Greatest Sports Franchises - Los Angeles Lakers

Founded in 1946, this team is now known as the NBA’s greatest franchise. The team originated in Detroit and eventually moved to Minnesota, which is where they picked up their nickname the Lakers. After some successful seasons in Minneapolis, they finally moved to Los Angeles and gave the NBA its first West Coast team. Through the years, the team has boasted players like George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, who have helped solidify the Lakers’ place in history. In this video, continues our series on the Greatest Sports Franchises of All Time with a look at the Los Angeles Lakers.

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From Detroit to Minnesota

Founded in 1946, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers franchise originated in Detroit, Michigan. However, once Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen paid $15 thousand for the Detroit Gems, they moved the team to Minneapolis. In fact, the team’s official title comes from the Minnesota state nickname, “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

George Mikan and Championships

With an already reliable lineup of players, the club brought on center George Mikan, who promptly became the game’s leading player. The Minneapolis Lakers went on to win the first-ever NBA Championship in 1950, and then three-peated from 1952 to 1954. However, Mikan's play began to decline and he retired in 1956. The Lakers returned to the NBA finals in 1959, only to lose to the Boston Celtics. This match-up sparked one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Nonetheless, the club managed to win five championships before owner Bob Short relocated the franchise to Los Angeles in the 1960-61 season, giving the NBA its first West Coast team.

First West-Coast NBA Team

The team’s last season in Minneapolis had been a dismal one, and saw the Lakers finish with a 25-50 record. However, this bleak effort earned them the second pick in the 1960 NBA Draft. The club chose Jerry West from West Virginia University. Despite featuring a roster of future Hall of Famers such as Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich and West, the club’s first five years in LA saw a dramatic drop in crowd turnout. Losing to the Celtics in the finals four years out of five didn’t help, of course. But, moving to a brand-new arena did. In 1967, the Lakers relocated from the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena to The Forum. With its proximity to Hollywood, the Forum became a common place to spot celebrities courtside: For example, Jack Nicholson, has been a season ticket holder since the 1970s.

Records and More Championships

In their first year at the Forum, the club lost once again to the Celtics in the 1968 NBA Finals. Over the summer, the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain from the Philadelphia 76ers on July 9th, 1968. The club then went to set a record during the 1971-72 season by winning 69 games, a mark that stood until Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls won 72 games in 1995–96. By winning 33 consecutive games in 1971-72, the Lakers also set a record for the longest win streak of any U.S. professional sports team. The Lakers finally ended their championship drought that season by defeating the New York Knicks in five games, giving the team their first championship in Los Angeles.


The team missed the playoffs during the 1974-75 season, and subsequently acquired star-player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This move ushered in the “Showtime” era, which lasted through the 1980s. This was even more evident once the team had drafted Earvin “Magic” Johnson from Michigan State with the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, a move that helped the team defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 championships. Johnson not only led his squad to 60 wins in his rookie season, but he also earned MVP awards in the finals after replacing the injured Abdul-Jabbar.


However, soon after, Coach Paul Westhead was dismissed by owner Jerry Buss. Assistant coach Pat Riley was then promoted to head coach on November 19th, 1981.

The 1980s

With the Lakers’ “Showtime” era in full swing, the 1980s pitted the physical play of the Celtics against the more finesse-based game of the Lakers. The Lakers took the honors in 1982, ’85, ’87 and ’88.

And It All Came Crashing Down

But then, everything changed. In June 1989, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement after an illustrious 20-year career. During the 1990 season, Michael Cooper retired, too. And of course, on November 7th, 1991, Magic Johnson announced he had tested positive for HIV and that he would retire immediately.

The 1990s

The Lakers didn’t win an award in the 1990s, but during the 1996 off-season, the club acquired 17-year-old Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Vlade Divac. The Lakers also signed free-agent Shaquille O'Neal during the offseason, and drafted Derek Fisher.

The Staples Center

In 1999, Phil Jackson joined the Lakers as head coach, and the club moved into the Staples Center. They share this arena with their NBA rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, and their sister team, the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

New Era of Dominance

Ushering in a new era of dominance, the new century saw the team three-peat in 2000, 2001 and 2002, beating the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets respectively.

Another Rebuilding Period

With so much talent – and so many personalities – eventually the club fell apart. The team underwent another rebuilding period from 2004-2007, with Shaq leaving and Kobe remaining with the club.

Another Title

Assembling another cast of players around Kobe, the Lakers won again in 2009, earning the team’s fifteenth title and their first in seven years. The club repeated in 2010, this time beating their arch-rival the Celtics for their sixteenth championship, with Kobe managing to pick up the NBA Finals MVP in both years. Incidentally, the Lakers boast only one fewer championship title than the Celtics, who lead all NBA teams with 17 wins.

Rivalry with the Celtics

It would be impossible to discuss the greatness of the Lakers without properly crediting their great rivals, the Boston Celtics. As of 2010, the clubs have met in the NBA Finals 12 times, with the Celtics winning nine and the Lakers three times. The 1980s saw the rivalry take on greater proportions, with the Celtics’ Larry Bird clashing against Magic Johnson.

Even More Records

To add to the team’s legacy as one of sports’ greatest franchises, the Lakers became the first team in NBA history to win three thousand regular season games on January 13th, 2010. And with a steady stream of star players ready to play in the city, there’s no doubt they’ll continue to be winners for years to come.

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