1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers season

During the 1971–72 season the Los Angeles Lakers won their first National Basketball Association (NBA) title since moving to Los Angeles. The Lakers defeated the New York Knicks in five games to win the title, after going 69–13 during the regular-season, a record that stood for 24 seasons until the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls went 72–10. During the regular season, they would also go on a current-standing NBA record 33-game winning streak. The team went on to win 81 regular season and playoff games overall, a record that would last for 14 years until Boston Celtics did it in 1986. In 1996, the 1971-72 Lakers were named as one of the Top 10 Teams in NBA History.


  • Traded a 1971 2nd round draft pick to the Cincinnati Royals for guard Flynn Robinson.
  • Hired Bill Sharman as the new head coach to replace Joe Mullaney.
  • Traded a 1972 2nd round draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for center Leroy Ellis.
  • Claimed forward John Trapp off waivers from the Houston Rockets.

NBA Draft


Roster listing
1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers roster
Pos.No.NameHeightWeightDOB (YYYY-MM-DD)From
F22Baylor, Elgin6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)225 lb (102 kg)1934-09-16Seattle
C13Chamberlain, Wilt7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)275 lb (125 kg)1936-08-21Kansas
G11Cleamons, Jim6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)185 lb (84 kg)1949-09-13Ohio State
C14Ellis, Leroy6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)210 lb (95 kg)1940-03-10St. John's
F24Erickson, Keith6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)195 lb (88 kg)1944-04-19UCLA
G25Goodrich, Gail6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)170 lb (77 kg)1943-04-23UCLA
F52Hairston, Happy6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)255 lb (116 kg)1942-05-31New York
F5McMillian, Jim6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)225 lb (102 kg)1948-03-11Columbia
G12Riley, Pat6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)205 lb (93 kg)1945-03-20Kentucky
G21Robinson, Flynn6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)185 lb (84 kg)1941-04-28Wyoming
F31Trapp, John6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)210 lb (95 kg)1945-10-02UNLV
G44West, Jerry6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)175 lb (79 kg)1938-05-28West Virginia
Head coach

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Last transaction: 2013-03-22

Regular season

Since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers were repeatedly foiled by the Boston Celtics in their attempts to capture an NBA title. The Lakers lost the championship to them six times in eight years. In 1970, with the aging Celtics out of title contention, the Lakers lost in the NBA finals to the New York Knicks. In 1971, after losing Jerry West to a season-ending injury in February, they lost in the Western Conference finals to the powerful Milwaukee Bucks.

Going into the 1971–72 season, many experts thought the chance at a championship had passed for this aging team. Star players Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West were all in their 30s, and had all missed significant time due to injuries in the prior two seasons. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, led by superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared to be starting a new NBA dynasty. But new coach Bill Sharman still believed the Lakers had the talent to contend. He introduced strict conditioning drills and implemented a running fast break based offense. He re-tooled Wilt Chamberlain's game to focus on defense, rebounding, and jump starting the fast break with quick outlet passes to guards Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. The only casualty of this system was the aging Baylor, who could not physically handle the up tempo practices and offense and retired 9 games into the season. He was replaced at small forward by Jim McMillian who played at a near all star level.

Shortly thereafter, the Lakers strung together a record 33-game win streak. The streak ended on January 9, 1972, against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers and Bucks then staged a season long race for the league's best record, with the Lakers setting a then NBA record with 69 wins (the Bucks had the second best record at 63–19).

Season standings

z – clinched division title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Record vs. opponents

Season schedule

1971–72 season game log
Season Schedule


1971–72 playoff game log
Playoff Schedule

Player statistics

Regular season


NBA finals

The Los Angeles Lakers played against the New York Knicks in the NBA finals during the postseason.

Game 1

Although without Willis Reed because of his knee injury. Jerry Lucas scored 26 points but was only one of several Knicks who was red hot. Bill Bradley hit 11 of 12 shots from the field as New York shot 53 percent for the game. The team took advantage of a nearly perfect first half to jump to a good lead and won easily, 114–92. Early in the second half, the Forum crowd began filing out dejectedly. It looked like another Los Angeles fold in the Finals.

Game 2

Knicks forward Dave DeBusschere hurt his side and didn't play after the first half. Hairston scored 12 points in the second half, and Los Angeles evened the series with a 106–92 win.

Game 3

DeBusschere attempted to play in the first half and missed all six of his field-goal attempts. He was hurting and elected not to play in the second half. DeBusschere explained, "I didn't feel I was helping the team." The Lakers danced out to a 22-point lead and regained the home-court advantage with a 107–96 win.

Game 4

The game went into overtime, but at the end of regulation, Wilt Chamberlain picked up his fifth foul. In 13 NBA seasons, he had never fouled out of a game, a history he was immensely proud of but also one that usually led to him playing less aggressively when he was on the verge of getting a 6th foul. As the press waited for Wilt to take the floor and hurt the Lakers by reverting to a passive style, he instead came out in a shotblocking fury that propelled the Lakers to a 116–111 win. At three games to one, their lead now seemed insurmountable.

Game 5

The Lakers won their sixth NBA championship by the score of 114–100. This was their first championship since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. Jerry West also won his first NBA championship after 12 years of waiting. Wilt Chamberlain scored 24 points and 29 rebounds and earned the NBA Finals MVP Award.

Award winners

  • Bill Sharman, NBA Coach of the Year
  • Jerry West, All-NBA First Team
  • Jerry West, All-NBA Defensive First Team
  • Wilt Chamberlain, All-NBA Defensive First Team
  • Wilt Chamberlain, NBA Leader, Shooting Percentage (.649)
Uses material from the Wikipedia article 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers season, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.