On This Date in Sports May 7, 1972: Lakers At Last

In collaboration with the sportsecyclopedia.com

The Los Angeles Lakers finally are on top of the basketball world, beating the New York Knicks 114-100 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Forum. The Lakers had lost in the NBA Finals seven times in ten years, with six losses coming at the hands of the Boston Celtics. The Lakers also lost to the Knicks in 1970, with four of the seven series defeats going seven games. The Lakers had a historic season, winning 33 straight games on the way to a 69-13 season. Wilt Chamberlain is named NBA Finals MVP, averaging 23.2 points and 19.4 rebounds per game.

The Los Angeles Lakers were the NBA's annual bridesmaid. Since winning their fifth championship in Minneapolis, the Lakers had lost in the NBA Finals eight times, seven to the Boston Celtics, with all but one series going at least six games. After failing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Western Finals in 1971, the Lakers got bad news nine games into the 1971/72 season as longtime star Elgin Baylor retired after being unable to return to full strength following an Achilles injury. The Lakers responded, going on a historic 33-game winning streak to set the NBA wins mark at 69. In the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Chicago Bulls before slipping by the Bucks in six games to return to the NBA Finals. 

The New York Knicks had won their first NBA Championship in 1970 but were shot down by the Baltimore Bullets in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals in 1971. Looking to regain their crown, the Knicks posted a record of 48-34 under Red Holtzman. They avenged their loss to Baltimore, winning a first-round series in six games, before upsetting the Boston Celtics in five games to return to the NBA Finals. The Knicks made it to the finals, despite captain Willis Reed missing most of the season with a knee injury.

The Knicks stunned the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, winning  114-92 at the Forum. Bill Bradley and Jerry Lucas led the way for New York, scoring 29 and 26 points, respectively. The Lakers rebounded to win Game 2, as the Knicks sorely missed Dave  DeBusschere, who suffered a rib cage injury. The Lakers won the game 106-92, as Gail Goodrich led the way with 31 points. 

Dave DeBusschere tried to play through pain in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks could not match the Lakers' six, with Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain combing for 51 points as the Lakers won 107-96 to take control of the series. Game 4 would be the most exciting of the series, as the game went into overtime. The Lakers won the battle 116-111 to take a 3-1 series lead, as Wilt Chamberlain had 24 rebounds while Jerry West led the way with 28 points. 

The Lakers used a stifling defense in Game 5 to secure the championship as Wilt Chamberlain as he flirted with a quadruple-double with 24 points, 29 rebounds, eight blocks, and eight assists as Los Angeles secured the title with a 114-100 win.