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By Lorenzo Tanos
We don't need to get you started on the dysfunction currently plaguing the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers lineup, but despite what looks to be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth this year, the Lakers are still one of the NBA's most iconic teams ever. Their rivalry with the Boston Celtics is one that spans more than five decades, and their more recent rivalries with the Sacramento Kings and L.A. Clippers have been quite entertaining as well. And now we have more NBA trivia, this time focusing on the Lakers and their long, proud history dating back to the immediate post-World War II days.
1. True or False – The Lakers' first incarnation was in Minneapolis, where Minnesota's state nickname served as an inspiration for the team name.
False.Although the Minneapolis Lakers started out as such in 1947, the team's owners had actually purchased the 1946-47 Detroit Gems, who had disbanded going into the '47-48 season. Hence, the Lakers can ironically trace their roots to Detroit, ironic as the L.A. Lakers and Detroit Pistons had quite a rivalry back in the late '80s and early '90s – the (ostensibly) wholesome, fast-paced "Showtime" Lakers versus the "Bad Boys" of Detroit.
2. His NBA career as the dominant center of the late '40s and early '50s needs no introduction, but what was the legendary George Mikan's record as an NBA coach?
9-30. With a depleted lineup and a gaggle of inexperienced youngsters, including disappointing first-rounders "Hot Rod" Hundley and Jim Krebs, the 1957-58 Lakers finished 19-53. Mikan, who had retired a few seasons back, went 9-30 before his old coach John Kundla returned to pilot the Lakers to a 10-23 record the rest of the way. Fortunately, that league-worst record allowed the 1958-59 Lakers to draft a first-overall pick who didn't disappoint – Elgin Baylor.
3. How many points did Elgin Baylor score in the 1962 Finals to set a record that still stands after more than five decades?
61. One would think someone like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant would have set this record. But Baylor had set this in 1962, and no one to this day has scored more than 61 in a Finals game. With defensive play having improved since the mid-'90s, it won't be surprising if that record will continue to stand for a while.
4. True or False – The Lakers won an NBA championship in the same year that Wilt Chamberlain joined the team.
False. You have to wonder what it is with the Lakers and newly-minted "super-lineups"; the 2012-13 debacle with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, 2003-04 with Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and 1968-69 with Baylor, Jerry West and Chamberlain. They just don't seem to get the job done when it matters the most. The Lakers did win a championship in 1972 with West and Chamberlain, but Baylor had retired very early in the 1971-72 season due to injuries and advanced age.
5. True or False – Chamberlain had his lowest-scoring season ever the same year he set an NBA record for highest field goal percentage in a season.
True. Chamberlain's 72.7% field goal percentage from the 1972-73 season is a record that remains unbroken, and a record that may very well stand for a long, long time. But since he only took 7.1 field goal attempts per game, he averaged only 13.2 ppg that year, his last in the NBA. That's close to one fourths the 50.4 ppg he averaged in 1961-62 and also his lowest scoring season in a 14-year NBA career.
6. Before Pat Riley's definitive run as Lakers coach from 1981-90 and Paul Westhead's polarizing tenure from 1979-81, who coached the Lakers and served as Magic Johnson's first NBA mentor?
Jack McKinney went 10-4 for the Lakers to start the 1979-80 season before suffering a freak bicycle accident that led to assistant Westhead taking over. McKinney would later go on to coach the Indiana Pacers and Kansas City Kings to little success, although he did win Coach of the Year honors in 1980-81 by leading the Pacers to a 44-38 record.
7. True or False – Michael Cooper is the only reserve to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.
True. Cooper was the first and only player to achieve this feat, as he had started only 2 out of 82 games in 1986-87 when he won Defensive Player of the Year. A case can be made for Dennis Rodman in 1989-90, but then again, he started a shade over 50% of the Pistons' games that season (43 of 82).
8. What position did Magic Johnson play in his comeback season with the Lakers in 1995-96?
Del Harris, then the Lakers' head coach, was criticized by many by playing the 6'9" Johnson at power forward in 1995-96. The position, after all, was befitting of a man his height, but not a man who had spent over a decade as one of the NBA's top two point guards. Johnson averaged 14.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 6.9 apg in an off-the-bench role before retiring for good in 1996.
9. When was the last time the Lakers failed to reach the Playoffs?
Remember this, because the Lakers just might miss out this season if they don't sort out their chemistry issues. The Lakers went 34-48 in 2004-05 with Rudy Tomjanovich (24-19) and Frank Hamblen (10-29) sharing head coaching duties for the season. Despite the late-season slump, this was actually quite decent, considering the Lakers started the likes of Chucky Atkins at point guard and Chris Mihm at center.
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