The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in NBA history. Los Angeles ranks second in all-time win percentage behind the San Antonio Spurs. Their 16 NBA championships are also second-most in NBA history.
However, the Lakers have been to the NBA finals 31 times in total. With that many trips to the Finals, there are some seasons the Lakers should’ve won the NBA championship. Here is a look at the three seasons the Lakers should’ve won the NBA championship.
In the 2007-08 season, the Lakers had a number of things going for them. First and foremost they had the best player in the NBA, that being a prime Kobe Bryant. During the regular season where Bryant played all 82 games, he averaged 28 points per game, six rebounds, and five assists. With those averages and the best record in the Western Conference, Bryant was named league MVP.
In the previous two seasons, Bryant averaged over 30 points per game but the Lakers were an average team. What made the Lakers a championship team was the addition of Pau Gasol via trade. For the first time since Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers in 2005, Bryant had an All-Star-caliber big man to play with. Combined that with other key players like Derek Fisher, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers were now championship contenders.
On their way to the NBA Finals, the Lakers only lost three games during the playoffs. In the NBA Finals, they would meet with their rivals the Boston Celtics. A Celtics team that had formed a new big three in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Many consider that Celtics team the first-ever superteam.
The Lakers managed to push the Celtics to a six-game series but ultimately lost. If the Lakers had home-court advantage they may have won the series. See the 2009-10 NBA finals with the same big three Celtics versus Bryant and Gasol Lakers. The Celtics were, in fact, better because Rajon Rondo had emerged as an elite point guard. But because the Lakers had home court, they won the 2010 NBA finals in seven games.
The Celtics-Lakers rivalry dominated the 1980’s era of NBA basketball. Within that rivalry is the head-to-head between the star players of their respective teams – Magic Johnson leading the Lakers, while Larry Bird led the Celtics. In fact, no NBA finals during the 80s lacked the presence of Johnson or Bird.
Throughout the 80s the Lakers and Celtics faced off three times in the NBA Finals. Los Angeles won two of the three matchups, those being the 1985 and 1987 NBA finals. However, the 1983-84 season would end in a NBA Finals loss to the Celtics for the Lakers.
During that season the Lakers had the best record in the Western Conference. They were also coming off a trip to the NBA Finals the season before where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Los Angeles had six players who averaged double digits during the regular season.
The Lakers cruised their way to the NBA Finals where Bird and Johnson matched up for the first time. These 1984 NBA finals were famous for Johnson gaining the nickname “Tragic Johnson.”
In Game 2 of the series, Johnson dribbled the clock out at the end of the game when the score was tied 113-113. The Lakers went on to lose in overtime and the series was tied 1-1 going back to Boston. Then, in Game 4, Johnson had a turnover that led to the game going to overtime and he also missed two pivotal free throws in overtime. Again after Johnson’s mistakes, the series was tied, this time 2-2.
The Lakers would go on to lose the series in seven games. If Johnson played to his typical superstar level, the Lakers should have won the 1984 NBA finals.
For the final season where the Lakers should’ve won the NBA championship, you have to go back to the Jerry West era of the Lakers. West was the star of the Lakers from 1960 to 1974.
Unfortunately for West, being a star point guard during his era wasn’t the path to victory in the 1960s. Due to this, West has an NBA Finals record of 1-8. It wasn’t until the 1968-69 season that West got a center that would help him compete against Bill Russell and the other centers of that era. With the addition of Wilt Chamberlain, the Lakers now had a big three of West, Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor. All three averaged over 20 points during the 1968-69 season.
To no surprise, the Celtics and Lakers met in the NBA Finals. The series went seven games and LA lost Game 7 by just two points. West was the best player in the series and even won Finals MVP in a losing effort. West averaged 38 points per game and seven assists per game.
Although West numbers went up, the issue was that Chamberlain’s numbers dipped once he was matched up with Russell. Chamberlain went from averaging 19 points per game in the divisional finals, to 11 points per game in the NBA finals.
With 15 NBA Finals losses the Lakers have more than three seasons where they should’ve won the NBA championship. However, these were the three that the Lakers seemed the most talented and poised to win the NBA championship.