Los Angeles Lakers: Power Ranking Top 10 Greatest Moments in Franchise History
With the start of a new NBA season nearly upon us, you have to ponder what new moments, memories will come from the 2010-2011 season for Los Angeles Laker fans. What game, play, event or player will transcend the normal and enter the pantheon of other great Laker moments?
For a NBA franchise that has won 16 titles, been the leagues marquee team for over 30 years, and sent what feels like a football team roster to the NBA Hall of Fame, how do you even consider ranking the team’s greatest moment?
While subjective, there are moments, both on and off the court, that rise above greatness and stand out over time.
These are true Laker defining moments. A game for the ages, or a draft pick that changed a franchise. Maybe a win on a hated foes’ home floor.
Whether you love the Lakers or loathe them, this franchise has risen and remained at the top of the NBA for over 40 years. And, if you include the team’s time in Minnesota, that reign is even longer. But, we’ll stick strictly with the Los Angeles era.
So, here are the Top 10 Greatest Moments in Franchise History.
Kobe wins without Shaq.
In the summer of 2004, Kobe Bryant would find himself at the low point of his career. He had endured a personal storm with legal problems in Colorado, had lost the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons and then that summer, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat and current coach Phil Jackson left the team.
Kobe would endure three seasons in the bleak desert. Everyone said he would never win another NBA title, not without Shaq.
But in 2009, Kobe would ignore all the naysayers and find redemption. He and his Laker team would defeat the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals and Kobe would once and for all shake off the ghost of Shaq from his back. Redemption could never have been sweeter.
#9- Moon Over Boston
In 1984, Hollywood superstar, Oscar winning actor, and diehard Laker fan Jack Nicholson would drop his pants in the old Boston Garden as his Lakers fell to the Celtics in a tight NBA Finals game.
Only Jack, who still sits courtside at all Laker home games and is Laker Fan No. 1, could pull off such a stunt.
Antagonized all game by Celtic fans, Jack couldn’t take it any longer when the Lakers' chances of winning slipped away. From his box seat midway above the floor, he spun and dropped his shorts, mooning the Boston crowd.
#8- The Purchase
In 1979, a young real estate mogul bought the Lakers and the Fabulous Forum, the arena where the team played.
Dr.Jerry Buss would usher in a new attitude and level of excellence for the Lakers.
He would demand entertainment and created Showtime. He would raise the bar on both his team and the league and end up winning 10 titles in the 30-plus years he has owned the team. He would bring the Lakers to true Hollywood and bring in the players to make it happen.
Dr. Buss doesn’t get the true credit he deserves but finally got some recognition in the summer of 2010 with his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame.
#7- Back to Back
In 1988, Magic Johnson would lead the Lakers to back to back NBA titles.
While teams in recent years have not only won two but three in a row, in 1988 no team had won back to back titles since the 1960s Boston Celtics.
Magic’s win was the first repeat in the true modern era of NBA basketball and against competition the likes the league has never seen again. The Lakers had to beat the Detroit Pistons and knock of Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics the year before. Both the Bad Boys of Detroit (who would win back to back of their own in the next two years) and the Celtics were Hall of Fame teams in their own right.
But Magic got the best of both of them to cement his legacy and make it five NBA rings for himself that decade.
#6- The Streak
In 1972, Jerry West would lead the Lakers not only to a then-NBA record 69-win season, but the Lakers would roll off 33 wins in a row.
While Michael Jordan’s 1996 Chicago Bulls would eventually surpass the 69-win season with 72 of their own, the Streak of 33 still remains unmatched.
And might for a very, very long time.
#5- A Coach for the Ages
In the summer of 1999, Laker management finally hired a proven coach to try to get their duo of Shaq and Kobe over the hump.
Having failed for nearly four seasons together, the team needed someone both players respected and could demand excellence.
The Lakers hired former Chicago Bull coach Phil Jackson, and the rest is history.
Jackson would lead the duo to three straight titles and then return to the team to again lead Kobe and company back to the NBA mountaintop.
#4- Coin Flip
In 1979, the Lakers had one of the top two picks in the upcoming NBA draft. In those days a coin flip, not the lottery, was used to determine which of those two teams got the first pick.
It all came down to the commissioner tossing a coin in the air.
The Lakers won the pick and would draft a sophomore 6’9” point guard out of Michigan State who had just won the NCAA championship.
That coin flip resulted in Earvin “Magic” Johnson and would usher in one of the greatest periods in Laker history.
#3- Summer 1996
Laker General Manager Jerry West would pull off not one, but two coups this summer.
In one of the most daring moves of all times, he traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Charlotte Hornets on draft day to take a high school player named Kobe Bryant. The move left the Lakers without a center.
But West had the biggest move of all still up his sleeve. He then signed once-in-a-lifetime free agent Shaquille O’Neal.
The combination would prove to be historic and lead the Lakers back to the top of the NBA, the Shaq/Kobe duo combining for three straight NBA titles and more tabloid off-court drama than a reality show on MTV.
#2- A Game 7 for the Ages
The 2010 NBA Finals would see the Lakers battle the Boston Celtics once again, adding to their storied rivalry.
In a see-saw series that had highs and lows for both teams, it was only fitting that it would all come down to a Game 7.
Laker Coach Phil Jackson had never even coached one of these games. And, the last time Kobe Bryant and company played the Celtics in the Finals, they were crushed in six games.
But Ron Artest would rise to the moment and carry Kobe and the Lakers to a come-from-behind victory that will stand up for the ages.
A Win on Your Rival's Home Court. Finally!
Not only had the Lakers been unable to beat the Boston Celtics for the NBA title in eight previous matchups, but never had they won on the fabled Boston Garden parquet floor.
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and company would change that in 1985 with a Game 6 win for the ages.
This ranks as the No. 1 moment in franchise history, as the Lakers finally shook the demons off their backs and defeated their hated rival.
A Top Ten was tough. Too much to choose from. Here are some extra moments that could have been considered.
-Magic Johnson plays all five positions in a single game. Not an ordinary game, either. The 1980 NBA Finals when his center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured. Magic led the Lakers to the title playing Center. Think about that?
-Chick Hearn becomes Lakers announcer in 1961.
-Pat Riley leaves broadcasting booth to become Showtime Lakers coach.
-First Laker three-peat in franchise history comes in 2002 from Shaq/Kobe duo.
-Kobe scores 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
-Kareem becomes NBA’s all-time leading scorer in 1984.