Los Angeles Lakers: Key Players and NBA Championships
Los Angeles Lakers History and Highlights.
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the winningest franchises in the NBA as they have won 17 NBA championships sharing the all-time best with the Boston Celtics. They compete in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference in the NBA and play their home games in the Crypto.com Arena.
Founding and Early Years
The team was founded in 1947 and played for the first 14 years in Minneapolis. 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 center George Mikan. Mikan was the first great center in the NBA, and after his retirement, the team relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960-61 season.
Six NBA Finals
Going to LA, the Lakers made it to six NBA finals in the 1960s but lost to the Boston Celtics every time. In that period, Hall-of-Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West led the team. Then, in 1968, The Lakers acquired four-time MVP Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1972, the Los Angeles Lakers finally won their first NBA championship since 1954. Wilt Chamberlain led the Lakers to a record of 33 consecutive wins, which still stands as an NBA record. The Lakers defeated the New York Knicks in five games in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers’ next superstar came in 1979 when the team drafted Earvin Magic Johnson. Magic became the starting point guard for the team, but the Lakers needed him to play at the center position during the NBA finals in his rookie year, and Johnson managed not only to do that but to lead the team to the NBA championship.
Paired with the most dominant center at the time Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson became one of the best players in the league, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to 5 titles in the 1980s. 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 and transition offense.
After Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 and Magic Johnson ended his career in 1991 after contracting HIV. The Los Angeles Lakers then went into a rebuilding process.
Finding a New Identity
After a couple of years of struggling to find their new identity, the Lakers signed the best young center in the league Shaquille O’Neal in 1996. The same year, they traded for a high school kid named Kobe Bryant, and that was the beginning of a new glory era for the Lakers.
Soon after acquiring O’Neal and Bryant, the Lakers brought in coach Phil Jackson and won three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002.
Shaquille O’Neal was traded in 2004, and Bryant took over as the team leader. They had a couple of early playoff exits but then went on to three straight NBA Finals appearances winning in 2009 against the Orlando Magic and in 2010 against the Boston Celtics.
The Modern Era
Bryant played until 2016, but the team didn’t even make the Playoffs in his last three years. After his retirement, the Lakers struggled to find their new leader, but that changed when they signed LeBron James in 2018.
After missing the Playoffs in the first season with LeBron, the Lakers won their 17th NBA championship in 2020 after the team added Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans.
With Davis injured in the following season, the Lakers were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs. Things got even worse in the 2021-22 season when the Lakers missed even the play-in tournament, finishing 11th in the Western Conference.