Wilt Chamberlain looks to grab a rebound in a game vs the New York Knicks.

On This Day: May 7, 1972 – First Title Win in Los Angeles

by Matthew Barrero

From 1962 to 1970, the Lakers would appear in seven of the nine NBA Finals during that span. Every series ended in heartbreaking fashion as the team was unable to capture its first title in Los Angeles and lost six of those matchups to the rival Boston Celtics (the other came against the New York Knicks).

Fifty years to the day, we celebrate the crowning achievement of the first Los Angeles Lakers team to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

But just how did they get there?

First year head coach Bill Sharman replaced Joe Mullaney after a two-year stint and took over the reins of a lineup that featured the likes of Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, and Jerry West, among others.

Baylor would only play in 11 regular season games in his final two seasons before retiring.

During the 1971-72 season, the Lake Show would open the with a 6-3 record through their first nine games. Why is that significant you may ask? A victory over the Baltimore Bullets in game No. 10 was the beginning of a still-standing record for the longest winning streak in major professional sports history (33 straight wins).

The team finished the regular season with a league-best 69-13 record, registered the best offensive rating (103.1) and finished tied-for first in defensive rating with Milwaukee (92.6).

In the eight-team playoff, the Purple and Gold swept the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Semifinals and bested the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the Conference Finals.

A rematch of the 1970 NBA Finals (where L.A. lost 4-3) was set with the Lakers facing the New York Knicks for the second time in three seasons.

While the Lakers roster had their own share of talent, the Knicks featured Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Jerry Lucas, and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, plus Hall of Famers Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe.

New York would steal Game 1 in front of a packed house at The Forum in Inglewood by a final score of 114-92. A bounce back victory in Game 2 set the tone for the Lakers the rest of the series, as the team would take both games in New York and finish off the Knicks in Game 5 to hoist the franchise’s first NBA championship representing Los Angeles.

Wilt Chamberlain was named Finals MVP after averaging 19.4 points, 23.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in just over 47 minutes of play. Gail Goodrich led all scorers with 25.6 points and Jerry West averaged a series-high 8.8 assists.

With a championship season came major accolades. Head coach Bill Sharman was named Coach of the Year, and Chamberlain and West earned All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team honors. Individually, Wilt finished as the NBA’s rebounding champion and field goal percentage leader, while West finished at the NBA’s assists champion.

Speaking of West.

In his illustrious Laker career, Jerry West had nine NBA Finals appearances with his only victory coming during this 1972 season. With eight losses, West holds the record for most losses by one player in NBA history.

Despite the perplex stat, West and his 1972 teammates will forever be remembered as the first Los Angeles Lakers team to be crowned NBA Champions.

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