The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most prolific franchises in the sporting world. This is not just because they have 17 titles (including the most recent one in the 2020-21 season). They also have bred a ton of Hall of Famers. Along with all of this are the unforgettable moments crafted by those donning those legendary Purple and Gold jerseys. Among the tons of great moments now deeply embedded in Lakers history, let’s take a look at the 5 greatest moments in Los Angeles Lakers history, ranked.
5.) The Comeback vs. the Portland Trail Blazers
The 1999-2000 season was turning out to be a great year for the Lakers. They racked up 67 wins (the second-most in franchise history) and they had a beefed-up team led by superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. They were the favorites to win the title up until they met the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.
They managed to control the series, 3-1 early on and looked primed to advance early. But for one reason or another, the Lakers dropped back-to-back affairs and the series stretched to a Game 7. To make matters worse, the Phil Jackson-led squad entered the fourth quarter of game 7 down by 15 points. Yet little by little, the Lakers’ vaunted triangle offense and stingy defense trimmed the Blazers lead. They capped the comeback with the now-classic Kobe-to-Shaq alley-oop with Shaq pointing to the heavens in celebration. This comes in at No. 5 on the 5 greatest moments in Lakers history, ranked.
4.) Lakers Beat Celtics After Eight Tries, Champs in 85
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry is one of the most storied feuds in all of sports. But there was a time when Celtics diehards saw the Lakers as just another team trying to boot the kings of the hardcourt from the throne. Prior to 1985, the Lakers faced the Celtics in the NBA Finals eight times — losing every single one of them. Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals didn’t open well for the Lakers as they were pummeled 148-114. It became such as embarrassment that it’s now remembered as the Memorial Day Massacre.
But the difference between the previous Lakers teams compared to the ’85 team was that the ’85 team had relevant title experience. Not to mention how star-studded and hungry the team was. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar already had two titles then and beating the Celtics to claim their third title together would be a treat. Given this, the Pat Riley-coached squad mustered that experience and drive and they were able to beat Larry Bird and the Celtics in six games. Mutual respect was finally formed between the two.
81 was just a random number up until the late, great Kobe Bryant chalked up 81 points in a single game. While it is true that Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 points in a single contest (NBA record), it is also true that Bryant stood just 6-foot-7 and heavily relied on a combination of jumpers and layups to reach 81 against a modern NBA defense. And it wasn’t as if Bryant was jacking up shots. He was just in the zone the entire game. He shot at impressive 28-of-46 shooting, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the foul line.
Also, the Lakers were down as many as 18 points. Bryant, who already had three rings during that time, was hell bent on winning as many titles as he could. And to achieve this, every single game was imperative. With this in mind, Kobe literally carried his team, scored 81 (55 in the second half), and the Lakers went on to win the game. This lands at No. 3 on the 5 greatest moments in Lakers history, ranked.
2.) Magic, Rookie Finals MVP
Back in the day, the term ‘position-less basketball’ was unheard of. But Magic Johnson, who stood at 6-foot-9 and was a point guard by nature, was already tearing up the league in his rookie year. The pinnacle of his game-changing play style came in the 1980 NBA Finals against Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Up 3-2, the Lakers were without their captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar due to a sprained ankle. The 20-year-old Magic Johnson started in his place at the center spot then essentially played all five positions as the game progressed. Johnson finished with 42 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and seven assists. The Lakers claimed the title with Johnson winning the Finals MVP. This was the day that a legend was born.
1.) Final Game, 60 points
When Kobe Bryant went down with an Achilles injury in 2013, Lakers fans got their hearts broken. After all, Bryant was already at the tail end of his career. They thought that they would never see Bryant end his basketball career in flying colors. The seasons passed and all they saw was an old Kobe — still playing his heart out every game but, not the dominant player he once was.
When he announced that the 2015-16 season would be his last, he was treated to a marvelous farewell tour by every opposing team. Little did every fan know that Kobe, too, was preparing one hell of a show in his final game. Shaq dared him to score 50 points. But Kobe did the unthinkable. With millions watching over the world, he dropped 60 points in his final game. A perfect ending to one of the greatest careers of all time.
So, what do you think of these 5 greatest moments in Lakers history, ranked?