The Los Angeles Lakers – A historic franchise

With the Lakers struggling this season, let us look at why not making the Playoffs is such a huge issue when it comes to the Lakers and the same expectations do not apply to most other franchises.

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most decorated Franchises in NBA History. The team started as the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948 and in 1960 the team moved to Los Angeles and became the franchise we know today. With the Lakers of today struggling so much that fans fear they would even make the Playoffs, let us explore some of the Lakers’ history that has created such expectations of it.

The Lakers have won a championship in every decade except in the ’60s and the ’90s. The team had the first-ever superstar in the NBA, George Mikan, play for them in the late ’40s and early ’50s. Mikan led the franchise to 4 NBA titles and 1 NBL title before he retired in 1956. Soon after the Boston Celtics rose to become a dynasty that would dominate the league for the next 13 years.

The Celtics had a superstar guard in Bob Cousy but it was drafting Center Bill Russell in 1956 that made the team such a juggernaut in the NBA. They went on to win 11 titles in 13 years including 6 titles that came after beating the Lakers in the Finals. The Lakers had a chance to get over the Celtics hump in Bill Russell’s last year of playing (1969) but with Wilt Chamberlain getting injured in the last 2 minutes and the coach not putting him back in the game, the Celtics went on to win their 11th title under Bill Russell’s leadership.

The Lakers then won their first championship since 1954, under the lead of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West in 1972. After Wilt retired in 1973 and West retired in 1974, the Lakers fell into another slump, winning their next championship only in 1980 under the leadership of their rookie Magic Johnson.

Magic brought in the era of the showtime Lakers where the Lakers were the most entertaining team to watch. Led by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers went on to win 5 championships in the ’80s, including a repeat in 1988. After that, the Lakers once again fell to another Juggernaut in Michael Jordan and the Bulls who dominated the ’90s.

But the Lakers once again became competitive when Jerry West (who was the Lakers GM at the time) put together one of the greatest duos the league has ever seen. He signed Shaq from Orlando and drafted a young 18 year old who would turn out to be one of the greatest Lakers to ever play the game. That young man was Kobe Bean Bryant.

The duo went on to three-peat from 2000-2to 003 and was one of the greatest duos ever assembled. That three-peat was the last three-peat and no other team has won 3 championships in a row yet. Following that, the Lakers lost Shaquille O’Neal but were led to 2 championships in a row in 2009 and 2010 by Kobe Bryant who now had help from another star in Pau Gasol.

Once Kobe hurt his Achilles, the Lakers once again fell into a slump. In 2018 they signed LeBron James who led the team to their first championship in a decade in 2020  after bringing in Anthony Davis. The following year they were marred by injuries and could not perform at the highest level. They were beaten in the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. That was the first loss in the first round in LeBron James’ career.

It is this rich basketball history that makes the Lakers season so disappointing this year. The Lakers have brought in star power like Russell Westbrook but might even miss the Play-in game if they continue losing games the way they are now. The expectations on the Lakers are to win every time they have a chance.

While LeBron James is playing at an MVP level, it doesn’t seem to be enough to carry the Lakers to an NBA Finals. With Anthony Davis’ return not being imminent, it is time to think about the worst-case scenario.

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