|1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers season|
|Head coach||Bill Sharman|
|Owners||Jack Kent Cooke|
|Place||Division: 1st (Pacific)|
Conference: 1st (Western)
|Playoff finish||NBA Champions|
(Defeated Knicks 4-1)
During the 1971-72 season the Los Angeles Lakers won their first National Basketball Association (NBA) title since moving to Los Angeles. The Lakers defeated the New York Knicks in five games to win the title, after going 69-13 during the regular-season, a record that stood for 24 seasons until the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls went 72-10. During the regular season, they would also go on a current-standing NBA record 33-game winning streak. The team went on to win 81 regular season and playoff games overall, a record that would last for 14 years until Boston Celtics did it in 1986. In 1996, the 1971-72 Lakers were named as one of the Top 10 Teams in NBA History.
|1||13||Jim Cleamons||Guard||United States||Ohio State|
Since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers were repeatedly foiled by the Boston Celtics in their attempts to capture an NBA title. The Lakers lost the championship to them six times in eight years. In 1970, with the aging Celtics out of title contention, the Lakers lost in the NBA finals to the New York Knicks. In 1971, after losing Jerry West to a season-ending injury in February, they lost in the Western Conference finals to the powerful Milwaukee Bucks.
Going into the 1971-72 season, many experts thought the chance at a championship had passed for this aging team. Star players Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West were all in their 30s, and had all missed significant time due to injuries in the prior two seasons. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, led by superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared to be starting a new NBA dynasty. But new coach Bill Sharman still believed the Lakers had the talent to contend. He introduced strict conditioning drills and implemented a running fast break based offense. He re-tooled Wilt Chamberlain's game to focus on defense, rebounding, and jump starting the fast break with quick outlet passes to guards Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. The only casualty of this system was the aging Baylor, who could not physically handle the up tempo practices and offense and retired 9 games into the season. He was replaced at small forward by Jim McMillian who played at a near all star level.
Shortly thereafter, the Lakers strung together a record 33-game win streak. The streak ended on January 9, 1972, against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers and Bucks then staged a season long race for the league's best record, with the Lakers setting a then NBA record with 69 wins (the Bucks had the second best record at 63-19).
|y-Los Angeles Lakers||69||13||.841||-||36-5||31-7||2-1||21-3|
|x-Golden State Warriors||51||31||.622||18||27-8||21-20||3-3||14-10|
|Portland Trail Blazers||18||64||.220||51||14-26||4-35||0-3||4-20|
|1||z-Los Angeles Lakers||69||13||.841|
|4||x-Golden State Warriors||51||31||.622|
|9||Portland Trail Blazers||18||64||.220|
|1971-72 NBA Records|
The Los Angeles Lakers played against the New York Knicks in the NBA finals during the postseason.
Although without Willis Reed because of his knee injury. Jerry Lucas scored 26 points but was only one of several Knicks who was red hot. Bill Bradley hit 11 of 12 shots from the field as New York shot 53 percent for the game. The team took advantage of a nearly perfect first half to jump to a good lead and won easily, 114-92. Early in the second half, the Forum crowd began filing out dejectedly. It looked like another Los Angeles fold in the Finals.
Knicks forward Dave DeBusschere hurt his side and didn't play after the first half. Hairston scored 12 points in the second half, and Los Angeles evened the series with a 106-92 win.
DeBusschere attempted to play in the first half and missed all six of his field-goal attempts. He was hurting and elected not to play in the second half. DeBusschere explained, "I didn't feel I was helping the team." The Lakers danced out to a 22-point lead and regained the home-court advantage with a 107-96 win.
The game went into overtime, but at the end of regulation, Wilt Chamberlain picked up his fifth foul. In 13 NBA seasons, he had never fouled out of a game, a history he was immensely proud of but also one that usually led to him playing less aggressively when he was on the verge of getting a 6th foul. As the press waited for Wilt to take the floor and hurt the Lakers by reverting to a passive style, he instead came out in a shotblocking fury that propelled the Lakers to a 116-111 win. At three games to one, their lead now seemed insurmountable.
The Lakers won their sixth NBA championship by the score of 114-100. This was their first championship since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. Jerry West also won his first NBA championship after 12 years of waiting. Wilt Chamberlain scored 24 points and 29 rebounds and earned the NBA Finals MVP Award.