A Profile of the Los Angeles Lakers and Its Most Famous Players
The Lakers had a strong roster right from the start. In its first season, the franchise won the National Basketball League Championship. In this article, we look at the history of the Lakers, from its early beginnings to today’s players.
The franchise started life as the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947.
The franchise was begun by Morris Chalfen and Ben Berger, who purchased the recently disbanded Detroit Gems for $15,000. The Lakers earned its name from Minnesota’s moniker, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Its first coach was John Kundla, a former coach at the College of St Thomas.
The team narrowly averted tragedy in 1960.
On a cold morning in January, accompanied by several other adults and children, the team took off aboard the Lakers’ DC-3, a converted World War II cargo plane. They had been delayed for some time by an ice storm, finally taking off at 8:30 a.m.
The players started playing cards once they were airborne, but the lights in the cabin went out. Speaking with the press after the event, coach Jim Pollard recalled seeing the co-pilot shining a flashlight on the instrument panel. Both generators had failed, and the battery had drained of power.
The cabin lost pressure, and some of the children grew sick. Ultimately, the pilot brought the plane down in a field in Iowa, landing in deep snow. The players spent the night at a senior retirement home, talking with the retirees and celebrating their near miss.
The Lakers moved to Los Angeles later that year.
The team was almost sold to Kansas City in 1957, with both San Francisco and Chicago subsequently showing an interest.
After moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers retained their name, despite the fact that Southern California boasts precious few natural lakes.
The Lakers’ Forum arena opened in 1967.
This circular structure was intended to evoke a Roman amphitheater. Designed by celebrated Los Angeles architect Charles Luckman, the building cost $16 million, incorporating a 17,000-seat basketball stadium, 18,000 concert seats, and 16,000 seats for ice hockey.
Magic Johnson joined the franchise in 1979.
Standing at 6-feet 9-inches tall, the point guard arrived from Michigan State with the first draft. It took Johnson’s new teammates some time to adjust to his passing ability, his characteristic “no-look” passes often catching them off-guard. Once they had acclimatized to his moves, he became a key part of the Lakers’ offense, helping the team to win 60 games in his rookie year, which includes defeating the Philadelphia 76ers at the NBA Finals in 1980. Magic Johnson claimed the Finals MVP Award that season, scoring 42 points, 7 assists, and 15 rebounds.
Coached by Pat Riley for the duration of his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1981 to 1990, Magic Johnson led the team to victory with four NBA titles during that time. The three-time MVP may not have scored the most points or grabbed the most rebounds, but many contend that he was the most accomplished all-around player. As basketball pundit Shawn Kemp points out, Johnson was a facilitator, passing the ball, and doing everything that needed to be done, helping everyone around him to become better, enabling the team to perfectly execute the coach’s ideas.
The Lakers has boasted some of the NBA’s most gifted players.
Home to 21 NBL Hall of Famers, the team has won 16 championships in total.
In addition to Magic Johnson, other celebrated players to don a Lakers jersey include:
· Shaquille O’Neal: Known as the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal won three championships with the Lakers, ranking second in the team’s history for points, rebounds, and blocks. Having spent eight seasons with the Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance of the league has remained unparalleled since his retirement.
· Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: During 14 seasons with the team, Abdul-Jabbar won five titles alongside Magic Johnson, ranking first in defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, and blocks, and ranking second in games and minutes played, as well as being the team’s third-leading scorer.
· Kobe Bryant: Having won five championships during his time with the team, Bryant was recognized as league MVP in 2008, as well as being voted NBA Final MVP in both 2009 and 2010. During his time with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant made 15 All-Star appearances, establishing franchise records in field goals, points, steals, and free throws, games, and minutes played. Bryant has been acknowledged by Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, and even Magic Johnson as the greatest Laker of all time.
The Lakers had the longest winning streak in the history of the NBA.
By 1972, the Los Angeles Lakers had won 33 straight games. This represented the longest winning streak for any American professional sports team. The Lakers were triumphant in 69 games that season, establishing an NBA record that stood for 24 years, until it was finally broken by the Chicago Bulls after they won 72 games in the 1995–1996 season.
Their 1972 victory represented the Lakers’ first NBA championship win since the team relocated from Minneapolis.