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L.A. Lakers’ 16 Championships = Greatest Franchise Ever?

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers celebrate the franchise's 16th championship Kobe Bryant and the Lakers celebrate the franchise's 16th championship

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals this week to win the franchise’s 16th championship. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and company managed to keep Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen in check long enough to stake their claim as the best team in basketball.

The two biggest questions that arise from this year’s NBA season are these:

1. Are the Lakers the greatest franchise in NBA history?

2. Is Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker of all time?


The question about the greatest NBA franchise comes down to two teams – the Boston Celtics and the Lakers. The Bulls had a great run in the Michael Jordan era, but the numbers don’t come anywhere close to the Celtics’ and the Lakers’.

First of all, the Celts and the Lakers are the only teams whose championships number in double digits, with the Celtics’ 17 being barely better than the Lakers’ 16. There are other criteria for making the “greatest ever” judgment, but that’s the most important.

Overall, the Lakers have significantly more playoff wins (413 vs. 324) and more series wins (106 vs. 88). The two franchises are much closer in total wins, but the Lakers again have the edge (3,027 vs. 3,021).

Both franchises have had their share of star power. The Lakers’ history includes such legends as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain. Boston meanwhile lays claim to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Robert Parish, and the incomparable Bill Russell.

In head-to-head playoff finals, the Lakers have beaten the Celtics just three times in eleven meetings. That is the most painful stat for Lakers fans, and along with the slight edge in championships, is enough to say that the Lakers have just a little more work to do before they can be called the greatest NBA franchise ever.

As for the question about the greatest Laker, Kobe Bryant did himself a huge favor by winning his fifth championship. That ties him with Magic Johnson, who most people consider the number one Laker ever. But is it enough to push him past Magic?

Perhaps that is a question that can’t be answered yet. Although his basketball career has taken its toll on his body, the 31-year-old Bryant still has a few years left to play. And if Phil Jackson returns to L.A. as coach for 2010-11, the Lakers will again be favorites to repeat as NBA champions. It’s possible that Bryant could finish his career with six or even seven championship rings. If that happens, the debate will be over, and Kobe will stand alone as the greatest Laker ever.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 09:36

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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