1 fun fact about every Lakers championship
The Los Angeles Lakers are champs yet again after knocking off the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. Join us as we salute L.A. with one fun fact about all 17 of their NBA championships.
1949: The Minneapolis Lakers held the Washington Capitols to a paltry 56 points in Game 6 to capture the franchise’s first championship. Washington shot just 21% from the field and 66% from the charity stripe in what must have been an absolute dog of a game.
1950: Bob “Tiger” Harrison helped the Lakers capture their second championship by nailing the first buzzer beater in NBA Finals history. Harrison’s other claim to fame was that he once scored all 139 of his team’s points in a comically lopsided high school basketball game.
1952: Bespectacled big man George Mikan led the Lakers to their third championship, but the league didn’t make it easy on him, after widening the lane from seven feet to 12 feet to limit his dominance in the paint. The three-time scoring champ saw his average drop by 4.6 points following the drastic rule change.
1953: So much for home court advantage. The Lakers became the league’s first repeat champions by winning all three NBA Finals games at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
1954: It’s hard to say what’s more impressive about the 1953-54 Lakers: the fact that they pulled off a threepeat, or that they did so with players named Slater, Pep, Dick, and Whitey. You’ve got to admit, that sounds a lot more like a second-rate bowling team from Boise than an NBA championship squad.
1972: The Lakers reached the NBA Finals after winning 33 games in a row. Plenty of other teams have challenged their record-setting streak since, but no team has come within five wins of matching it. The streak lasted 65 days and the average margin of victory was 17 points.
1980: Magic Johnson was forced to play center in Game 6 of the NBA Finals after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went down with a severely sprained ankle. He responded with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and a block as L.A. finished off the 76ers 123-107. Not bad for a rookie.
1982: Los Angeles became the first NBA team to have an "Offensive Coach" when former Laker Jerry West was hired to assist first-time bench boss Pat Riley. His tenure lasted for just 12 games, but the fast-paced offense West installed helped pave the way for the Lakers’ glitzy Showtime era.
1985: Powered by strong performances from Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the ‘85 Lakers became the first visiting team ever to clinch an NBA title at the Boston Garden. Bonus fun fact: The 85 Lakers featured 7'5" center Chuck Nevitt, who dabbled in juggling, carpentry, and male stripping when he wasn’t taking up space on L.A.’s bench.
1987: Mike Smrek is by no means Canada’s most famous basketball export (We’re looking at you, Steve Nash), but the seven-footer carved out a place in the record books in 1987 when he became the first Canuck to win an NBA championship. The Welland, Ontario native spent seven years in the Association with five different teams.
1988: If you’re only going to record one triple-double in your career, it might as well be in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. That seemed to be the thinking of Lakers forward James Worthy, who produced 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists to lead L.A. to a decisive 108-105 victory over the Detroit Pistons on June 21, 1988. The offensive outburst earned Worthy NBA Finals MVP honors as well as the iconic nickname, "Big Game James."
2000: The 1999-2000 Lakers were far from a juggernaut. Although they won 67 games during the regular season, L.A. compiled a pedestrian 15-8 record in the playoffs and was pushed to the brink by the Sacramento Kings in the first round and by the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. Were it not for the heroics of Kobe Bryant, this team may not be on our list at all.
2001: Unlike the previous year’s team, the 200-01 Lakers waltzed through the playoffs with a 15-1 record. Their mark for postseason dominance would stand unequalled until 2017, when it was topped by the Golden State Warriors, who compiled a 16-1 record en route to their own championship.
2002: Shaquille O’Neal followed in the footsteps of Michael Jordan by becoming just the second player in NBA history to win three straight NBA Finals MVP awards. “The Big Aristotle” averaged 36.3 points and 12.3 rebounds while leading L.A. to an easy-breezy sweep of the New Jersey Nets.
"It was boring," he later proclaimed. “It was boring because, what was that center’s name – Todd MacCulloch? Todd MacCulloch playing me? Stop it. You know what’s crazy? I actually got mad when we were playing in Jersey. You think Todd MacCulloch is going to stop me at the crib in Jersey in front of my grandma and grandpa?….Sheeeeeit! No. Stop it."
2009: The Lakers’ 15th title wouldn’t have been possible without Pau Gasol, who became the first Spaniard to win an NBA championship. The Barcelona native averaged 17.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks as L.A. defeated the Orlando Magic in five games.
2010: The Lakers exorcised some demons in 2010 by claiming their first Game 7 victory ever against the Boston Celtics courtesy of a narrow 83-79 win. L.A. had previously lost four Game 7 grudge matches to Boston in 1962, 1966, 1969, and 1984.
2020: Danny Green and LeBron James joined Robert Horry and John Salley as the only players to win NBA Championships with three different franchises. If you've made it this far then you probably know that Horry and Salley also won titles with the Purple and Gold.