The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers season was the franchise’s 24th season in the NBA. Coming off of a 48-win season where they lost in the 1971 Western Conference Finals to the Bucks, led by a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers were hungry for their first championship since their move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Comprised of the same core group of players they had since 1968 (Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich), L.A. was an experienced veteran team, anchored by former champion and legend Wilt Chamberlain, who led the 76ers to a title in 1967.
The Lakers were doubted to begin the season. They were an aging team, who was thought to be past their prime and out of contention for a title. However, L.A. proved them all wrong, dominating in a record-breaking season, winning a still-standing record 33 games in a row, despite 37-year-old Elgin Baylor retiring nine games into the season.
On Nov. 5, 1971, the Lakers began a winning streak that didn’t end until 65 days later, on Jan. 9, 1972 against the Milwaukee Bucks. They won 33 straight games. The average margin of victory was 17 points. 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).
“The record is immune to wear and tear, time and circumstance, skill and will. It’s like some cathedral in London that stands more impressively than when you first laid eyes on it decades ago.” When the run was over, Lakers forward Jim McMillian waxed prophetic.
“We just finished a streak that I don’t believe any other team is going to break,” McMillian told the Los Angeles Times after the run ended in Milwaukee.
But did McMillian imply that no team in any sport would break it? If so, he was right again. In all four major sports, no team ever ran with the purple and gold of ’72. Not one.
Leading the way for Los Angeles that season was a 35-year-old Wilt Chamberlain. The superstar center averaged 14.8 points and 19.2 rebounds. Their leading scorer was Gail Goodrich, with 25.9 PPG.
The Lakers went out to win in the 1972 NBA title over the New York Knicks in just five games, with Chamberlain winning the finals MVP.