As the warm glow and gloating of the Lakers' Sweet 16th banner win over the Celtics carries us through the summer, we Lakers fans should pause before championship defense anxiety creeps into our souls. Waiting for Phil Jackson to decide to coach or not to coach, seeing where Lebron & Co. land this summer, and anticipating team upgrades for another trophy season--these concerns should be kept at bay just a bit longer as we deserve to bask in the glory and legacy of the Lakers.
We are indeed one lucky, and no doubt spoiled, city and group of fans. Such an embarrassment of riches can be claimed by no other NBA team:
• The most successful NBA franchise ever, with most wins (3,026), the highest winning percentage (61.8%), the most playoff game appearances (709), and the most NBA Finals appearances (31).
• The only team to win two or more consecutive championships FOUR times (52-54', 87-88', 00-02', 09-10'). The Celtics and Bulls have done it twice.
• The greatest collection of basketball superstars. Three of the top five guards (West, Magic and Kobe) and three or four of the greatest centers (Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, and Shaq) have donned a Lakers uniform.
As ESPN's John Hollinger notes, despite being a title short of the Boston Celtics' 17 championships, the Lakers are clearly the all-time greatest professional basketball team.
Consider the sad or rather modest historic fate of other NBA cities and teams:
Seven teams have never been to the NBA finals: Bobcats, Clippers, Grizzlies, Hornets, Nuggets, Timberwolves and Raptors.
Seven teams have reached the finals but never won a ring: Cavaliers, Jazz, Magic, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers and Suns.
Six cities can claim a single glorious championship season (Portland (77'), Milwaukee (71'), Washington (78'), Miami (06'), Seattle (79'), and the SF Bay Area (75').
What makes the 2010 championship especially sweet is that it was a vital "pivot year" championship. In terms of bragging rights over the Celtics (ever so vital), a Lakers win enables the boast of taking two of the past three championships, rather than the Celtics (winners in 2008) making that claim. In this sense, 2010 was similar to 1987, when a Lakers title over the Celtics meant a two-to-one title edge over Boston in the 1980s, insuring a "team of the decade" claim.
2010 was also a pivot year in that it enables the Lakers to enter as the best team of a new decade (the 2010's), much as the Shaq-Kobe team won in 2000. This year's banner also gets the Lakers two-thirds way to a second three-peat (to tie Phil Jackson/Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls)
Coming of basketball viewing age in the early 1970's, I grew accustomed to unparalleled basketball excellence in Los Angeles. The first season I followed the Lakers, the team won 33 consecutive games in 1971/72, the longest winning streak of any professional American sports team. Meanwhile, the late Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, coached the UCLA Bruins to an incredible 88 straight wins from 1971-74.
Basketball has indeed been kind to LA baby boomers and generations ever since. Now residing in the SF Bay Area, I know what it feels like to be among hardwood fans living far too long and away from NBA glory.
Before the usual Lakers drama heats up, LA fans should kick back, relax and enjoy the latest NBA crown over the coming months--or until our beloved purple & gold champs are dethroned.