In 1971, the National Basketball Association decided it was time to update its logo. The silhouette of a player dribbling emerged as the winning design, and it wasn’t long before fans noticed that the anonymous hoopster depicted was none other than Los Angeles Lakers guard Jerry West. Virtually everyone agreed that there couldn’t have been a more appropriate choice. Over the course of 14 seasons in the league, West was named to 14 All-Star teams and led his club to the playoffs -- wait for it -- 14 times. However, the Lakers were walloping foes with world-class talent well before “The Logo” ever suited up.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the Lakers were literally the first championship team in NBA history when they won the crown in ‘50. In those days, the club was powered by giant George Mikan and played in Minneapolis. After capturing three more titles, the franchise packed up in ‘60 and moved to Los Angeles to become the Association’s first West Coast club. That summer also marked the arrival of West, who joined emerging star Elgin Baylor in the backcourt. “Mr. Inside” (Baylor) and “Mr. Outside” (West) were a high-scoring duo for sure, but the team was getting clobbered in the middle. The 1968 acquisition of towering titan Wilt Chamberlain solved that problem, and in ‘72, the trio claimed the franchise’s sixth title -- the first since arriving in LA.
The Lakers wasted little time retooling in the wake of Chamberlain, West and Baylor’s departures. In the summer of ‘75, the franchise picked up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and in ‘79, drafted Earvin “Magic” Johnson. After that, it was “Showtime.” In the ‘80s, Los Angeles hoisted the championship banner five times. “Magic” became one of the game’s most celebrated players and claimed three regular season MVPs, as well as three NBA Finals MVPs. The ‘85 triumph was especially sweet for both “Magic” and the Lakers, as it marked the first time in franchise history that the club beat the Boston Celtics to take the crown.
For the ‘99-00 campaign, the Purple and Gold moved into the state-of-the-art Staples Center, and not only did superfan Jack Nicholson follow to the new coliseum, but so did the championship tradition. With head coach Phil Jackson calling the shots, the Lakers played like a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber. Shaquille O’Neal was already established as a behemoth, but now he was a devastating force with the rings to back it up. Shaq and Kobe Bryant became the league’s next dynamic duo and went back-to-back-to-back in their championship pursuits. True to form, Bryant wasn’t satisfied with a mere three titles and coaxed Jackson to come out of retirement and return to coaching. The end result the second time around? Bryant and Jackson raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy in both ‘09 and ‘10 as world champs.
Put simply, the Lakers have laid claim to being the most influential franchise in the history of pro basketball. If you disagree, be prepared to justify yourself in front of Lakers Nation, a province of millions upon millions always ready to defend the Purple and Gold.