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Jerry West

By the Numbers: The Lakers’ 33-game win streak vs the Heat’s 24-game win streak

(Your weekly dose of Silver Screen & Roll goodness. My newest. Dig it)

“In basketball you can get a unique team and Miami has a unique team. They have great three-point shooting and they’re never out of a game because of that and then they have the best player in the game who does all the little things. I never thought this streak would live forever, no…I just think it’s a streak that could very easily be broken this year.”–Jerry West, Hall of Famer and member of the 1971-1972 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers

 
The 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers accomplished what no professional team had ever done before–in fact, it wasn’t even close. That LA team won 33 straight games, which still stands as an NBA record today. That streak was 13 more than the 20-gamer by the 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks, who were on their way to the town’s only NBA championship.
 
The Lakers did all this on the amazing play of three Hall of Fame players, and the inspiration of one more. West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich teamed up to form one of the most lethal inside-out combinations of all time, their play spurred on by the surprise early season retirement of Elgin Baylor. The first of their 33 straight began on November 5th, 1971 and ended nearly two months later on January 9th, 1972 in a 120-104 loss to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his Milwaukee Bucks. The wins helped the Lakers set an NBA record at 69-13, a mark that stood for 24 years until Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls broke it. Regular season immortality wasn’t enough for that Lakers team–a few months after their win streak ended, the Lakers won the franchise’s first title in Los Angeles, a first for West and a second for Chamberlain.
 
But now this 40-year-old record is on the verge of being broken by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat. The reigning NBA champions have won 24 straight games which now ranks as the second-most all-time. With only 3 of their next 10 games against playoff teams, what was once thought of as an unbreakable streak is now within range of turning breakable.
 
Inevitably, there have been comparisons between these two teams, with the Worldwide Leader summoning up images of West, Chamberlain and company with every Heat victory. At this point, there’s little doubt that the Lakers’ 33-game streak is the more impressive of the two. However, with the improvements in sports science and scouting, as well as the expansive media and public scrutiny following the team, is winning 24 games in today’s NBA more impressive than it would have been in 1972? Is what LeBron and company are doing that much more difficult than how West’s Lakers glided through one of the low points in league history?
 
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