The Los Angeles Lakers History
Learn the history of the illustrious Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have come full circle. Although the team has come thousands of miles, won many championships, and morphed into many different forms, the Lakers that won the title in 2000 are remarkably similar to the team that started it all back in Minnesota. Many people wonder how a basketball team from southern California got a nickname like Lakers. The franchise actually was nicknamed the Lakers in its days in Minneapolis, and decided to keep the name when it moved to LA.
Although the original Lakers team was not a dominant dynasty like some of its later versions, it did win a championship while being led by a dominant center. George Mikan, a bespectacled Midwesterner, was actually considered the first truly dominant big man in the professional game's history. After the Mikan era ended, the Lakers entered a bit of a down period. So the team decided a change of scenery would be in order, and moved to Los Angeles.
The Lakers entered their golden era in the 1970s. Center Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, came to the Lakers from Milwaukee and remained the best center in the game. Along with James Worthy and Magic Johnson, who was drafted out of Michigan State after the 1979 season, the Lakers started the Showtime era. Worthy, who came out of the storied University of North Carolina program, was a great inside presence who could score and rebound with against the best opposition. Johnson is widely considered one of the top five players in the history of the NBA. Not only could he do everything (he once played all five positions in a Finals game), he could do everything well. At 6'9", he was too big for an opposing point guard to handle and was quick enough to match up against the other team's front line. With these players, and sharpshooter Michael Cooper handling the perimeter, the Lakers dominated the Western Conference year in and year out, and formed what some believe is the greatest rivalry in NBA history against the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers continued to dominate until they were dethroned by the Chicago Bulls in the 1991 Finals. Soon after this, Johnson announced that he was HIV positive and retired. He came back to the game, once as a player and once as a coach for a short time, but the Lakers dynasty was over.
Many, however, foresaw a return to the golden era when center Shaquille O'Neal came to LA as a free agent from Orlando and the team made a draft day trade for young phenom Kobe Bryant. After a few disappointing playoff exits and some seasons of internal bockering, the team finally put it all together in 2000 and won the NBA title. Some think that the difference was the hiring of coach Phil Jackson, who was the man behind the Bulls' run to glory. Under the leadership of Shaq, the Lakers have come back to where they started, and as O'Neal and Bryant continue to mature, the Lakers may return to the best days in their history.