By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The Los Angeles Lakers fans are the defending NBA champions.
The Los Angeles Lakers are also in a heap of trouble.
The Lakers play a critical play-in game today against the Golden State Warriors (to be broadcast on our sister station CBS 1500 at 4:00 p.m.). Still, win or lose, the Lakers are one of the most dominant and storied franchises in all of sports. Here are 10 intriguing facts about the team and their proud history:
♦ The Lakers franchise has won 17 league championships. Led by 6-10 center George Mikan, who is regarded as the NBA’s first superstar, the Lakers’ first title came in 1949, when the team was part of the Basketball Association of America (a forerunner of the NBA).
♦ The franchise got its start in 1947, when businessman Ben Berger and entertainment mogul Morris Chalfen, both of Minneapolis, purchased the disbanded Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League for $15,000. The team would relocate to Los Angeles before the start of the 1960-61 season.
♦ Breaking down the Lakers’ championships by decades, they won 2 in the 1940s; 3 in the 1950s; 2 in the 1970s; 4 in the 1980s; 1 in the 1990s; 4 in the 2000s; and now 1 in the 2010s. The Lakers’ newest title has tied them with the Boston Celtics for most in league history, with 17. (The Lakers have been in 33 NBA Finals, while the Celtics have been in 21.)
♦ The franchise averted a tragedy on a cold January day in 1960, when the team plane – a converted World War II cargo plane – lost power and was forced to land in an Iowa cornfield. Among the team members on the flight was young superstar Elgin Baylor, who reportedly lay on the floor and said, “If we’re going to crash, I might as go comfortably.” For an account of this harrowing event, click HERE.
♦ During the 1971-72 season, the Lakers won a still-standing NBA record 33 consecutive games. Coincidentally, the streak began on the same night that the injury-plagued Baylor announced his retirement. Led by Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, L.A. went on to win the league title that season. Also that same season, the league unveiled its new logo, which featured a silhouette of West.
♦ The Lakers have a history of getting the better of other teams off the court as well as on the court. The team, for example, acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 in a trade that sent Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters to the Milwaukee Bucks. Also, when Gail Goodrich signed a free-agent deal with the New Orleans Jazz, the Lakers were compensated with multiple draft picks, including New Orleans’ 1979 first-round selection. That turned out to be the top pick in the draft, which L.A. used to select Earvin “Magic” Johnson. And one more: In 1996, the Lakers traded center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for their draft pick, Kobe Bryant. That same off-season, L.A. signed Shaquille O’Neal in free agency.
♦ Besides having superstars on the court, the Lakers organization had one of the all-time greats at the broadcast booth. Francis “Chick” Hearn did play-by-play for the team for 3,338 consecutive games, from Nov. 1, 1965 to Dec. 16, 2001. In 2003, Hearn became the first broadcaster to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
♦ On April 5, 1984, Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke the NBA’s all-time career scoring mark by recording his 31,422nd point. Appropriately enough, his record-breaking shot came via his famous sky hook via an assist from Magic Johnson. The basket was scored from the right baseline over the outstretched arms of 7-foot-4 Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton. The moment occurred in, of all places, Las Vegas, where the Jazz played some of their home games.
♦ Ten players have had their numbers retired by the Lakers: Kobe Bryant (8 and 24), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Magic Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52). LeBron James is likely to someday join this list.
♦ Six of the NBA’s Top 10 all-time scorers played for the Lakers, including the top four (Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, James and Bryant. Chamberlain is seventh on the all-time list, and O’Neal is one spot behind him.
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