NBA Finals: Power Ranking the Lakers Championship Teams
On June 3rd, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics renew what many consider to be the biggest rivalry in sports. And, the NBA Finals is where great teams become legendary and leave their mark on the game.
Can Kobe Bryant’s Lakers shake off the ghost of the 2008 beat down at the hands of the Celtics to break through with a title this year?
If so, is this current team a “power” Lakers team, one that can be held up with the greatest of great teams of Finals past, or is the 2010 version simply a pretender to that throne?
And, which Lakers teams are those power teams, the best of the best?
It’s a debate that’s been going on as long as sport.
Every basketball fan, whether you're 12-years-old or 80, has an opinion on which team really was the greatest. It all depends on what generation you come from. You always want to have your generation be able to be the best. We all think our generation would've beaten your generation.
But in reality there are ways, criteria to determine a way to rank these teams. I call it the “Power System.” It breaks down into these key categories: Ease of Victory, Number of All-Stars, and Strength of Opponent.
There is a clear winner, a team that rises above all other Lakers. And, given Kobe Bryant’s circumstances of being in the Finals three years in a row, a chance to repeat and, most importantly, an opportunity to redeem the bitter loss to the Celtics in 2008, this current Lakers team has the chance to vault to the top or near top of this power List.
So, let’s see which other Lakers teams are on the Power List against which Kobe’s Lakers are going to compete. Here is the list Power Ranking the Lakers Championship Teams.
No. 10—2008. Rebirth.
Kobe Bryant returned to the NBA Finals leading the favored Lakers against the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers had rolled through the playoffs, slicing through opponents as this team fired on all cylinders.
The team came together for its Finals run when Pau Gasol was traded mid-season to the Lakers, and the team never looked back.
It cruised to be the best team in the West and powered through the early playoff rounds. When it reached the Finals, everyone felt this team was one of the best ever, a team capable of taking it all.
But despite Kobe, Pau and a strong supporting cast, this team would fall short to three future Hall of Famers, known as “The Big Three.” Boston’s Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen would prove that experience beats talent. They would take this series in six games.
Kobe would use this loss as the reminder and fuel to propel him to a title in 2009 and a chance for a repeat this year in 2010.
No. 9—1969. Falling Short.
This team makes the list because it was by far the strongest Lakers team of the Jerry West era.
It played the best of the best and stormed into the NBA Finals as the favorite against the Boston Celtics.
The two teams would play epic games, battles that came down to the wire, as did this series, to a Game Seven. Both teams were at their peaks.
The team had the legends Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor: three superstars and Hall of Famers.
The reason this team makes our list is this simple reason: Jerry West and strength of opponent. West would be the MVP of the series in a losing, yes that is written correctly, losing effort.
No. 8—1987. Last Laugh.
The Lakers would meet an aging Boston Celtics team in this year’s finals.
Both teams were tied at one in the head-to-head meetings in the NBA Finals. Boston had taken the first round, a win in 1984. The Lakers responded the following year with the historic win in Boston in 1985.
1987 would prove to be the last breath of the Magic/Bird rivalry. And, Magic’s Lakers would take the title in six games.
There were heated battles, and the strength of opponent was high. This was no easy road, even with an injured Larry Bird and Kevin McHale on the Celtics side.
James Worthy would emerge as the dominant player for the Lakers in this series and aid MVP Magic Johnson take the title. It would be Magic’s “baby sky hook” that he made on a last second shot in Game Four that would propel LA to the title.
No. 7—2002. Three-peat.
The only Lakers team to win three titles in a row; this team was the last title winner of the Shaq/Kobe era.
They would have a tough road to this title, playing what many consider to be one of the greatest Western Conference Finals in history against the Sacramento Kings to even reach the NBA Finals.
This team was still led by the dominant Shaquille O’Neal, but it was the emerging Kobe Bryant that would take this team to the next level and insure a third title.
The reason why they are so far down on this list is the strength of opponent in the Finals. The championship round would prove so anti-climatic, after the series with the Kings. This Lakers team would sweep the New Jersey Nets to close out the Shaq/Kobe run.
No. 6—1980. The Rookie.
This is the “Rookie’s” team.
The Lakers would take the title from Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers in six games. While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led this team, it would be rookie Magic Johnson who would leave his mark forever on both this series and the NBA.
Kareem would injure his ankle in Game Five and be unavailable to go in the closeout Game Six. That would not prevent LA from winning the title because Magic would play all five positions on the court, including center, and deliver one of the most amazing games in NBA history.
But this Lakers team was built to win and did, with not only Kareem and the 20-year-old Magic, but also superstars Jamal Wilkes and Norm Nixon.
And, this team would beat Dr. J’s Sixers, who were at the top of their game.
No. 5—1988. Determination.
This team didn’t have an easy road to the title. In fact, they played three seven-game series in these playoffs, the last being a Game Seven in the Finals against the Detroit Pistons.
It would take a complete effort to become the first NBA team to repeat as champions in nearly two decades.
By this time, the "Showtime" Lakers were Magic Johnson’s team.
He had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still delivering double-doubles on a nightly basis, but Magic was the real star. He did have help in James Worthy, a young AC Green, a fabulous shooting guard in Byron Scott and a super six-man, in Michael Cooper.
This team probably had one of the strongest strength of schedules and of opponents on our list.
The Detroit Pistons, led by Isaiah Thomas, had all the weapons.
The Pistons were known as the “Bad Boys” and played tenacious defense. They had pushed ahead of the Boston Celtics that year and, if not for a sprained ankle by Thomas, might have beaten this Lakers team.
But that was not meant to be, and Magic wasn’t going to let that happen.
No. 4—2009. On His Own.
Kobe Bryant’s Lakers would use the bitter loss to the Boston Celtics in the Finals the year before as motivation to return to the championship round and fuel the team to a title.
The road was not easy, with the Lakers playing tough teams and real contenders in the Denver Nuggets and then, in the Finals, the Orlando Magic.
The team was an offensive thing of beauty, running the triangle offense to perfection. Led by Kobe, this team had what many consider to be the top second-best player on a team in Pau Gasol. The team also had Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher to really complement its star players.
No. 3—1972. The Record team.
How do 33 consecutive wins sound as criteria to be one of the greatest teams? Or, how about wining 69 times in 1972? You’d have to cap it off by taking the NBA title, right?
Well, Jerry West’s 1972 Lakers team did all of that.
They hold the longest winning streak still in NBA history, and the team posted 69 victories, a record that would last until Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls would eclipse that mark with 72 victories.
And, this Lakers team would win the championship against the New York Knicks.
This version of Jerry West’s Lakers might not have even been his best team. That is why he only gets the third spot in the ranking.
But, this team was challenged and became the only one of that generation to win a title.
Losing year after year to the Boston Celtics, this team would finally break through, albeit against the Knicks, and bring home a title to LA.
The names are legends on this team: West, MVP Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, and even a bench player for the Lakers who would go on to be a Hall of Fame coach: Pat Riley.
This team would meet a powerhouse New York team, with their own superstars in Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusshcere, Walt Frazier and Willis Reed. The Knicks also had a bench player who would have more success as a head coach and end up leaving a mark on the LA Lakers: Phil Jackson.
No. 2—2001. Dominate.
This Lakers team is called “overpower.”
They are a close, and I mean close second to the 1985 team.
The only reason they come in second is that, head to head versus the ’85 team, this Lakers version would lose. Even with Shaquille O’Neal in his prime of prime in 2001, this team couldn’t stop Magic and his “Showtime” Lakers.
But, that is another debate.
This 2001 team rolled to the title, losing only one, yes one, game. That happened in Game One of the Finals versus Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers. If not for that out of his mind performance from Iverson, the Lakers might have swept their way to the championship, without a single loss.
The team was led by an MVP in Shaq, a young Kobe Bryant, who already was dominating and scoring at will, plus roll players that fit Phil Jackson’s triangle offense like a glove.
But it was Shaq and Kobe, before their famed personality meltdowns, who were simply the best one-two punch in Lakers history.
This team wasn’t challenged much and the strength of their opponents in 2001 left a lot to be desired. That is the other reason why this team doesn’t get the first spot.
No. 1—1985. Redemption.
This Lakers team is the “Redemption.” They would redeem all the losses of the past to win the title on Boston’s hallowed parquet floor.
There was no ease of victory in this series, as Boston came to play, hoping to repeat as champions, and the 1985 Celtics were one of that franchise's strongest teams in history.
The year before, the favored Lakers team would, in the opinion of many, choke and lose the title to Larry Bird’s Celtics. In 1985, Kareem Adbul-Jabbar would recover from a miserable Game One performance to help Magic Johnson lead LA to this title.
The ’85 Lakers had a laundry list of legends: Kareem, Magic, Bob McAdoo, a young James Worthy, as well as some of the strongest support players to ever suit up in Lakers purple and gold.
And, a Hall of Fame coach, Pat Riley, led the team.
But the real reason why this Lakers team is the number one is that they simply stack up against all the rest and rise above.
Position by position, especially with Magic, no other Lakers team can compare. Given the competition of the 1980s, and the strength of schedule, this team was hardened by battle.
They are the greatest Lakers team of all time.