The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in NBA history, having won a total of 17 championships. With a rich history spanning over seven decades, wearing the Purple and Gold has become synonymous with greatness. That’s why it’s unsurprising that several Lakers teams are undoubtedly among the best in NBA history. So, with that in mind, this article will rank the top 5 Lakers teams of all time. Which squad do you think is widely considered the top Lakers team? Read on and find out.
Top 5 Lakers Teams
Now that the honorable mentions are out of the way, here are the Lakers best teams of all time.
1. 1971-72 Lakers: The Logo Breaks Finals Curse
The 1971-72 Lakers are considered the top Lakers team of all time for many reasons. They won 33 consecutive games in the regular season, a still-standing record, and finished with 69 wins and 13 losses. That W-L record stood for over 20 years and was broken by the 1995-96 Bulls (72-10), which has since been eclipsed by the 2015-16 Warriors (73-9).
On top of that, the team was just a juggernaut and was simply elite on both ends of the floor. They scored 121 points per game, leading the league in offensive rating while being the second-best on defense.
Their championship run was also historic. It was the first NBA title Jerry West won and the first of many Lakers championships since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. The series was also a revenge of sorts for the team, as they had previously lost to the Knicks in the 1970 NBA Finals. They took care of business in five games, with Wilt taking home MVP honors to the tune of 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds per game.
2. 2000-01 Lakers: Too Good, Too Dominant
Next on our list comes one of the most imposing squads in Lakers history, the 2000-01 LA Lakers, led by Shaq and Kobe. Part of what made this team so good was Bryant’s improvement from a sidekick in 2000 to more of a partner in 2001. For some reason, the 2000-01 Lakers “only” won 56 games in the regular season, but come playoff time, it’s as if a flip has been switched.
Facing the Blazers in the first round, the Lakers swept them by an average of over 14 points. This was no easy feat because even though Portland was the eighth seed, they won 50 games that year. The theme continued in the next two rounds as the Lakers steamrolled the Kings and the Spurs, respectively.
The only blip in the radar was a Game 1 win by Allen Iverson’s Sixers, but the rest was a walk in the park for LA. Their 15-1 record in the playoffs stood for years, and if the NBA reverted the 1st round series to seven games much earlier, they would still have a share of the playoffs record pie today.
3. 1986-87 Lakers: Magical Redemption
If there was a team that best epitomized the “Showtime” era, it’s the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers. The group won 65 games in the regular season, and their key players achieved important milestones: Michael Cooper was named the DPOY, Magic Johnson the league MVP, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went to his 17th All-Star game.
The most important thing, though, was their postseason performance. They came out of the West pretty handily, as expected, and beat Boston, 4-2, to become the NBA champions for the fourth time in the decade.
The series will forever be remembered because of Magic Johnson’s game-winning hook shot over Kevin McHale in Game 4. Magic erased the “Tragic” stigma while lifting the Lakers to a 3-1 lead at that point, a hole the Celtics never got out of.
4. 2008-09 Lakers: First Without Shaq
It’s incredible what focus and revenge can do to an already great team. Coming off a 4-2 Finals loss to the Celtics in the previous year, the 08-09 Lakers were out for blood. They won 65 games in the regular season as they got Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza back from injuries.
The Lakers did have a bit of trouble in the playoffs, especially against the Rockets in the second round and the Nuggets in the Conference Finals. The scrappy Rockets took them to seven games, while the Carmelo Anthony-led Nuggets made the Lakers sweat through six hard-fought games.
All that did was prepare Kobe and company for the biggest stage. When they faced the Orlando Magic in the Finals, the team was always on-point, whether trying to come back from a deficit or holding on to a big lead. Kobe had a monster playoff, averaging over 30 points per game, and was even better in the Finals, providing 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks. Pau was the perfect complement– 18.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.8 blocks. Three more players averaged double-figures as they finished the Magic in five games.
Here are Kobe Bryant’s highlights in the 2009 NBA Finals.
5. 1984-85 Lakers: Crowned at the Boston Garden
If the 1987 championship team perfected the “Showtime” offense, the 1984-85 squad set it in motion. The Lakers went 62-20 in the regular season, 10 games better than the second-seed Nuggets. They had the NBA’s second-best offensive rating (114.1) in history at the time while also setting records in effective field-goal percentage (55.1) and true shooting percentage (58.9).
The Lakers then cruised in the playoffs, losing only two games through the first three rounds before the showdown with their archrivals Celtics in the Finals. What made this series special was that the Lakers had a homecourt disadvantage, which meant they needed to at least pull one win on the road to win the championship.
If you knew the Celtics, that’s almost next to impossible. However, they won two games in the Boston Garden, including the clinching Game 6, to become the first Lakers team to win a championship in that setting.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Finals MVP, averaging 25.7 points, nine rebounds, 5.2 assists, a steal, and 1.5 blocks. Magic was his usual self, tallying 18.3 points and 14 assists a game. James Worthy also provided much-needed scoring (23.7 PPG), while Byron Scott and Michael Cooper averaged double-figures, with Scott swiping 2.5 steals a night.
Dominance has always been the name of the game for the Lakers. As mentioned, they have 17 championship teams in franchise history, so narrowing down these squads to five is a tall task. To start things off, however, it’s worth noting these two teams as honorable mentions.
- 2009-2010 Los Angeles Lakers. This Lakers team tumbled towards the tail end of the regular season, but they managed to secure the first seed in the West by winning 57 games. However, that year was simply a murderer’s row in the West, with the Lakers facing four 50-win teams en route to their 16th championship banner. This is not the best Lakers team with Kobe Bryant as the leader, but they sure are tough as hell.
- 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers. The 2000 version of the Lakers almost stumbled against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Conference Finals but recovered just in time to capture their first title under the Shaq-Kobe era. In the regular season, though, nobody could stop this freight train, winning 67 games for a .817 win percentage. O’Neal was named the league MVP and Finals MVP, while the team was one of the deepest ever with veteran contributors like Glen Rice, A.C. Green, Brian Shaw, and John Salley.
Wrapping Things Up: Top 5 Lakers Teams of All Time
For a franchise with as much history as L.A., it’s a Herculean task to rank the Lakers best teams. After all, they have 17 championship banners hanging in their arena, tied for most in the NBA along with their rivals Boston Celtics. But based on the history plus their regular season and playoff performances, what are the top 5 Lakers teams of all time?
The top four are the 1984-85, 2008-09, 1986-87, and the 2000-01 versions of the Lakers. So, what is the top Lakers team on this list? It’s the 1972 championship team Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West led because it carried so much history. That squad won 69 games in the regular season, a record that stood for 24 years, including 33 consecutive at one point. (The 33-game win streak is still an NBA record until this day.) It’s also the first Lakers championship since moving to Los Angeles and the only ring won by “The Logo.” It couldn’t get any better than that.
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