Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are an American professional basketball team based in Los Angeles. The Lakers compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league’s Western Conference Pacific Division. The Lakers play their home games at Crypto.com Arena, an arena shared with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.[9] The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA, and have won 17 NBA championships, tied with the Boston Celtics for the most in NBA history.[10]

The franchise began with the 1947 purchase of a disbanded team, the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL). The new team began playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers.[11] Initially a member of the NBL, the Lakers won the 1948 NBL championship before joining the rival Basketball Association of America, where they would win five of the next six championships, led by star George Mikan.[12] After struggling financially in the late 1950s following Mikan’s retirement, they relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season.

Led by Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, Los Angeles made the NBA Finals six times in the 1960s, but lost every series to the Celtics, beginning their long and storied rivalry. In 1968, the Lakers acquired four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Wilt Chamberlain, and won their sixth NBA title—and first in Los Angeles—in 1972, led by new head coach Bill Sharman. After the retirement of West and Chamberlain, the team traded for superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would win three MVP awards as a Laker. While the team was unable to advance to the Finals in the late 1970s, two momentous changes came in 1979 that would inaugurate a new golden era for the franchise. First, Jerry Buss purchased the Lakers, and as the team’s owner, pioneered a vision of basketball games as entertainment spectacles as well as sporting events.[13] Second, the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 NBA draft.

The combination of Johnson, a passing prodigy point guard, and a dominant center in Abdul-Jabbar provided the Lakers with two superstars to anchor their roster. The promotion of head coach Pat Riley in 1981 and the addition of forward James Worthy through the 1982 draft established the Lakers as an NBA powerhouse throughout the 1980s. The team was nicknamed the “Showtime Lakers” due to its fast break, transition offense facilitated by Johnson. The franchise won five championships in a nine-year span, including winning two out of three marquee Finals matchups against the Celtics. The Lakers were defeated by their Boston archrivals in the 1984 Finals, but triumphed over the Celtics in 1985 and 1987.

After Riley departed and Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, and Worthy all retired, the Lakers struggled in the early 1990s. It was not until 1996 when the team drafted Kobe Bryant out of high school and signed star center Shaquille O’Neal that the Lakers returned to dominance. The superstar duo of Bryant and O’Neal, along with Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, led the Lakers to three consecutive championships between 2000 to 2002, securing the franchise’s second “three-peat.” The dynamic but tumultuous “Shaq-and-Kobe” era ended when the Lakers traded away O’Neal after the team lost the 2004 Finals. It was not until after the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol that Bryant and Jackson returned to the NBA Finals, losing to the Celtics in 2008 but winning two more championships in 2009 and 2010. The 2010 Finals marked the latest matchup of the Lakers and Celtics, with Los Angeles winning its 16th title against its ancient rival in a seven-game series.

Jackson retired from coaching in 2011, and after a string of tumultuous playoff exits, the Lakers endured their longest playoff drought in franchise history. Gasol departed as a free agent in 2014, and Bryant retired in 2016 after twenty years as a Laker. After multiple rebuilding seasons with young, highly rated prospects, the Lakers signed superstar LeBron James in 2018.[14] In 2019, the team traded several of those prospects for star big man Anthony Davis.[15] The Lakers—led by James, Davis, and head coach Frank Vogel—won the team’s 17th championship in 2020, tying the Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.[16]

The Lakers hold the record for NBA’s longest winning streak, 33 straight games, set during the 1971–72 season.[17] Twenty-six Hall of Famers have played for Los Angeles, while four have coached the team. Four Lakers—Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O’Neal, and Bryant—have won a combined eight NBA MVP awards.[18]

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