Ranking the 7 Greatest Teams in Los Angeles Lakers History

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2021

Ranking the 7 Greatest Teams in Los Angeles Lakers History

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    In the 74-season history of the franchise, the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers have won 17 NBA titles. Only the Boston Celtics have achieved a similar level of success in league history.

    But which of the organization's championship-winning teams are the best? We've narrowed the field to seven.

    Why seven Lakers teams, not more? Good question! Five-time champ Minneapolis and the five remaining L.A. possibilities have a razor-thin separation. There are reasonable arguments for the mid- and low-tier spots, so they all fell outside of the final cut.

    The order is subjective but considers regular-season record, NBA playoff results and team performance relative to the rest of the league in that given year.

7. 2000-01 Lakers

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    MARK J. TERRILL/Associated Press

    The second of the Lakers' three consecutive NBA titles included a near-perfect run through the playoffs.

    During the 2000-01 regular season, the Lakers weren't that dominant. While they won the Pacific Division, they posted a 56-26 record and finished 21st in defensive rating. The defending champs were always a threat, but the performances weren't overwhelming.

    But when the playoffs began, the Lakers excelled.

    They swept all three of the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs to secure the Western Conference. After dropping Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Philadelphia 76ers, L.A. won four straight games to win its second straight title.

    Shaquille O'Neal averaged a ridiculous 33.0 points, 15.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.4 blocks as the Finals MVP. Both he and Kobe Bryant landed All-NBA honors, too.

6. 2019-20 Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    As soon as they traded for Anthony Davis in the 2019 offseason, the Lakers immediately became a top title contender.

    Through 63 games, the 49-14 Lakers stood atop the Western Conference standings. However, the 2019-20 season went on hiatus in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    When the NBA restarted play in the Orlando bubble, Los Angeles cruised in its seeding games, winning the No. 1 seed in the West.

    In the playoffs, James and Davisboth of whom were first-team All-NBA selectionspropelled L.A. past the Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets to reach the Finals. There, the Lakers toppled the Miami Heat in six games.

    Comparing eras is difficult enough, and a four-month stoppage only adds to the challenge. But the Lakers were clearly the NBA's premier team in this unique season.

5. 2008-09 Lakers

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    In 2007-08, the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Their redemption tour the next season was fantastic.

    L.A. went 65-17 during the 2008-09 regular season, finishing with an 11-game lead in the Western Conference. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol both landed on an All-NBA team, while Kobe and Metta World Peace each earned All-Defensive honors.

    Bryant hit his peak in the playoffs. He scored 30.2 points per game throughout the postseason, which is the most that he averaged during any of his seven trips to the Finals.

    Los Angeles eliminated the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets before beating Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the Finals, giving head coach Phil Jackson his 10th career ring.

4. 1984-85 Lakers

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    Nick Ut/Associated Press

    Welcome to Showtime!

    Heading into the 1984-85 season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson had already propelled the team to four NBA Finals trips and two titles in a five-year stretch. But the iconic Laker offense hit a new level this year.

    Los Angeles finished 62-20, taking the Western Conference by 10 games. Not only did this Lakers team register the second-best offensive rating (114.1) through that point in NBA history, but they also set records in effective field-goal percentage (55.1) and true shooting percentage (58.9).

    The Lakers strolled to the Finals, defeating the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets by a combined 11-2 mark.

    Larry Bird and the Celtics awaited for a rematch of the 1983-84 Finals. Los Angeles dispatched the rival C's in six games and secured its third NBA championship of the Showtime era.

3. 1986-87 Lakers

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    The peak of Showtime arrived two seasons later.

    Los Angeles set a new NBA record with a 115.6 offensive rating as legendary point guard Magic Johnson put together his first MVP campaign. He averaged a career-high 23.9 points and league-leading 12.2 assists, engineering a scoring attack with 17-plus-point scorers James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Byron Scott.

    On the opposite end, legendary stopper Michael Cooper headlined an upper-tier defense. The Lakers ranked sixth in the NBA with a 47.6 effective-field goal percentage allowed.

    Los Angeles dropped only one game in the Western Conference portion of the playoffs, eliminating the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Seattle SuperSonics along the way. In the Finals, the Lakers again defeated Larry Bird and the Celtics in six games.

2. 1999-2000 Lakers

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    If we focused on the best postseason runs, the 2000-01 Lakers are the pinnacle of the Shaq and Kobe era. However, the 1999-2000 roster annihilated all competition in the regular season.

    Los Angeles ripped off three double-digit win streaks en route to 67 victoriesthe second-most in team historyand registered the NBA's best record by 11 games. O'Neal and Bryant each received All-NBA and All-Defensive recognition while leading the Lakers to the best defensive rating (98.2) in the league.

    However, the playoffs weren't so painless.

    Los Angeles didn't register a single sweepa rarity among its title-winning teamsand both the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers forced an elimination game. Still, the Lakers' season-long dominance plus the championship outweighs the uptick of playoff nerves.

1. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers

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    David F. Smith/Associated Press

    In a word: Overwhelming.

    Hall of Fame trifecta Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West highlighted a squad that made franchise history with 69 wins.

    The team's 121.0 points per game and 103.1 offensive rating both led the NBA. The defense posted a 92.6 rating, the league's second-best mark. Relative to the rest of the NBA, the Lakers had a plus-five rating on both ends of the floor.

    Los Angeles swept the Chicago Bulls to begin the playoffs and knocked out the Milwaukee Bucksand future Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbarto make the NBA Finals. Then, the trio of superstars each provided 19-plus points to defeat the New York Knicks and win the franchise's first championship in Los Angeles.

                   

    All statistics via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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