 3 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We take an in-depth look at the Finals MVP he won with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Captain played 14 of his 20 season career with the Lakers. Playing the first 6 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to the purple and gold in the summer of 1975. As a Laker, he played 43,787 minutes in 1,273 games, scoring 28,246 points (3rd all-time among Lakers) and grabbing 11,804 rebounds (2nd all-time among Lakers).

In October 1974, Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade to either the New York Knicks or Los Angeles, stating that living in the Midwest didn’t suit his cultural needs. Pete Newell (the Lakers General Manager at the time) made a move to acquire the already accomplished big man. Being named a 1-time NBA blocks champion, 2-time NBA scoring champion, NBA Rookie of the Year, 5-time NBA All-Star, 4-time NBA All-Defensive, 5-time All-NBA, 3-time NBA MVP, an NBA Finals MVP, and an NBA champion. All in just his first 6 years in the league.

Even though he had his best scoring seasons as a Buck, Abdul-Jabbar had some truly great moments donning the purple and gold armour. One would come on the April 5, 1984, as he dropped a sky hook over the top of Mark Eaton to become the NBA’s All-Time leading scorer. Totaling 31,422 points to that point, ending his career 5 seasons later with 38,387. Another would be the record-breaking 6th MVP he achieved in the 1979-80 season, averaging 24.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 3.4 BPG, at the age of 32. He thrashed Julius Erving in voting to win yet another award in an already legendary career.

Despite these phenomenal statistical performances, for this review we will be looking at his only Finals MVP with the Lakers. In 1985 the team would face the Boston Celtics in the finals, as Abdul-Jabbar would win the award for the second time in his career, at the age of 37.

Abdul-Jabbar – The Finals Most Valuable Player

(Image/Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

As of the start of the 1984-85 season, the Lakers had made 3 finals appearances in the last 3 seasons. Winning a championship against the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982, before falling at the last hurdle the next 2 seasons. Firstly against the 76ers, 4-0, in ’83 and then against the Celtics, 4-3, in ’84.

The Lakers won 62 games in the ’84-’85 season, finishing 1st in the Western Conference. Led by the dynamic duo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. As The Captain led the team in points and rebounds, 22 PPG and 7.9 RPG, Johnson helped with the scoring and led the team in assists, 18.3 PPG and 12.6 APG.

Los Angeles stormed their way through the ’85 playoffs, first sweeping the Phoenix Suns in the 1st round, 3-0. It was an easy series for the Lakers, as Abdul-Jabbar only played 24 MPG, scoring 19 PPG. Showtime would then face the Portland Trail Blazers, beating them in 5 games. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 21 PPG and 9.6 RPG. As his partner in crime, Johnson, scored 21.8 PPG and passed 17 APG. They would then advance to face the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals, an easy series would follow, as the Lakers beat the Nuggets 4 games to 1. Abdul-Jabbar would average 20 PPG on a team led by Byron Scott‘s scoring of 23.4 PPG. Along with Johnson’s passing, 15.6 APG. The Lakers would advance to their 4th straight finals, facing fierce rivals, the Boston Celtics.

Game 1 would prove to be a great struggle for the purple and gold. After the 1st half, the Celtics would lead 79-49 in a game that already looked over. In the 2nd half, the trend would continue, as Boston tore a hole in the Lakers, winning 148-114. Earning the game its own nickname, the “Memorial Day Massacre”. LA’s defence was no match for the offensive machine of the Celtics, as all 5 starters for Boston scored in double figures, led by Kevin McHale and Scott Wedman, with 26 points each. Abdul-Jabbar would face brawling defence from McHale and Robert Parish in the post as he only managed 12 points, on 6 for 11 shooting from the field.

Thankfully for the Lakers, game 2 would be a different story. They would hold Boston to 46 points in the 1st half, scoring 64 points themselves. They would slightly waiver in the 2nd half as the Celtics won the 3rd quarter by 6 points and then the 4th quarter by 5 points. It would prove too little too late, however, as the Lakers would take the game, 109-102. Abdul-Jabbar had a much better day as he racked up 30 points, pulled in 17 rebounds, and earning himself 8 assists. He was helped by Johnson, winning himself another double-double with 14 points and 13 assists. As well as Michael Cooper putting good minutes in from the bench, scoring 22 points.

Game 3 would follow much of the same pattern as the series shifted across the country to Inglewood, California. Boston ended the 1st half behind, as the Lakers led 65-59. For the Celtics, the deficit would continue to grow in the 2nd half, ending the game with a purple and gold victory, 136-111. Abdul-Jabbar continued to prove that he had put the struggles of game 1 behind him, as he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Along with this, he would earn 7 assists, a virtue mostly gifted to him over the last couple of games by the doubling of him in the post. Passing it out to the open man was all he had to do. Help was of course provided by Hall of Fame teammates James Worthy and Magic Johnson, as Worthy scored 29 points and Johnson totaled 16 assists to go with his 17 points. The Lakers had marched out to a 2-1 lead following the embarrassment they faced on the last Monday in May.

The glory was short-lived as a retaliation would come from the Celtics in game 4. They would buck up their defence and hold the Lakers to only 105 points as they scored 107. They were led by the trio of Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, and Larry Bird. As they each scored 28, 27, and 26 points, respectively. They would hold Magic and Kareem to a combined 41 points (Johnson with 20 and Abdul-Jabbar with 21) preventing them from having too much of an impact on the game. Johnson did his best however as he finished with a triple-double, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. The Celtics had tied the series at 2-2, and were now looking to finish the Lakers in 6 and win the franchise their 16th NBA Championship.

Los Angeles had now been beaten on their own floor, a slight that Abdul-Jabbar seemed to take personally. Game 5 would see him play 42 minutes (at the age of 37), finishing with 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists as he would spearhead the attack on the purple and gold’s green foe. Beating them 120-111. Help would of course be lent by his just as impressive supporting cast. Worthy finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds, as Johnson once again put on a passing clinic, totaling 17 dimes to go along with his 26 points. Showtime had regained momentum, playing the beautiful, fast-break style of basketball that Pat Riley had dreamt up.

The series would now return to the parquet floor of the Boston Garden. The Lakers would once again face the fans who had a true hatred of their colours. The Celtics now had their back against the wall, they would have to perform if they wanted to leave with a hope of a championship parade. The 1st half would be a close contest, as it finished with the teams tied at 55. The next quarter would prove the difference, as the Lakers would finish the 3rd with a 9 point lead, 82-73. The final quarter would hold the steady back and forth, similar to the first half. The game finished with a 111-100 victory for the Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar once again played the role of scorer, 29 points, as Magic Johnson earned yet another triple-double, 14 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds.

The Lakers had won their 9th NBA Championship, and their 3rd of the Showtime era. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 25.7 PPG, 9 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1 SPG, as he was crowned the Finals Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career. The first coming to a 23-year-old Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor. The second coming 14 years later under his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A true example to us all that your background and your pears do not define who you are. It’s your actions that define who you are.

(Image/NBAE/Getty Images)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was always destined for greatness in the NBA. Many consider him the greatest college player of all-time. Following his selection by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 1st pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, he went on to achieve a myriad of accomplishments. Including an NBA Championship.

Following his trade to the Lakers in 1975, he would earn an NBA rebounding title, 3 NBA block leader titles, 13 NBA All-Star appearances, 4 NBA All-Defensive Second Team selections, 3 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, 4 All-NBA Second Team selections, 6 All-NBA First Team selections, 3 NBA MVPs, 5 NBA Championships, an NBA Finals MVP, and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1990 the franchise made it so no other Laker would wear number 33 again. Hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the 4th player to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. All these achievements more than cement his number 3 place as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Jerry West

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This is the thirteenth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 4 – Jerry West. We’ll take an in-depth look at the role he played in the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office following his playing career.

West played his whole 14 season career with the Lakers, representing the franchise onwards from that, working for the purple and gold in different roles as recently as 2000. As a player he played 42,892 minutes in 1,085 games, scoring 29,649 points (2nd all-time among Lakers) and accumulating 7,208 assists (3rd all-time among Lakers).

Becoming a Laker in 1960, West joined just as the team made their move to the west coast. Arriving as a high draft pick following the Lakers’ struggle to put talent around their star man, Elgin Baylor. Joining forces, West became Mr Outside to Baylor’s Mr Inside, forming a formidable duo that would go on to make 7 of the next 10 Finals. Unfortunately losing them all. West would eventually get his ring in 1972, following the fall of Baylor and the arrival of Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain.

Just like every Laker great, West had some truly legendary moments in Los Angeles. One would be winning Finals MVP in 1969 and becoming the only player to ever win the award whilst playing for the losing team. Averaging 37.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds throughout the 7 game series. Another moment would be West winning his championship in 1972, a story we have covered previously in the series during the Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain articles.

Due to our past coverage of his only NBA championship, we have decided to review the role West played in building the 3-peat team of the early 2000s.

Jerry West – The Executive

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(Image/Steve Grayson/WireImage)

During his final season in the NBA, West only managed 31 regular-season games and 1 playoff game due to a pulled groin. Forced into retirement, West remarked “I’m not willing to sacrifice my standards, perhaps I expect too much”. The legend walked away from the game as NBA’s 3rd leading scorer of all-time.

This would not be a long absence, however. After taking a 2-year break West would return to the Lakers as Head Coach. Between 1976-79 West would lead the purple and gold to 3 winning seasons and 3 Playoff appearances. A record of 145-101 over the 3 seasons.

Unfortunately, the success of a Head Coach is decided in the playoffs, an area of the season in which West’s Lakers did not succeed. In ’76-’77 they would lose in the Conference Finals to the Portland Trail Blazers in 4 games. In ’77-’78 they would lose in the First Round to the Seattle SuperSonics in 3 games. And in ’78-’79 they would lose in the Conference Semifinals to the SuperSonics in 5 games.

At the beginning of the 1979-80 season, the Lakers would go in a different direction. Bill Sherman (the General Manager at the time) brought in Paul Westhead as head coach, moving West to a scouting role as a way of keeping him within the organisation. This would work as intended, as over the next 3 seasons the Lakers would go on to win their first two championships of the Showtime era under the leadership of first Westhead, and later Pat Riley.

Following his 3 years as a scout, in 1982 West would move into an executive role with the Lakers as he continued to help the organisation build a team to dominate the 80s. His first significant act as General Manager would come in the 1982 NBA Draft as with the 1st pick the Lakers would select James Worthy.

In the 1982-83 season, the Lakers went 58-24 as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the team with 21.8 PPG as they made the Finals. But lost in 4 games to Moses Malone and the Philadelphia 76ers. This would prompt West to make a trade in the 1983 offseason, trading Eddie Jordan, Norm Nixon and 2 second-round picks to the San Diego Clippers for Swen Nater and a recently drafted Byron Scott (a building block for the coming decade).

These 2 moves would prove key in the 1985 championship run. After being beaten in the ’84 Finals by the Boston Celtics in 7 games, the Lakers would win their 9th NBA title in ’85 over their dreaded rivals. Both Worthy and Scott played key roles in the victory as throughout the Playoffs they averaged 21.5 and 16.9 PPG, respectively.

In the summer following West’s first championship as an executive, he would make another good selection in the 1985 NBA Draft as he used the Lakers number 23 pick to select A.C. Green. A crucial pick up when considering the teams lack of depth at the Power Forward position. Beyond Worthy, Kurt Rambis had been the next best option at the 4 for last couple seasons.

The Lakers would then continue their struggle for consistency in the 1986-86 season as they would finish with a 62-20 record but face disappointment, losing in 5 games in the Conference Finals to the Houston Rockets. Despite this West remained patient with his core, making moves around the edges to help the team develop. He spent the ’86 off-season acquiring players like Billy Thompson and Frank Brickowski as end of the bench role players to help supplement the Showtime powerhouse.

The next 2 seasons would see the Lakers win back-to-back championships for the first time since the Minneapolis days. First winning over their long term rivals, the Celtics, in ’87 and then winning against a somewhat new rival, the Detroit Pistons, in ’88. Little did anyone know this would begin a slow decline for the franchise as this would be the last time they would reach this height in the 20th century.

This would begin in the 1988-89 Playoffs as the Pistons assumed dominance over the league, beating the Lakers in 4 games to win their first championship. The following offseason Abdul-Jabbar would call it a day on his legendary 20 season career. In the 1989 Draft, West would select Vlade Divac with the 26th pick as an attempt to supplement the loss of the 6-time MVP big man. This would work originally as the team would go 63-19 the following season, only to be beaten in the Conference Semifinals in 5 games by the Phoenix Suns.

Following the defeat, Pat Riley stepped down as Head Coach, forcing West to select his successor, who came in the form of Mike Dunleavy. Another former player who had served for 3 years previous as an Assistant Coach for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 1990-91 season saw the Lakers finish with a 58-24 record as Johnson and Worthy managed to extend their primes. They would lead the team to yet another Finals appearance in which they would come up short against the Chicago Bulls, losing 4-1, as they began to claim dominance of the 90s.

The following season would feature the first Laker roster without Magic Johnson since the 1978-79 season due to him being forced into early retirement after being diagnosed with HIV. This presented a new challenge for West, forced to build a roster around a 30-year-old Worthy. He would trade 3 future 2nd round picks to the SuperSonics for Sedale Threatt, a journeyman Point Guard who had flourished in Seattle.

Despite West’s best efforts, Worthy only played 54 games due to a knee injury, the team went 43-39 and got bounced by the Trail Blazers in the first round of the Playoffs, losing 3-1. A down period had well and truly started for the Lakers, the following off-season West traded Dunleavy to the Bucks for a pair of future 2nd round draft picks. As he brought in Randy Pfund to replace him.

The 1992-93 season saw the Lakers finish with a 39-43 record, their first losing season since the mid-70s. Things would only go from bad to worse for them, as in the ’93-’94 season the team would go 33-49 as Pfund would lose his job after 64 games. West would hire Magic Johnson as a temporary replacement for the remainder of the season as the Lakers missed out on the playoffs for the first time since ’75-’76.

The 1994-95 season saw the beginning of the Del Harris era as West and the Lakers tried to forge a road map for the future. This would begin as West selected Eddie Jones with the 10th pick in the 1994 draft. Nick Van Exel had excelled expectation in his rookie season after being selected with the 37th pick in the 1993 draft, a potential piece to build around. Vlade Divac had grown into a double-double threat following the last couple seasons of development. The team was set up to develop as they moved forward, but as we all know, LA is not a patient franchise, they would continue the hunt for a star.

West would trade their 1995 first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Cedric Ceballos. With the help of 21.7 PPG from Ceballos, the Lakers would go 48-34 and find themselves back in the Playoffs, a performance that would see Jerry West win Executive of the Year. They would go onto beat the SuperSonics 3-1 in the First Round, before losing to the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the Semifinals. A huge improvement on the season before as the Lakers were becoming competitive again.

The 1995-96 season would see the brief return of Laker Legend Magic Johnson. Rejoining mid-season, Johnson had become much bigger as a way of combatting HIV, increasing his bench press from 135 pounds to 300 pounds, and increasing his weight to 255 pounds. Due to this, Harris would use Johnson as a Power Forward, forcing him to adapt his game. A decision Johnson resented a great deal, making things difficult throughout the team.

Despite this, the team would finish with a 53-29, giving them home-court advantage in the First Round. Unfortunately, they would face the defending champions, Houston Rockets, losing 3-1. Following the defeat, Johnson initially expressed a desire to return for the 1996-97 season. Before changing his mind and ultimately retiring permanently, stating “I am going out on my terms, something I couldn’t say when I aborted a comeback in 1992”.

Going into the summer of ’96, little did anyone know that West’s performance in the following offseason would go down in history. This would begin with drafting Derek Fisher with the 24th pick in the 1996 draft, once again finding a gem deep in the draft class. This would be followed by the trading of Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant, another gem many NBA scouts were unsure about at the time. This would be topped off by the signing of Shaquille O’Neal about a week later. “To get this prize”, West said at the time, “I think is something that when I look back on history and the time that I’ve spent with this team, this might be the single most important thing we’ve ever done.”

West had built the core of a contender, now he began to skirt around the edges. In January of the 1996-97 season, he would trade Ceballos to the Suns for Robert Horry, a player who would prove crucial in the coming years. The Lakers would finish the season with a 56-26 record as they continued to develop into a contender. Facing the Portland Trail Blazers in the First Round of the playoffs, beating them 3-1. Advancing to face the Utah Jazz, who they would lose to in 5 games.

The ’97 offseason would see the signing of Rick Fox, another key piece in the championship team West was building. The 1997-98 season would have the Lakers go 61-21, their best record since the 1987-88 season (the last time the team won a championship). Going into the Playoffs, they would face the Trail Blazers in the First Round, beating them 3-1 to advance and face the SuperSonics. A team they would beat 4-1 before advancing to the Conference Finals to face the Utah Jazz. The series was no competition, as the Lakers got swept in 4 games, Karl Malone and company proving to stong for a young LA team.

The 1998-99 season would be a lockout as the league and the players association struggled to reach an agreement. the extended offseason would feature the departure of Nick Van Exel as Tyronn Lue was brought in, he was viewed as a promising young score first Point Guard at the time. The Lakers would continue play on the 6th of February, with a myriad of transactions to follow. One would be the signing of Dennis Rodman as he walked away from a situation that had gone sour in Chicago. Another would be the arrival of Glen Rice, as West gave up both Elden Campbell and Eddie Jones to acquire the former All-Star.

Following the delayed start of the ’98-’99 season, the Lakers would go 6-6 in the first 12 games, a performance that had West see good enough reason to dismiss Del Harris. He would be replaced by former Laker Kurt Rambis for the remainder of the season, finishing with a 31-19 record. They would face the Houston Rockets in the First Round of the Playoffs, beating them 3-1. They would then lose to San Antonio Spurs in the Semifinals, 4-0, as they continued their march to their first title.

The ’99 offseason would see West make the finishing touches to a championship roster, adding league veterans Ron Harper and Brian Shaw to the team. West would also add a championship level coach in Phil Jackson following his messy exit from the Bulls. Built around Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were well and truly a contender, a situation West had developed and nurtured from the ground up.

The Lakers would finish the 1999-00 season at 67-15, the teams 2nd best record in franchise history after the ’71-’72 season in which West led the team to 69 wins. They would face the Sacramento Kings in the First Round, beating them 3-2 in a tight series. LA would then face the Suns in the Semifinals, defeating Jason Kidd‘s team in 5 games, 4-1. Advancing to the Conference Finals to face the Portland Trail Blazers, they would be taken to 7 games by the veteran team, winning 4-3.

They would advance to their first Finals appearance since 1990-91, somewhat of a draught for a franchise that was used to such success. They would face the Indiana Pacers, a team that had been chasing a Finals appearance throughout the 90s, only to be fraughted by Michael Jordan.

A closely fought series would follow as the Lakers won 4 out of 6 games, winning their first championship since the Showtime days. Shaquille O’Neal would average 38 PPG and 16.7 RPG in the 6 games, a true representation of West’s words years earlier when signing O’Neal.

West would leave the team in the summer of 2000, after spending 14 years as a player, 3 years as a coach and 18 years as the general manager of the organisation that had played such a major role during his adult life. Throughout his 35 years with the franchise he would play a role in 6 of the 12 championships up until the year 2000, creating the structure for the next 4 championships in the process as the team moved into the 21st century.

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(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

After being drafted with the 2nd pick in the 1960 NBA Draft, Jerry West would turn himself into a Los Angeles Lakers legend. As a player, he earned himself an NBA assist title, an NBA scoring title, 14 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA All-Star MVP, an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection, and 4 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections. As well as, 2 All-NBA Second Team selections, 10 All-NBA First Team selections, an NBA Championship, an NBA Finals MVP, and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1983 the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 44 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the third player to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. All these achievements more than cement his number 4 place as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

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The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Shaquille O’Neal

(Image/247 Sports)

This is the eleventh in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 5 – Shaquille O’Neal. We’ll take an in-depth look at his greatest play as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Big Aristotle played 8 of his 19 seasons in Los Angeles, joining after being wooed by Dr Jerry Buss and Jerry West. In his time with the Lakers he played 24,321 minutes in 636 minutes, scoring 17,278 points and blocking 1588 shots (2nd all-time among Laker players).

O’Neal signed with the Lakers in the summer of 1996, accepting a 7-year, $121 million contract. Remarking “I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok”, referencing a couple endorsement deals he had at the time. He would, of course, go on to play a major role in one of the greatest dynasties ever formed, pairing with a young Kobe Bryant to deliver Laker fans 3 championships in 3 seasons between 2000 and 2002.

Shaq had some truly legendary moments in the purple and gold. One being his momentous performance against the Philidelphia 76ers in Game 2 of the 2001 NBA Finals. Recording a 20-20 and almost a quadruple-double, he had 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists and 8 blocks. Another memorable game would be the performance he had on his 28th birthday on the 6th of March 2000. He scored 60 points (his career-high) and grabbed 23 rebounds against the Los Angeles Clippers as he led the Lakers to a 123-103 victory.

For this review, we have decided to relive his truly greatest play as a Laker. The faithful alley-oop he received from Kobe Bryant in the final minutes of Game 7 of the 2000 NBA Western Conference Finals.

The Alley-Oop – From Kobe To Shaq

It’s the 4th of June 2000, and it’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers are tied at 3-3 with the Portland Trail Blazers. LA had led the series 3-1 after 4 games, losing the last 2. The pressure was truly on the Lakers to finish the series and confine the fact they were up by 2 games to history.

In terms of game 7, Los Angeles kept pace with the Trail Blazers early, only trailing by 3 at half time, 42-39. Portland would then proceed to win the 3rd quarter 29-19, putting them up 71-58 heading into the 4th. Both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had struggled during the run, both playing all 12 minutes in the quarter and only combining for 4 points (all from Bryant).

All hope was beginning to look lost for the Lakers as fans prepared themselves for yet another disappointing end to the season. The team had failed to make it to the Finals in the last 3 seasons (exiting in the Conference Semi-Finals once and the Conference Finals twice).

The scoring would continue to go back and forth at the beginning of the 4th quarter, after 2 minutes it sat at 75-60. The purple and gold would then go on a run, starting with a hook shot in the right low post from O’Neal as he received the pass from Rick Fox.

Bonzi Wells would then come the other way and attempt to finish over the top of Fox inside, Bryant comes over with the help and smacks the ball out of the air as it floats towards the rim. He retrieves the loose ball and sets off in the other direction. The ball is passed the perimeter and come to Brian Shaw in the right corner, he rises for the shot and swishes it home. The score sits at 75-65 as Portland calls timeout.

Phil Jackson reminds his players to “shoot good shots” during the timeout, urging them to remain focused. Coming out of the break the Trail Blazers kick the ball around the floor before Scottie Pippen misses a 3 point shot. Shaw catches the long rebound as Bryant sets off on the fastbreak, Shaw gives him the rock, he attempts to go up and finish as he is fouled by Wells. He goes 1/2 from the line. The score is now at 75-66, 9 minutes left.

Portland then comes up and miss two opportunities to score, Lakers get the rebound and come up the other way as Arvydas Sabonis fouls O’Neal underneath as he battles for position down low, earning himself his 5th foul. Forcing the Trail Blazers to swap him out for Brian Grant, a player who has struggled to guard O’Neal the whole series.

Fox then takes a 3 point shot, missing off the back of the rim. O’Neal immediately proves his dominance over his substitute opponent, grabbing the rebound over the top of Grant. He then attempts to put the ball back up as he is fouled by Rasheed Wallace. He goes 1/2, cutting the lead to 8.

The teams go up and down, missing a couple times before the Lakers score once again. Shaw brings the ball up the court as the Staples Center rises to its feet. The Lakers pass the rock around a couple times before the ball finds its way back to Shaw, who shoots the relatively open three from the top. He misses as Robert Horry battles underneath to win the rebound. He pulls it back out as he dribbles to the right corner. He then takes a couple of side steps to his left as he comes out to the right-wing. Big Shot Rob then sets his feet and fires away, sinking the 3 as the crowd explodes, 75-70, 7 minutes left, they were in the process of bringing this game back from the brink.

The game carries on as the Trail Blazers continue to struggle to finish, Bryant brings the ball up the floor as the clock ticks down past 6 minutes. The Lakers start running their set, as Bryant passes it off and proceeds to run into the paint and curls around the left corner before receiving the ball at the top of the key. Guarded by Pippen, he fakes the shot, takes a couple of dribbles round to the left elbow, and pulls up and connects from 11 feet. The crowd rejoice once again as the Lakers are now within 3, 75-72, 5:40 left.

Portland comes up and has another couple of opportunities to stop the bleeding, they were getting offensive rebounds but were unable to finish as Bryant retrieves their second attempt as it clunks off the rim. Portland would then come again as Bryant misses a 3 to tie. They give it to Grant in the post, who is emphatically blocked by O’Neal as he puts up a floater. Pippen retrieves the rebound and the ball ends up in the hands of Wallace, he puts up a long 2 that bounces off the front of the rim and out. Laker ball.

That’s 12 straight misses for the Blazers, the Lakers are on a 12-0 run as Bryant brings the ball up, looking to extend it. They start moving the ball around as Shaw throws an entry pass to O’Neal as he waits in the post. Steve Smith, who is guarding Shaw, immediately comes to double O’Neal. Who kicks it back out to the now open Shaw, he rises and drains the 3 as the roof comes off the building. The Lakers have tied the game! 75-75, 4 minutes left.

The teams go up and down a few more times before Portland finally manage to snap the streak, just inside 3 minutes. Sabonis dumps it into Wallace who finishes over the top of O’Neal, earning the Trail Blazers only their 2nd field goal of the 4th quarter. Going the other way and Sabonis earns his 6th foul as he sends O’Neal to the line. He goes 2/2 as he ties the game 77-77.

Portland continue their struggle as Grant takes a 2 point jumper and misses badly as it bounces off the backboard. O’Neal chases down the long rebound and sets off on the break but is forced to pick up his dribble. The Lakers then get into their half-court offence as O’Neal takes position in the right low post. He receives the ball and immediately spins baseline, putting up a hook shot with his right hand. It connects, giving the Lakers their first lead since halfway through the 3rd quarter, the building explodes as the camera cuts to a dejected Sabonis on the Portland bench. Lakers lead 79-77, 2 minutes left.

O’Neal is then called for a goaltend on the other end, tieing the game at 79. Bryant earns himself 2 free throws as he attacks the paint, going 2/2 at the line and giving the Lakers a 2 point lead. A minute and a half left in the game. O’Neal then picks up a foul on the other end and sends Wallace to the charity line, he misses both as the den that is the Staples Center taunts him.

Bryant then comes up and goes one on one with Pippen, shaking him with a hesitation dribble as he rises up and hits from 16 feet, 4 point lead, 1:08 left. Pippen comes up the floor and puts up an early 3 point shot from the left-wing, O’Neal pulls down the rebound as the clock hits 55 seconds. The Lakers bring the ball up the floor as they look to sink the dagger deeper into the Blazers. Here comes that famous play.

Bryant is pressured by Pippen as he crosses the timeline, stopping on the “S” of the logo as he allows his teammates to get into position. Meanwhile, O’Neal is peeling around the right side of the paint as he is fronted by his man, Grant. Bryant is dribbling with his left hand as he takes a breath. He then goes between the legs to his right and crosses back to his left as he strikes, wrong-footing Pippen. Grant comes across to help as Bryant drives the paint, leaving O’Neal open on the baseline.

O’Neal then points to the rim as Bryant is surrounded. He throws the ball towards the right side of the rim, over the outstretched arm of Grant, as O’Neal launches his 325 lbs frame into the air. He palms the ball with his right hand as he pounds it home. The arena implodes in celebration as Mike Dunleavy calls for time. Fans begin to invade the court, LA leads by 6. 40 seconds left.

Coming out of the timeout Steve Smith receives the ball of the inbound, running through a Wallace screen. He gets doubled as he picks up his dribble, knocking it back to Wallace at the top of the 3 point line. He puts up a long, long 3 point shot, swishing it home from 30 feet and cutting the lead in half. Horry launches the inbound 3/4 up the court to Ron Harper as Pippen fouls him, sending him to the line. Harper goes 1/2 as he puts the team up by 4, 32 seconds left, Portland calls for time.

The ball comes to Smith off the inbound, he drives to the paint hard. The ball is knocked loose as he faces hard defence from O’Neal. Bryant grabs the loose ball as Pippen rushes to foul him, earning himself his 6th foul and sending Bryant to the line. He misses both as the second rims in and out, the Trail Blazers call timeout, as they come back they have 25 seconds left to make something happen.

The ball finds itself in the hands of Smith once again, he attempts and misses a mid-range jumper. Horry comes down with the rebound and is fouled, sending him for 2 free throws. he hits both as the Blazers are out of timeouts. Lakers lead 88-82, 17 seconds left.

Damon Stoudamire will then rush the ball up the floor and sprint to the cylinder, finishing a layup with 11 seconds left, 4 point game. Horry is fouled once again of the inbound, he’ll shoot 2 more. In no way are the Lakers out of the woods yet.

He misses both as Portland grab the rebound and rush onto offence. Wells pulls up for a 3 and misses badly, the ball bounces out of bounds, Laker ball with 4 seconds to play. Steve Smith rushes to intercept the inbound pass but can only knock the ball back out of play. Laker ball, 3.5 seconds left.

The ball then comes to Horry once again as Portland fouls, 2.7 seconds left. He hits the first as the camera shows joyous Kobe Bryant, 5 point lead. The Blazers are done. Horry misses the second, but it doesn’t matter. Portland has accepted their fate and lets the clock run out. Lakers win!

(Image/Robert Mora/NBAE)

Greatness was always expected for Shaquille O’Neal. Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the number one pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, he made his way to Los Angeles in the summer of ’96.

As a Laker, he would earn an NBA scoring title, 6 NBA All-Star selections, 2 NBA All-Star MVPs, 3 NBA All-Defensive Second Team selections, 2 All-NBA Third Team selections, an All-NBA Second Team selection, 4 All-NBA First Team selections, an NBA MVP, 3 NBA Championships, 3 NBA Finals MVPs and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 2013 the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 34 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of the Staples Center. Becoming the tenth player to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. All these achievements more than cement his no.5 place as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: James Worthy

(Image/Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the eleventh in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 6 – James Worthy. We’ll take an in-depth look at his best Finals performance as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

A true Laker legend, Worthy played his whole 12 season career with the purple and gold. In his time with the franchise he played 35,298 minutes in 1,069 games, scoring 19,342 points. After retirement Worthy has gone on to work for Spectrum SportsNet as an analyst, furthering his image as a Laker great and making him a recognisable figure to fans of all ages.

Worthy played a major role in the Showtime Lakers era, becoming the third star as the Lakers formed a formidable big three of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Worthy. Playing a major role during the ’80s, the team won three championships using Worthy as a rim runner and low post scorer.

Nicknamed ‘Big Game James’, it’s more than obvious that Worthy had a ton of big moments in Los Angeles. One would be his 33 points and 9 rebounds against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 1987 NBA Finals, leading the Lakers to victory. Another would be his brilliant performance against the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. The Lakers were down 3-2 and facing a win or go home scenario. Worthy recording 28 points and 9 rebounds, leading LA to a 103-102 win, and setting the stage for Worthy’s greatest playoff performance.

This performance would be his triple-double in Game 7, a performance more than deserving of this play-by-play review.

Big Game James’ Biggest Game:

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

It’s the 21st of June 1988. It’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers are tied at 3-3 in the series with the Detroit Pistons. LA had been behind twice in the series, already having to fight to bring it to a Game 7. Magic Johnson and James Worthy had been excellent throughout the series and were now at the precipice of their 3rd championship together. The Lakers 5th of the decade.

Worthy’s first opportunity to score came as he grabs his first rebound, passing it off to Johnson as he brings the ball up the floor. Johnson goes straight into a post up as he backs down the much smaller Joe Dumars. Adrian Dantley, who is guarding Worthy, digs towards the ball. Worthy is left wide open as Johnson kicks it out, hitting him in rhythm as he knocks down the jump shot from 19 feet.

The game continues as both teams struggle to finish, going a combined 3-12 from the field to start. The Lakers up 4-2. Worthy’s next chance comes as he attacks the rim on the fast break. Bill Laimbeer shows why the Pistons earned their ‘Bad Boys’ nickname as he throws himself into the body of the jumping Worthy, sending him leaping into the stands to avoid trampling a photographer. The Forum audience rejoices as they rally around theor goggle adorning hero. He goes 1 of 2 at the line, his total now at 3 points.

The 1st quarter goes on as the Pistons go on a quick 8-2 run to take the lead, the score now sitting at 10-9 in their favour. Dantley misses a contested jumper from the short left corner, Worthy picks up the loose ball and sets off on the run. To no surprise, he attacks the rim as he finishes over the top of Dantley, who had no way of dealing with Worthy’s mix of length and speed.

His next scoring chance comes a couple possessions later as the Pistons are scrambled defensively. Abdul-Jabbar draws three defenders in the left low post, kicking it out to the open Michael Cooper who then spots the open Worthy in the right low post. Worthy takes 1 dribble, jump stops, and finishes with a little floater. He now has 7 points.

After a 1-8 start in the first 4 minutes, the Pistons had rallied in the last 6 minutes, going 6-11 from the field. Worthy gets another fortuity as Johnson delivers him the ball in the right low post. Up against the slightly taller John Salley, Worthy palms the ball outwards a couple times as he sizes up his opponent. Taking two dribbles to the left he moves towards the paint, his back still turned on Salley. Dantley then attempts to dig at the ball, sending Worthy into a controlled 180 spin towards the baseline, finishing with the hook shot over the top of an outstretched Salley.

Worthy then gets another opening the next time down the floor as he picks the ball up on the right-wing. He takes a breath then retreats a step, dribbling with his right hand. He then drops his right shoulder, takes a quick double hesitation dribble before crossing to his left and driving into the paint. Gathering the ball, he finishes with his right hand, earning a free throw in the process. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert from the line. That would be Worthy’s final involvement in the 1st quarter, as it ends 23-21 in the Pistons’ favour. Worthy finished the quarter with 11 points.

Worthy’s first involvement in the 2nd quarter presents itself in the post once again. He receives the ball from Cooper as he starts to back down Dennis Rodman into the right high post. He takes a few dribbles before pivoting 180 towards the baseline he fakes the shot, sending Rodman into the air. Going up and under, he rises up and sinks the shot with his right hand.

Worthy’s next score would come as Cooper misses a jumper from the top of the key. The ball bounces off the rim to the left of the paint as Worthy grabs the open rebound, takes one dribble towards the rim and tries to finish inside but misses. Mychal Thompson then gets that rebound and attempts another putback, which he misses. Worthy is then in the right position for the third rebound, and he tips it up and in, earning a free throw in the process. He would convert at the line, giving him his 16th point.

Worthy would then take a short breather on the bench before checking back in a couple minutes later. He is carried for a few possessions as Detroit go on a 12-4 run, putting them in the lead. Worthy’s next bucket would come on the fastbreak once again, as the Pistons turn the ball over and it finds it way into Johnson’s hands. He launches an overhead pass 3 /4 up the court and hits a streaking Worthy who attacks the paint from left to right and finishes over the top of Laimbeer.

The Pistons now lead 44-41 as Worthy gets another break inside. Magic Johnson attacks the block as Worthy side steps toward the rim, Johnson sees him and makes the pass. Worthy takes one dribble and finishes over the top of Laimbeer once again, bringing it back to a 1 point game as the clock strikes 2 minutes left in the quarter.

That would be Worthy’s final highlight in the 1st half as the teams continued to go back and forth for the next 120 seconds. At half time the score was 52-47 in favour of the Pistons. To this point in the series the team that led at half time in each game had won the game. The Bad Boys were definitely in the driving seat as Worthy finished the half with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Worthy’s first score of the 2nd half comes about a minute in as Abdul-Jabbar is doubled in the low post. He spots Worthy who is left open at the top of the key, he rises up and hits the 2 point jumper. Big game James would then score again a couple of possessions later as Johnson attacks the basket on the fastbreak. He draws Worthy’s man as Worthy receives the hand-off in the dunker spot and lays it up and in. He now has 24 points.

Worthy’s 25th point would come from the foul line, after being fouled hard by Dumars underneath the rim, converting 1 of 2. On Detroit’s next possession, the Lakers retrieved a long rebound and set off on a 4-on-2 fast-break. Johnson finds Worthy once again as he finishes at the rim under strong contention from Laimbeer. Worthy now has 27 points, giving the Lakers a 56-54 lead.

The purple and gold go on a 21-8 run and open up a 70-62 lead in the process. As they conduct a symphony of scoring, with Magic Johnson playing the role of orchestrater. Worthy’s next involvement would come on the inside as Johnson delivers him the ball in the paint. Worthy takes 1 dribble and puts it up over tough defence. Missing, he battles for the rebound and puts it straight back up, finishing the play. Now with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Worthy would earn his next 2 points at the line after being fouled with a hard smack to the face while trying to finish in the paint, commentary stating Worthy “windes up with his goggles under his chin”. Connecting on both at the line, Worthy’s stat line now reads 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. With the game score now at 78-68 in the Lakers’ favour.

The Lakers next score would create a little iconic moment. As Worthy posts-up on the right-hand side Detriot send a double. This leaves Cooper open at the top of the 3 point line. Worthy finds Cooper as he catches and rises up in one motion and swishes home a 3. The camera cuts to a ground shot of the Lakers bench celebrating. Everybody in the picture with arms aloft, but one, as Pat Riley goes into his famous crouching position, focused on the next play. The quarter would end as the Lakers lead 83-73, the camera pans up at the championship banners hanging in the Forums rafters.

Worthy and Johnson would start the 4th before coming out after 3 minutes, the score at 90-77. When they come back in, 2 minutes later, the score is 94-84. Worthy’s first bucket would come not long after as Johnson delivers him the ball in the left low post. He takes a couple of dribbles toward the paint as he backs down Salley, he gathers and puts a shot up with his right hand. It bounces on the rim twice before dropping through, Worthy now has 33 points as he puts the Lakers up by 12 with 6 minutes left in the game.

The Pistons would then proceed to go on a 10-2 run over the next 3 minutes as the Lakers call for time. The score is now 98-94 with the Lakers on the back foot, both Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar have 5 fouls with 3 minutes left in the game. Following the timeout Detroit steals the ball, as Rodman streaks away and cuts the lead to 2, 2:46 left.

On the next possession, Johnson attacks from the left corner, using the screen from Abdul-Jabbar he drives to the paint. He gathers and spins 360 degrees clockwise, losing his man, he puts up the floater but misses off the back of the rim. Worthy is underneath the cylinder and jumps for the rebound, he throws a hand at the ball once and it hits the front of the rim. He jumps a second time, getting 2 hands to it this time, he puts up a more controlled shot. It drops through, sending the Forum into jubilation, giving Worthy 35 points and giving the Lakers a 4 point lead. 100-96, 2:26 to go.

On the next possession, Vinnie Johnson comes up and hits a mid-range jumper, cutting the lead it back to 2, 2:09 left. Magic Johnson comes up and heads to the basket, he is fouled as he goes up for the lay-up. He goes 2/2 from the line and puts the Lakers back up by 4, 1:54 left. Vinnie Johnson then comes up and misses a 3, but Laimbeer gets the long rebound resetting the shot cloak, 1:33 left. The Pistons kick the ball around before Dumars hits an open mid-range shot, lead back down to 2, 1:17 left.

Rodman then makes the mistake of fouling Magic Johnson in the backcourt, sending him to the line. He goes 1/2, putting the lead up to 3, 1:14 left as the Pistons call timeout. Detroit comes back and draw up a play to get Laimbeer an open 3, which he misses. The ball is knocked into the Pistons backcourt off the rebound and bounces out of bounds, 1:05 left. Laker ball.

Lakers call a timeout and draw up a play to isolate Worthy on the left-wing. He drives into the paint and rises up for the lay-up but is blocked. The Pistons have the ball back, they run the fastbreak as the ball comes to Rodman, who shoots a poorly advised mid-range jumper which the sophomore misses. Byron Scott comes down with the rebound, running a give and go with Johnson to get into the frontcourt, where he is fouled, 103-100, 0:30 left in the game.

Scott goes to the line and hits both, the Great Western Forum is rocking, Lakers lead by 5 as Chuck Daly calls timeout.

When the teams come back out security can be seen lining the perimeter of the court in anticipation of what is about to happen. Rodman inbounds to Laimbeer, who throws a cross-court pass to Dumars. The pass is overthrown and Dumars attempts to save it but the ball lands in the hands of Magic Johnson. LA tries to run down the clock as Cooper is fouled with 20 seconds left. Fans are already invading the court as the Lakers fifth championship of the decade is now insight.

Cooper misses both free throws and Detriot calls their final timeout. They draw up a play and Vinnie Johnson shoots a prayer of a 3 point shot and misses. Dumars gets the follow-up and puts it in, 105-102. Lakers give the ball to Worthy who is fouled with 0:14 left. Commentary remarks “these will be the biggest free throws of the season for the Lakers and maybe in franchise history.”

Its a 3 point game, Worthy has to hit 1 of the free throws to put the game out of reach. He misses the first as it bounces in and out. He takes a minute to compose himself, steps to the line and hits the second. 4 point game with 0:14 left, Pistons have no timeouts as Worthy has just completed his stat line for the night, 36 points, 10 assists, and 16 rebounds.

The Pistons sprint the ball up the court in the hope of doing the seemingly impossible. The ball ends up in Laimbeers hands as he throws up a hopeful contested 3 pointer, which hits! 6 seconds left, 106-105 as the Lakers inbound quickly, Magic the recipient, he launches the ball the length of the court to A.C. Green who lays it in with 0:02 left in the game. Laimbeer tries a full-court heave as security staff attempt to hold back the ecstatic crowd but he can’t connect. The buzzer sounds! The floor fills with people as celebrations begin.

Worthy recorded a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Only 3 players have recorded such a feat in NBA history. With the others being Jerry West and LeBron James. A truly amazing performance to answer the call of such a huge moment, and secure himself as Finals MVP.

(Image/Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

After being selected with the number 1 overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft, by the Lakers, Worthy would go on to play 12 seasons with the franchise. In that time he earned a Rookie First Team Selection, 7 All-Star selections, 2 All-NBA Third Team selections, an NBA Finals MVP award, 3 NBA Championships and later induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1995, the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 42 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the 6th player to have his number retired by the purple and gold. A ceremony held during half time of a game between the Lakers and the Pistons, a fitting tribute to the legendary performances Worthy had against the team.

All these achievements truly show that he deserves his place on this list as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Wilt Chamberlain

(Image/Dick Raphael/Getty Images)

This is the ninth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 9 – Wilt Chamberlain. We’ll take an in-depth look at his best postseason as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the greats of the game, Chamberlain played only 5 of his 14 seasons with the Lakers. In that short time, he played 18,556 minutes in 419 games, scoring 7,250 points and pulling in 8,307 rebounds. Throughout the 1960s he led the league in win shares, totaling at 200.6. A full 56 wins ahead of second, Oscar Robertson.

Chamberlain was traded to the purple and gold in the summer of 1968. The major trade between the Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers saw the first time a reigning MVP was traded. Lakers owner at the time, Jack Kent Cooke, gave Chamberlain an unprecedented contract, offering him $250,000 after taxes (about $1.8 million today).

Wilt the Stilt had a few memorable moments in his short time as a Laker. One being the time he blocked a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s famous skyhook twice on one play. Another would be the record-holding 33 game winning streak he helped the team sustain during the 1971-72 season. Chamberlain averaged only 14.8 PPG that season, asserting his dominance on the defensive end, pulling down 19.2 RPG.

For this recap we have decided to take a look at Chamberlain’s efforts in securing the Lakers their first championship in Los Angeles. Winning himself his second ring and his only Finals MVP, at the age of 35.

Wilt the Stilt’s only Finals MVP:

(Image/NBAE/Getty Images)

As of the start of the 1971-72 season, the Lakers had gone to 7 of the last 11 NBA Finals since the team had moved from Minneapolis. Losing in each series (6 at the hands of the Boston Celtics). Chamberlain had only been present for the last 2, losing against the Celtics in ’69 and the New York Knicks in the year after.

The Lakers won 69 games in the ’71-’72 season, finishing first in the Western Conference. Led in scoring by the Hall of Fame backcourt Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, both scoring 25 points a night each. Chamberlain led the team in minutes and rebounds, playing 42.3 MPG and pulling in 19.2 RPG. He also led the team in win shares at 15.8 wins added for the season, proving himself a crucial part of the team’s success.

LA stormed their way through the ’72 Playoffs, first sweeping the Chicago Bulls. Chamberlain played every single minute in the 4 games, averaging 14.5 PPG and leading the series in rebounds at 20.8 per game. They would then beat the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 games, with Chamberlain scoring 10.8 PPG and once again leading in rebounds at 19.3 per game. His age had definitely slowed his scoring, but everything else was still there, at an elite level. Helping the Lakers make the NBA Finals once again, facing the Knicks like they had 2 years prior.

The purple and gold would lose the first game against their fellow founding franchise, 114-92. Chamberlain pulled in 19 rebounds in the game to go along with his 12 points. Struggling from the field, the Lakers shot only 37% for the night. Goodrich’s struggles were the main contributor to this, finishing with 20 points, but only hitting 8 of his 22 shots. With the Knicks shooting 54% as a team, the Lakers posed as an easy target.

Luckily for Los Angeles, Game 2 was a different story. The game ended 106-92 in the Lakers’ favour. With it being over before the 4th quarter even started. The Lakers led 79-61 in 36 minutes. Chamberlain had a much better game, completing a 20-20 with 23 points and 24 rebounds. He played all 48 minutes in the contest, asserting himself as still one of the dominant forces in the game. Goodrich would also receive credit for the win, scoring 31 points on 14/18 shooting from the field. A good showing for a team finally coming of age on the grandest of stages.

Game 3 deviated little from that story arc. Once again holding the Knicks under 100 points, the Lakers won the game 107-96. Chamberlain would record yet another 20-20 performance, with 26 points and 20 boards. Playing every single minute in the game once again, Chamberlain did little to show his age. The Lakers were now up 2-1, well and truly in the driving seat.

Game 4 would see the Knicks attempt to push back. After 4 quarters the teams could not be separated, tied at 101-101. With the game being forced to overtime the Lakers would have to dig deep into their past experience. Failure is often a more effective motivator than success. The Lakers would eventually edge to the win in the 5 minutes of overtime, beating the Knicks 116-111. Chamberlain would once again impress, playing all 53 minutes in the game he scored only 12 points but secured 24 rebounds too. Crucial as the result would boil down to a battle for the boards, in the end. A battle the Lakers won.

With the coming of Game 5, yet another opportunity arose for Los Angeles to experience its first NBA Championship. The game was close all the way. The first half ended tied, 53-53. The following 3rd quarter ended with a 5 point differential in the Lakers’ favour, 83-78. LA would then go onto win the 4th quarter 31-22, subsequently winning the game 114-100. Securing their first NBA Championship as the Los Angeles Lakers and proving themselves as a legitimate franchise. Especially significant after all the Finals losses the organisation had faced prior.

The deciding factor in the game ended up being the free-throws. The Lakers hit 32/42 from the line, opposed to the Knicks only mustering 22/27. Chamberlain led the charge otherwise, scoring 24 points whilst grabbing 29 rebounds, yet another 20-20 for the big man. Goodrich and West would follow closely behind, with 25 and 23 points, respectively. Wilt the Stilt earnt his Finals MVP award doing what he did best late in his career, rebounding. Pulling down an average of 23.2 over the 5 games. Pairing that with 19.4 PPG, he well and truly deserved to be added to the, at the time short but coveted, Finals MVP list.

(Image/USA Today Sports)

Selected with a territorial pick by his hometown Philadelphia Warriors in the 1959 NBA Draft. He would go onto prove himself as a true star in the league, winning his first championship ring in 1967. After being traded to the Lakers in the summer of 1968, Chamberlain would go onto win 4 NBA Rebounding Titles, 4 NBA All-Star selections, an All-NBA Second Team selection, 2 NBA All-Defensive Team selections, 1 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award, an NBA Championship, and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1983 the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 13 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the joint first player (with Elgin Baylor) to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. More than making him worthy of a place on this list as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

 

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Elgin Baylor

(Image/Dick Raphael/NBAE)

This is the tenth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 7 – Elgin Baylor. We’ll take an in-depth look at his rise to fame and his inevitable decline through injury.

Baylor played his whole 14 season career with the Lakers organisation, having the pleasure of representing the franchise in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Between 1958-72 Mr Inside played 39,973 minutes in 980 games, scoring 26,772 points and securing 13,187 rebounds.

Baylor saw out the end of the Minneapolis era in his first 2 years in the league, making an instant impact on the Lakers squad. Averaging 27.3 PPG and 15.7 RPG in the dying embers of the era, leading his team to their first finals appearance in 4 years in his rookie season. He would continue his individual success once the team moved to Los Angeles, averaging 27.6 PPG and 13.2 over the next 10 seasons. Missing out on an All-Star selection only once.

Baylor had some truly brilliant games in the Laker uniform. Scoring a career-high 71 points against the New York Knicks in 1960 would be one, having to go 28/48 from the field by virtue of the league not having a 3 point line at the time. Another example would be the record 61 points he scored in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals, once again without a 3 point line, a volume scorer of Baylor’s caliber will never be seen again.

Because of the lack of game tape available for analysis, we have decided to look at the wider picture of Baylor’s success throughout his career.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ First Star:

(Image/Dick Raphael/Getty Images)

The Lakers had desperately needed a star since the retirement of George Mikan, and winning only 19 games in the 1957-58 season. Baylor was more than the answer to the Lakers prayers, averaging 24.9 PPG and 15 RPG in his rookie season, winning Rookie of the Year, earning his first All-Star appearance, an All-Star MVP award, and his first All-NBA 1st team selection. As well as leading the Minneapolis Lakers to their first finals appearance since Mikan’s surprise retirement.

Baylor would, unfortunately, suffer his first finals loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics, losing in four straight games to Bill Russell and Co. Baylor would then come back stronger after an incredible rookie season, scoring 29.6 PPG and 15 RPG in the following season. Earning another All-Star appearance and an All-NBA 1st team selection. The Lakers would only manage 25 wins in the ’59-’60 season, struggling to put useful players around Mr Inside. The next best performer was Rudy LaRusso with 13.7 PPG and 9.6 RPG.

During the 1960 offseason, the Lakers would make history in becoming the NBA’s first west coast team. The decision was made due to the fall-off in attendances after the retirement of Mikan. With the presents of Baylor not enough to pull in the crowds the franchise once had. Bob Short, the Lakers owner at the time, saw an opportunity, especially after watching the example set by Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved from Brooklyn to LA in the 1958 season.

The Lakers were born for the start of the 1960-61 season. An extremely exciting time for the franchise would only be extended by the arrival of Jerry West, the number 2 draft pick. Gifted by virtue of the poor performance in the season before.

The results would show in the team’s record, winning 11 more games than the season before, finishing with a 36-43 record. Baylor only got better, averaging 34.8 PPG and 19.8 RPG, scoring his career-high of 71 points and earning yet more accolades in the form of All-Star and All-NBA selections. West was the first serviceable teammate Baylor had, averaging 17.6 PPG in an impressive rookie campaign for the guard out of the University of West Virginia.

The Lakers’ luck would finally start to turn in the 1961-62 season, under exceptional circumstances. They would finish the season with a record of 54-26. Baylor’s first winning season in the NBA. During the season, Baylor served in the United States Army Reserve and was stationed in Washington. This meant that he could only play for the Lakers whilst on a weekend pass, resulting in him only playing 48 games. Remarkably he still managed to score 1,800 points in the season, an average of 38.3 PPG.

The Lakers would make the finals that season, credit going to both Baylor and West. They would once again face the Celtics on the NBA’s biggest stage. Baylor was incredible in the seven games, averaging 40.6 PPG and 17.9 RPG. He scored 61 points in Game 5, a record for the most points in a Finals contest that still stands today. Despite this, the Lakers would once again suffer a series loss to Russell and Co.

The regular-season success would continue in the following years for the Lakers, a winning record would be the result of the next 4 seasons. Baylor would average 26.2 PPG and 12.3 RPG over that time. His game obviously dropping slightly as he got older but the production was still at an All-Star and All-NBA level. With the help of West, they would reach the finals in ’63, ’65 and ’66. Unfortunately losing all three times, at the hands of the Celtics. Just a few more tragic strings added to Baylor’s bow in the hunt for a championship.

To go along with this, Baylor had developed issues with his knees during the 1963-64 season. This would continue to escalate into a severe injury during the 1965 postseason. After this point, he was never the same, still able to average over 20 PPG, he was still a force, but nothing like he once was. This began a slow decline for the perennial All-NBA talent. West would take over as leader of the team, taking the Lakers to three more straight finals as Baylor continued to play a role. The team would still struggle to make it over the hump of their championship drought, losing two more NBA Finals series’ against the Celtics and against the New York Knicks too.

From the beginning of the 1970-71 season, Baylor would only play 11 more games in his career. His knees were failing him. In 1972 the Lakers would finally make it over the hump, winning their first championship in Los Angeles. Baylor played 9 games in that season and was forced into early retirement before the championship. The Lakers would still award Baylor a championship ring as a gift for his service to the franchise, somewhat a silver medal when looking back at a career of chasing the gold.

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

After being drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers with the first pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, Baylor opted to stay at school and gain a proper education before joining the team in 1958. He would go on to win a Rookie Of The Year award, 11 All-Star selections, an All-Star MVP award, 10 All-NBA First Team selections, and later an induction into to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1983 the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 22 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the joint first player (with Wilt Chamberlain) to have his number retired by the franchise. More than making him worthy of a place on this list as a true Laker great!


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: George Mikan

(Image/NBAE/Getty Images)

This is the seventh in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 10 – George Mikan. We’ll take a look at the rule changes that came into force because of his revolutionary play.

The game’s first star, Mikan never played for the Los Angeles Lakers but is indoctrinated into being a Laker legend by the fortune of playing his whole 7 season career with the Minneapolis Lakers.

Between 1948-56 he played in 509 games and scored 11,836 points. It is also notable that Mikan played 9,850 minutes between ’51-’56. The NBA only started measuring minutes in the 1951-52 season.

Nicknamed Mr. Basketball, from the moment he entered the league Mikan was the star man for Minneapolis, averaging 28.3 points per game in his rookie season. His size helped this, of course, standing at 6-foot-10 and weighing 245 lbs. He is fondly remembered as one of the games first ‘giants’. Playing a major role in the Lakers’ first 4 NBA titles, as well as a major role in the BBA title won in 1949, the last season before the NBA was created.

Because of the lack of film footage of Mikan available for analysis, by virtue of it being the 1950s, we have opted to review the rule changes that were put into force as a direct result of the All-Star big man’s influence.

The Star That Changed the Rules:

(Image/2012/Daily News L.P.)

The Mikan Rule –

The first rule that has to be brought up when talking about George Mikan has to be the one named directly after him because of his role in making it a reality.

The enforcement of this rule would see the lane widened from 6 feet, to 12 feet. This was an attempt to slow Mikan’s impact on offence, creating an extra 6 feet in the post that offensive players could only be in for 3 seconds at a time helped. This rule came into effect in 1951, lasting the whole of Mikan’s prime.

In 1964, the lane was widened again by a further 4 feet to try and deal with the dominance of Wilt Chamberlain, creating the basketball court we recognise in the NBA today.

This rule shows that Mikan played a key role in giving the advantage to the ‘small ball’ line ups that we see in the league today. The widening of the lane made it more difficult for dominant big men to play a back to the basket style. This shows in the centers of today’s game. Players like Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns are both good examples of 5s in today’s game that need to be capable of playing not only in the post but primarily from the perimeter.

The Goaltending Rule –

Being the first ‘big man’ in the NBA, at 6-foot-10, Mikan had the coordination and skill to catch an opponents shot on its way down, even while playing in the NCAA for De Paul University. This resulted in the NCAA banning goal-tending in 1945.

Designed to slow Mikan down defensively, it only made him more dominant on the offensive side of the floor. Smartly so he adapted his game, perfecting his skyhook and making it a signature move as it was now unblockable once the shot reached its apex.

This rule, of course, is still required in today’s game, with players being much taller and more athletic, very much capable of taking a ball off the rim. Mikan was revolutionary in proving that players of his stature could play the game, in the 1940s/50s players of his size were considered too awkward to ever be able to play basketball at the level he did.

Paving the way for some of the greatest centers of all time, if Mikan wasn’t able to play at the NBA level, players like Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon would never be remembered as some of the greatest of all time. After Mikan’s death in 2005, O’Neal echoed this sentiment, saying “Without number 99 [Mikan], there is no me”.

The Introduction of The Shot Clock –

In the days before the shot clock, a team could hold the ball for as long as they liked. This is exactly what the Fort Wayne Pistons (later the Detroit Pistons) did against the Lakers in the 2nd game of the 1950-51 season in order to keep the ball from Mikan, the game finished 19-18 in the Pistons’ favour. Mikan scored 15 of the Lakers 18 points in the game, giving him the highest percentage of team points scored by a single player ever at 83%.

Another example of Mr. Basketball revolutionising the game, the first star of the game made teams gameplan for him in such a way that the only way to slow him down was to reduce the number of possessions in the game. This forced the NBA to change the rules, introducing the shot clock in the 1954-55 season helped shape the game we see today. Without the shot clock, what would motivate teams like the Showtime Lakers or the 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks to play the exciting fast-paced style they did.

The 3-Point Line –

Looking back at the NBA’s 73 season history, all rule changes have discouraged big physical play, instead of ruling in favour of a smaller, more perimeter orientated style. Although it is thought that ‘small ball’ is a very 21st-century approach to playing the game of basketball, one of its routes sits deep in basketball history, the founding of the ABA.

The ABA operated between 1967-76 and it differed to its established counterpart in its openness to ideas that change the structure of the game. They played with a red, white and blue basketball (the one still present today at All-Star Weekend), they had a slam-dunk contest, and of course, a 3-point line. The commissioner of the league at the time was non-other than George Mikan, famously stating that its “time to give the small guy a chance”, by introducing a way to score efficiently without having to battle 6-foot-10 players, such as himself.

The NBA would later adopt the rule in 1979 – in Larry Bird and Magic Johnson‘s rookie season. The 3-point line, by design, opened the door for guards to succeed in a big man league. Players like Damian Lillard, James Harden and Stephen Curry would have nowhere near the same impact without the advantage of earning an extra point for shooting from outside 22 feet, it’s more than possible that they wouldn’t be in the league at all.

The perimeter players of today most definitely have to give Mikan some credit for there fame and fortune. Without his innovative way of thinking they may never have been pushed to pursue basketball, considered too small. Almost poetic that the player who was considered too tall to play basketball opened the door for the smaller players to dominant once again.

(Image/Associated Press)

Mikan played at De Paul University for 4 years before signing with the Chicago American Gears at the end of the 1946-47 NBL season. He played with the team for 25 games, leading them to a championship whilst scoring 16.5 PPG. The owner, Maurice White, then pulled the team from the league, with the plan of creating his own 24 team league in which he would own every team and every arena.

The league lasted a month before collapsing, resulting in all players contracted to White’s team’s to be redistributed to the other 11 NBL teams at the time. Each team had a 9.09% chance of landing Mikan, who would, of course, end up with the Minneapolis Lakers.

Mikan made his debut with the Lakers on the 4th of November 1948 against the Baltimore Bullets. He would go on to win a rebounding title, 3 scoring titles, 4 All-Star selections, 1 All-Star MVP, 5 All-NBA selections (1 All-BAA selection), 4 NBA Championships (1 BAA Championship), and an induction into to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

He never played in Los Angeles, but his name certainly deserves its place in the rafters of the Staples Center, among his fellow Laker greats.

 

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Gail Goodrich

(Image/Manny Rubio/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the eighth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 9 – Gail Goodrich. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his greatest season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

When discussing left-handed Laker point guards from the franchises grand history, Goodrich has definitely earned his place among the names listed. He played 9 of his 14 seasons in the purple and gold, spanning across 2 very different spells. He played 24,122 minutes in 760 games, scoring 14,352 points.

In his first stint with the Lakers between 1965-68 Goodrich played more of a bench role with the team, averaging 11.6 PPG in 21.9 MPG over 3 seasons. He then left for the Phoenix Suns after being selected by the team in the expansion draft. In his 2 seasons in Pheonix, Goodrich averaged 21.9 PPG in 39.9 MPG, earning his first All-Star selection. He would then return to Los Angeles in 1970, signing as a free-agent. As a star ready to prove his stripes under the bright lights of Hollywood.

One event veteran Laker fans may remember is the inadvertent gift left by Goodrich when he signed for the New Orleans Jazz (later the Utah Jazz) in 1976. At the time league rules stated that the signing of a high-level free agent required the team losing out to be compensated, this came in the form of draft picks. The Jazz finished with the worst record in the 1978-79 season, awarding the Lakers with the number 1 pick in the ’79 draft. They would use it to select a certain Magic Johnson.

Goodrich had some great seasons in a Laker uniform. One would be the 1974-75 season, Goodrich’s second to last in Los Angeles. He would score his career-high 55 against the Kansas City Kings (later the Sacramento Kings) that season, averaging 22.6 PPG in the 72 games he played. Another would be the season prior, in which Goodrich averaged 25.3 PPG along with 5.2 APG.

For this review we’ve picked the season in which Goodrich won his only championship, the 1971-72 season.

The Lakers’ Last #25:

(Image/Getty Images/NBAE)

In the 1970-71 campaign, the Lakers finished the season with 48 wins. Both in their early 30s, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West had impressive seasons, scoring 20.7 and 26.9 points a night, respectively.

Despite this, the Lakers lost in the Western Conference Finals, beaten 4-1 by the Kareem Abdul-Jabaar led Milwaukee Bucks. The ageing group of Chamberlain, West and Elgin Baylor needed something else, they needed the next generation of Laker greats to step up.

This came in the shape of Gail Goodrich. In the 1971-72 season he stepped up, leading the team in scoring as he averaged 25.9 points a game, a huge leap from the disappointing season before in which he scored 17.5 per game. Goodrich was starting to feel at home as a star in a Laker uniform, earning himself his first All-Star appearance in the purple and gold.

This was desperately required by the team, West and Goodrich were the only 2 players to average 20+ points a night that season. Chamberlain suffered a major drop off in production, scoring only 14.8 PPG in his second to last season. Wilt the Stilt’s rebounds stood strong, however. Picking up from 18.2 the season before to 19.2 in this campaign. Leaving scoring the only hole to fill, Goodrich was more than capable of that, as he proved.

Another factor in the Lakers being victorious that season would be the role players from the season prior stepping up. Other then Goodrich, 23-year-old Jim McMillian would take a leap in scoring in his sophomore year. In his rookie season, McMillian only mustered 8.4 PPG. During his second year in the league opportunities would open up, firstly coming in the form of his minutes, jumping from 21 MPG to 38 MPG. His FGA per game would more than double due to this, going up from 7.8 to 16.6. This all culminated, resulting in McMillian’s scoring jumping from 8.4 PPG to 18.8 PPG.

Led by the backcourt duo of Goodrich and West, the Lakers would finish the season with a record of 69-13. This would see them face the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. This was when the Midwest Division made up part of the Western Conference. With only 19 teams in the whole league, there were only 8 playoff teams total, hence jumping straight to the semi-finals.

The Bulls would prove to be no match for the purple and gold, suffering 4 straight defeats as the Lakers swept the series. Goodrich and West had 28.5 PPG each through the 4 games, with West also averaging 10 APG. A comfortable series with few close calls, the closest game finishing 108-101 in the Lakers’ favour.

Los Angeles would then face conference rivals, the Milwaukee Bucks. After getting this far the season before and losing out to the very same team, hunger to succeed this time round was more than certainly present. They went on to beat the Bucks 4-2 in the series, Goodrich took a back seat in the series (18.2 PPG) with McMillian stepping up to the plate, scoring 22.7 PPG. This was a slightly tighter series for the Lakers, they lost the opening game before rallying back to go 2-1 up. The Bucks pulled it level, 2-2, before the Lakers finished the series in 6.

So the Lakers breeze their way into the 1972 NBA Finals, this was now becoming an expectation for the franchise. In the last 10 seasons they had been in the finals 7 times, losing each and every time (6 of them coming against the Boston Celtics, who were dominant during the 60s). They now had a chance to beat the team they last faced in the finals two seasons prior, the New York Knicks.

Los Angeles would go onto beat the Knicks in 5 games. Losing Game 1 badly lit a fire under them. Providing a spark to win the next 4 games with little difficulty. Goodrich would well and truly prove himself capable of performing on the biggest stage, leading the series in points, averaging 25.6 PPG. Wilt Chamberlain would take home Finals MVP, averaging 19.4 PPG and 23.2 RPG, a stat line which looks made up by today’s standards.

Unfortunately, the glory was short lived for Goodrich and his teammates. The decade that followed was littered with disappointing exits and seasons in which the Forum didn’t experience playoff basketball at all. This would continue for a few seasons after Goodrich’s departure, that is until Magic Johnson arrived, and so began the next generation.

(Image/Getty Images/NBAE)

After being selected with a territorial pick by the Lakers in the 1965 NBA Draft, Goodrich was considered too small to succeed at the NBA level. He would go on to prove his doubters wrong.

Whilst with the purple and gold, he won 4 All-Star selections, an All-NBA First Team selection, an NBA Championship, and an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1996 the Lakers made it so no other Laker would wear number 25 again, hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Cementing his place as a true Laker great!

The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Pau Gasol

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

This is the sixth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 11 – Pau Gasol. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his defining game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the more recent additions to the Laker legends, Gasol played 7 of his 18 seasons with the franchise. Between 2008-14 he played 18,952 minutes, in 515 games, scoring 9,171 points. A fan favourite of the most recent championship run, many believe that Gasol deserves to have his number 16 jersey retired with the Lakers.

A big pusher for this, of course, being the 2 championship rings he won with the repeat Lakers of 2009-10. He averaged a double-double during those championship seasons, scoring 18.6 points (2nd on the team) and pulling down 10.4 rebounds (1st on the team) a game.

There is a great bank of Gasol moments to reminisce about. One would be his dominant 29 points and 9 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, ultimately helping the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals in 6 games. Another would be the tip-in winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of round 1 of the 2010 Playoffs, winning them the series.

But for this review, we have decided on taking an in-depth look at his impressive performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. His 19 points and 18 rebounds were key in winning the game and delivering the franchise their 16th championship.

The Double-Double That Helped Make History:

It’s the June 17, 2010 and it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers are tied 3-3 with the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won Game 6 convincingly, 89-67. Kobe Bryant led the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Gasol followed with 17 points, 9 assists and 13 rebounds. Game 6 showed the Lakers that if they could hold the big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to below a total of 50 points they would have a good chance of beating the Celtics in a Game 7.

Gasol’s first involvement came in the form of an assist about a minute into the game. Ron Artest puts up a poorly advised mid-range shot whilst under pressure from Pierce, he misses and the ball bounces out for the long rebound. Gasol tips it out to the waiting Derek Fisher on the left-wing, he catches the ball as it bounces towards him and puts the open 3 pointer straight up. He swishes it home for the Lakers first 3 points of the game.

Gasol’s first points come about a minute later, he attacks the paint from the left low post but is unable to finish over the top of Garnett and Pierce. Andrew Bynum gets the rebound and tries to put it back up but misses badly, the ball is knocked loose and Gasol secures it. He muscles into Garnett and tries to put it up again but is blocked. Catching it again he quickly puts it back up a third time, scoring this time. Lakers are up 5-2.

Gasol scores next as he attacks the paint from the right elbow. Faking the shot he gets Garnett to leave the ground, taking one dribble he has Garnett on the back foot. As he fakes to the left, Garnett is wrong-footed, Gasol spins round to the right and puts a sky hook over the top of the defence, dropping it in. The All-Star big man now has 4 points.

Now early in the 2nd quarter, Gasol gets another opening. Stood at the long right elbow with the ball, he passes it out to Bryant who is in the right high post. Gasol’s man, Garnett, then quickly moves to double Bryant. Gasol dives to the rim as his All-Star teammate finds him. Now pressured by Pierce, Gasol fakes once, then turns, goes underneath the basket and finishes a difficult lay up. He finishes the half with 6 points and 10 rebounds, the Celtics lead 40-34, as the Lakers shoot 27% from the field.

Gasol’s first score of the 2nd half comes about 5 minutes in, as he posts up Rasheed Wallace. Fisher delivers the ball as the Lakers clear out, allowing Gasol to go to work in the left low post. He puts it on the ground as he backs down Wallace, taking 4 bounces before he spins to his right. Losing Wallace he puts up a left-handed skyhook, it drops through. Mike Breen remarks “So impressive, a man of that size with such skill with a basketball”, as Gasol secures his 8th point.

The next couple of plays that involve Gasol are examples of brilliant defence, in the form of 2 blocks. The first coming as Rajon Rondo attacks the rim off the screen and the second coming as Garnett tries to attack off the face-up, Gasol tipping the ball just as it looked liked he was beaten. Play comes up the other way as Gasol positions himself in the paint, he tries to rise and shoot but is fouled. He hits both free throws, making it 10 points for Gasol, securing the double-double. The Lakers are down 56-51.

The 4th quarter starts at 57-53, as Gasol gets another opportunity to score as he gets the mismatch against Glen Davis. Receiving the ball in the right high post the Lakers clear out, giving him room to operate. Gasol jab steps to the right twice and then attacks to his left, into the heart of the paint. He takes 2 dribbles as the double comes, forcing him to pick it up. He turns and spins 360 degrees, fakes the shot quickly, Davis reacts to the fake and Gasol puts his shot up. He is fouled as the ball drops through, unfortunately missing the resulting free throw. Game score now at 57-55 in Boston’s favour. Gasol has 12.

The game carries on as Gasol continues to be productive, challenging at the rim and fighting for rebounds on both sides of the floor. His next 5 points come at the line, hitting the first 2 following a foul from Garnett, Lakers are now up 70-64 with 4:38 left on the game clock. The next 2 coming as Gasol is fouled again in the paint as Bryant delivers the ball into the Spaniard.

He hits both free throws again, keeping the Celtics at arms distance and giving him his 16th point. His 17th point comes as he wins the blocking call at half court against Pierce, he goes to the line and hits 1 of 2. Lakers lead 74-68 with 2:20 left in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

A couple of possessions later, it’s a 4 point game as Pierce attacks the rim. He drives into the paint with Artest and Gasol on either side of him. as he goes up to finish the layup, Gasol reaches an arm out towards the ball, blocking the attempt from behind. Pierce tries to keep the ball inbound and throws it towards Wallace stood in the left corner, he tries to save it but ultimately goes out of bounds himself. Mike Breen exclaims “Laker ball with 1:46 remaining!”.

Gasol then gets his final bucket. A big-time play. The Lakers once again isolate him in the left high post. Receiving the ball from Lamar Odom he turns to face Wallace, takes two jab steps with his left then attacks to the right. Backing down Wallace, he gets himself closer to the rim. He then spins to his right, pump fakes and finishes over Wallace, Pierce, and Garnett. Just as the game clock hits 1:30. The Lakers lead by 6.

Gasol’s final big-time play comes with about 30 seconds left as the Celtics have cut the lead to 3. Bryant rises for a contested 3 and misses, Gasol flies in and grabs the rebound. He turns and kicks it back out to Bryant who is stood in the mid-range, Bryant immediately attacks the rim and bags himself 2 free throws.

Bryant hits both, putting the Lakers up by 5. Rondo then hits a 3, cutting the lead back down to 2. The game clock now at 13 seconds and the Celtics need to foul. That they do, specifically Sasha Vujacic who will go to the line to shoot 2, he had played 5 minutes in the game to that point. He hits them both, putting the Lakers up by 4, making it a 2 possession game.

The Celtics have 11.7 seconds left. They end up getting Rondo a contested 3 point shot from the left corner, he misses badly as it grazes the front of the rim. Gasol secures his 18th (and final) rebound with 5 seconds left in the game. He kicks it out to Odom who throws it down the floor, creating the now-iconic image of Bryant chasing it down. The buzzer sounds, crowning the Los Angeles Lakers as World Champions once again!

(Image/Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Pau Gasol was traded to Los Angeles in the middle of the 2007-08 season, to pair with Bryant in an attempt to make the Lakers a contender again. That he did.

As a Laker, he went on to earn 3 All-NBA selections, 3 All-Star selections, and became a 2 time NBA Champion. Adopted by Laker Nation as one of their own, he well and truly deserves his place on this list as a great!


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