Tuesday, February 2, 2010
How Do They Do It?
The rest of the NBA should declare a moratorium on trading with the Lakers. It seems like they always somehow manage to get their hands on the best player in the NBA, which has helped them to win 16 championships in the course of their illustrious history. Every generation has a new Laker that is arguably the best player in the entire NBA. Whereas other teams try to collect a group of slightly above average players, the Lakers understand that to win you need the absolute best player in the NBA surrounded by a good supporting cast.
In 1949 at the beginning of the Lakers franchise, when the Lakers were in Minneapolis, they managed to pick up a player from the defunct Chicago American Gears of the NBL. That player was of course "Mr. Basketball", the original 7 footer George Mikan. Mikan revolutionized the game and helped the Lakers to 5 titles in his 7 years with the team.
After Mikan retired, the Lakers went into a bit of a tailspin, but with a bit of luck (of course) they managed to select Elgin Baylor in 1958 (1st overall) and Jerry West in 1960 (2nd overall), and completely resurrect their franchise after their move to L.A. Unfortunately in the 60's, there was this other team called the Celtics that won every title in that decade except for one. The only time they didn't win the title was in 1967 when they were ousted by the Wilt Chamberlain led Sixers who went on to win it all that year. Now why do you think I would mention that? Of course, the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain the very next year, leading the Sixers to eventually become the 9-73ers, and eventually leading the Lakers to another title in 1972. The Lakers core was getting pretty old at this time though, and changes were needed.
As it turns out, the eventual all-time NBA scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was unhappy in Milwaukee and wanted to be traded. And wouldn't you know it? The Lakers were able to acquire him in 1975. What was supposed to be downtime for the Lakers, was about to again turn into "Showtime". Despite having Kareem, the Lakers somehow still got the first overall draft pick in 1979 and picked up Earvin Magic Johnson from Michigan State. Despite seemingly always being competitive, the Lakers also tank at just the right time, get the #1 pick, and draft the next best player in the NBA. It's not fair. Of course, with the Magic man the Lakers went on to win 5 NBA titles in the 1980s. Things would all change again in the 1990s.
The magic ended abruptly in La La Land when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV and had to retire in 1991. For the next few years it looked like the Lakers were on the decline again. Of course in 1996 though, they were able to sign the most dominant player in the game in Shaquille O'Neal. Since they had Shaq, previous center Vlade Divac was expendable, and in a curious move on draft day the Lakers traded him for high schooler Kobe Bryant. 3 championships later, Shaq moved on and Kobe was left to carry on the Laker dynasty.
Since then Kobe Bryant has asserted himself as the best player in the NBA, and proved it by guiding the Lakers to another championship last year. Moreover, Kobe also set the Lakers scoring record last night in Memphis. It seems as if every decade, the Lakers are able to get their hands on the best player in basketball and add to their trove of NBA titles in constant pursuit of the Celtics. Who knows? Might we just so happen to see Lebron in a Lakers uni someday? Or will they tank at the perfect time and pick up the next NBA great via the draft. Whatever way it happens, it just always seems to go right for the Lakers.