This may be the best team of all time (says a Celtics fan…). They were consistently great every era…no holes at all (except for short 2-3 year stretches before the next all-time great joins). The Celts were a better team based team…and these guys have some of the best talents out there…Russell and Bird…they are both definitely top 5…but that is because of extra, all out, hard work. Give them the attitude of Tim Thomas and Bird is like Kyle Korver. Russell is like Joel Anthony. This Lakers franchise has more talent (and I’m not saying that they didn’t work hard…maybe not as much as Boston…but still world class effort). Unfortunately, we miss 28 point a game Mikan because of the 1952 rule (they widened the foul lane for 1952, which brought his PPG down by 5…). Get ready, here come the all-time greats. There’s Mikan, Baylor, West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Shaq, Kobe, and the LA/Minneapolis Lakers! (I actually am really excited about this…as evidenced by the excessive preamble…
(1) 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13) vs. (60) 1958 Minneapolis Lakers (19-53)
So here we are, the first matchup. This is the famous championship team that won 33 straight, and that Baylor retired from early in the year because he thought he was holding them back. Jerry West had an amazing year, averaging 26-4-10…and this is when assists were harder to come by! Gail Goodrich had 26-4-5, Wilt was unselfish, grabbing boards and averaging 15-19-4. Jim McMillian had 19-7-3, and Happy Hairston had 13-13.
One of the few poor years. Of course, it earned them Baylor, so all is well. Vern Mikkelsen had 17-11, Larry Foust had 17-12, and Dick Garmaker had 16-5-3. A rare non-playoff team here…
(2) 2000 Los Angeles Lakers (67-15) vs. (59) 1960 Minneapolis Lakers (25-50)
This is Shaq at his absolute best, destroying everyone for a season. He was one vote short of a unanimous MVP, except for one moron who gave it to AI…Shaq crushed everyone with his 30-14-4-3…that’s an incredible year….Kareem will have trouble here….Kobe was good too, with his 23-6-5 year, and Glen Rice added 16-4-2. Not too great elsewhere, Ron Harper started at point with 7-4-3, Rick Fox added 7 points, and Fisher had 6-2-3.
Another losing year, and this one is the last season in Minneapolis. Jerry West would be moving into LA after the season. In the meantime, Elgin Baylor had 30-16-4 (who can stop him on LA…but who can stop Shaq on Minne…), and Rudy LaRusso was a reliable second option with his 14-10 averages. Hot Rod Hundley had 13-5-5, and Dick Garmaker (12-4-3), Frank Selvy (11-3), and Ray Felix (8-8) all played less than 45 games. They made the West Finals after beating Detroit, but lost to St. Louis. And it’s not like Detroit is bad…a lot of good teams had losing records in this period, due to the evenness of talent. Detroit may have won only 30 games, but here is a description: “This team has a pretty good front line, consisting of 23-6-4 from Gene Shue, rookie Bailey Howell’s 18-11, and 15-13 from Walter Dukes.” Not exactly a bad team either…that’s your lesson for the day on why some good older teams didn’t crush competition…I’d like to see the equivalent of Jordan/Pippen win 60 games in this type of league….1996 wouldn’t have happened in the 60s…teams were too spread out…Meanwhile, Toronto and Vancouver were some free victories for 1996….Another note in an already long paragraph: This is the famous team that landed a plane in the cornfield…Here’s the story (I know, I know): After a game in St. Louis, they spend a lot of time on the runway deciding whether they should go or not in the storm, and up going. The battery runs out mid-flight, because of the runway time, and they lose light, and air conditioning…Remember, if this plane crashes, we lose Elgin Baylor, one of the best of all time (players…not GMs…Clippers fans groaned…). They come OH so close to hitting a tree and flipping over…but don’t. A flip means no more Minneapolis Lakers…maybe they fold…Maybe West goes somewhere else. Maybe someone else goes to the LA market instead. Maybe Oscar wins some championships…you never know. But they land in a cornfield, and all is well…That’s a good thing for the NBA (imagine losing MJ in a plane crash in the 90s…It’s as big as Magic and HIV…except more gruesome…).
(3) 1987 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs. (58) 1975 Los Angeles Lakers (30-52)
This team would be my predicted winner…sure Kareem is a bit (ha!) old…he’s still a top 15 player that year. NBA MVP Magic Johnson was incredible, averaging 24-6-12, and James Worthy had 19-6-3. Kareem still had it going at 39, averaging 18-7-3. At shooting guard, Byron Scott was great (17-4-3), as was AC Green at forward (11-8). Put Michael Cooper on anyone and he’ll shut him down (evidenced by his DPOY this year…). Not to mention he had 11-3-4 this year…Kurt Rambis worked his way to 6-6 (and was a fiery motivator), and they acquired Mychal Thompson mid-year (10-4..and knew all of Kevin McHale’s moves after playing with him in college…it’s like the Pau Gasol giveaway….multiplied by 5 because it made 1987 an elite elite team, rather than the average 2008 Lakers turned finals contenders….). My vote to win LA’s bracket…by far.
This is one of those gaps between all-time greats. West blew out his knee last year, and Wilt was in the ABA (coaching) in 1974. Gail Goodrich was a pretty big name still (and he got them Magic in the awful aged Goodrich for a future-unprotected pick to New Orleans trade….), and had 23-3-6. Lucius Allen came over from Milwaukee (20-4-6) for Jim Price, who was averaging 21-5-7 through 9 games with LA…and had a severe drop-off when he got to Milwaukee…Cazzie Russell (16-3-3) played only 40 games, but Elmore Smith (11-11) and Happy Hairston (10-13) were healthy and thrived. Connie Hawkins made a cameo, and was on to Atlanta to end his career next season.
(4) 2009 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs. (57) 1994 Los Angeles Lakers (33-49)
Surprised? Me too. Don’t expect too much noise from this LA vintage. Kobe was top notch, averaging 27-5-5, and had a great second banana in Pau Gasol (19-10-4). Andrew Bynum had half a year of 14-8, Lamar Odom had 11-8, and Derek Fisher had 10-2-3, as they won the Finals against Orlando…(not exactly a great Finals opponent……)
This is a weak time…after Magic, and waiting for Shaqobe. Vlade Divac had 14-11-4, Nick Van Excel had 14-3-6, Elden Campbell had 12-7, and Sedale Threatt had 12-2-4. The lone hangovers from old, James Worthy had 10-2-2, and Kurt Rambis came back after an absence, but had an almost worthless 3-4.
(5) 1990 Los Angeles Lakers (63-19) vs. (56) 2005 Los Angeles Lakers (34-48)
Kareem was gone by now, and the Lakers were building a young team around the best of the best from the 80s. Magic had 22-7-12, and Worthy had 21-6-4. Byron Scott was a top notch third scorer with his 16-3-4 this year. AC Green was a holdover from the 80s, with 13-9. Orlando Woolridge played 62 games of 13 points, and Mychal Thompson had 10-7. Michael Cooper was around the washed up level, but rookie Vlade Divac looked to a bright future, debuting with 9-6. But they couldn’t get past Phoenix in the semis…
Shaq is gone, and now this is Kobe’s team. Kobe was pretty good, averaging 28-6-6, and his second option was Caron Butler (16-6). Lamar Odom averaged 15-10, and Chucky Atkins had 14-2-4, and they had an imposing center looking to replace Shaq, his name? Chris Mihm (10-7). This isn’t a very good team…but they probably should have won more than they did.
(6) 1985 Los Angeles Lakers (62-20) vs. (55) 1967 Los Angeles Lakers (36-45)
After getting beat up in the 1984 Finals, they regrouped and became a more physical team this year…don’t write off these guys at all. They have a legit chance to win the LA tourney. They are so deep. Kareem had 22-7-3, and Magic had 18-6-13…incredible! James Worthy had 18-6, and Byron Scott had 16-3-3. Bob McAdoo adjusted to a role off the bench, averaging 11-5 a game. Michael Cooper shut down everyone while having 9-3-5 himself. Kurt Rambis had 5-6, and Mike McGee added 10 points. Larry Spriggs had 7 points, Mitch Kupchak had 5-3 in limited games, and Jamaal Wilkes slowed to 8 points. That’s eleven players. Every one of them are mildly recognizable today. I just asked my 10 year old brother has heard off everyone on that team (except Earl Jones, who played 14 games in his career, and alltime great awful white center, Chuck Nevitt…He’s heard of Ronnie Lester before, who is irrelevant this year). Great team, an all-time great champ.
Note a bad team, even though they got swept by San Fran…Jerry West dominated with 29-6-7, and Elgin was still great (even after his injuries) with 27-13-3. Rudy LaRusso (13-8) played only 45 games, and they got a great sophomore performance from Gail Goodrich (12-3-3). Darrall Imhoff had 11-13-3.
(7) 1986 Los Angeles Lakers (62-20) vs. (54) 1961 Los Angeles Lakers (36-43)
This is a worse version of 1985. Though 1986 didn’t win the championship…they lost to Houston in the West Finals. Kareem wasn’t any worse, averaging 23-6-4, and James Worthy was better (20-5-3). Magic dominated the court, with 19-6-13…Byron Scott had 15-3-2, and the imposing vet that replaced McAdoo was Maurice Lucas (10-7). Michael Cooper had 9-3-6, and Kurt Rambis had 6-7.
Elgin Baylor, at this point, is probably the 3rd best NBAer ever. Elgin was an incredible, life altering player before injuries…Trust me, if Elgin stayed healthy, he’d have at least 3-8 championships…He was close already, with injuries. West/Baylor would go down as the best combo ever. No debate. Elgin had 35-20-5 this year. Yeah, yeah, say what you want about pace…He still was at the top in categories for this year…2nd in points, 4th in boards, and 8th in boards. One of the greatest years of alltime. His rebounding goes down after this point, but still…He could be the all-time PPG leader if he kept up this…He’s still a consistent 20 point scorer after injuries…and check out his team here…West debuted for 18-8-4, and they had Rudy LaRusso (15-10), Hot Rod Hundley (11-4-4), and Frank Selvy (11-4-3). They have a legit chance of beating 1986…I honestly believe that.
(8) 1988 Los Angeles Lakers (62-20) vs. (53) 1959 Minneapolis Lakers (33-39)
This team was a Finals winner against Detroit. Scott was the leading scorer with 22-4-4, but Worthy was right there (20-5-4). Magic was amazing (20-6-12), and Kareem (15-6) hit 40. Mychal Thompson had 12-6, and AC Green had 11-9, while Michael Cooper had 9-4-5. This is a pretty good team.
Elgin Baylor’s rookie year results in a Finals appearance (and sweep…). Elgin had 25-15-4, and had Vern Mikkelsen (14-8) by his side. Dick Garmaker had 14-5-3, Larry Foust had 12-9, and Hot Rod Hundley had 10 points.
(9) 1998 Los Angeles Lakers (61-21) vs. (52) 1956 Minneapolis Lakers (33-39)
Welcome to year two of the Shaqobe pairing. Shaq had 28-11, and 19 year old Kobe had 15-3-3. Eddie Jones had 17-4-3, Nick Van Excel had 14-3-7, and Rick Fox had 12-4-3…This is an OK team…but was greatly helped by expansion…
This was Clyde Lovellette’s team, as he had 22-14…but was largely an unimportant team, as Mikan retired after 1954, and Baylor is a few years away. Mikan actually made a return this season, but wasn’t at his old level, but still at 11-8 level. Vern Mikkelsen had 13-8, Slater Martin (one of the best early points) had 13-4-6, and Whitey Skoog (epic name) had 12-4-4.
(10) 1973 Los Angeles Lakers (60-22) vs. (51) 1957 Minneapolis Lakers (34-38)
Pretty good, and slightly older, version of the legendary 1972 team (that is overrated…). Gail Goodrich was 24-4-4 good, and West was still top-notch (23-4-9). Wilt had a good 13-19-5 season (another unselfish season…), and Jim McMillian added in 19-6-3. Bill Bridges had 10-11. Happy Hairston missed most of the year…
Clyde Lovellette had another good 21-14 year. Dick Garmaker had 16-5-3, Vern Mikkelsen had 14-9, and Walter Dukes had 10-11.
Things are just warming up! Be sure to read part 2!