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1971–72 NBA season
League National Basketball Association
Sport Basketball
TV partner/s ABC
Regular season
Season MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee)
Top scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee)
Playoffs
Eastern champions New York Knicks
Eastern runners-up Boston Celtics
Western champions Los Angeles Lakers
Western runners-up Milwaukee Bucks
Finals
Finals champions Los Angeles Lakers
Runners-up New York Knicks
Finals MVP Wilt Chamberlain (L.A. Lakers)

The 1971–72 NBA season was the 26th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA Championship, beating the New York Knicks 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals.

As the 25th anniversary of the founding of the modern NBA, the league unveiled a new logo, inspired by the logo of Major League Baseball, to commemorate the occasion. It features the white silhouette of a basketball player dribbling, framed by red and blue. Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers was used as the model for the logo. Coincidentally, Jerry West would win the only NBA Championship of his career during the season.


Notable occurrences

  • The San Diego Rockets relocate to Houston, Texas and become the Houston Rockets.[1]
  • The San Francisco Warriors are renamed the Golden State Warriors as the team moves across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland.[1]
  • The 1972 NBA All-Star Game was played at the Forum in Inglewood, California, with the West beating the East 112-110. To the delight of the home crowd, Jerry West of the Lakers wins the game's MVP award, making a basket at the buzzer to win the game.
  • The Lakers' 69 wins set a new record for most regular season wins in NBA history. This mark would stand for 24 seasons, until it was bettered by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.[1]
  • The Lakers' Elgin Baylor announced his retirement nine games into the season. That night, the Lakers began a winning streak that would last for two months, totaling 33 games. That streak still stands as the longest winning streak in the history of major American professional team sports.[1]
  • The current NBA logo, featuring the silhouette of Jerry West, made its debut. The blue/red pattern was adopted from the Major League Baseball logo.

Season recap

More than the Milwaukee Bucks a year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were clearly the team of the year. While, nine games into the season, before a win against the Baltimore Bullets, NBA legend Elgin Baylor suddenly retired. That victory was the first of a record 33 game win streak. The Lakers completed 2 undefeated months going 14-0 in November and 16-0 in December. After winning their first three in January the Lakers lost 120-104 to Milwaukee Bucks. One of reasons of success was Wilt Chamberlain who was told by coach Bill Sharman to concentrate on defense, just as Bill Russell did with the Celtics several years ago. On March 20, 1972 the Lakers beat Golden State by a record 162-99, setting a record for largest margin of victory, 63 points, breaking the old record of 62 points. The mark stood until 1991, when Cleveland beat Miami by 68 points (148-80). The Lakers finished off the season with a record 69 wins, though the record would be broken in the 1995–96 season.[1]

The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks won 63 games and captained by the renamed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The team was very similar to last year's team except that NBA legend Oscar Robertson was 12 months older. The other division champion with a winning record was the Boston Celtics led by point guard Jo Jo White and 32 year-old swingman John Havlicek. Boston had now recovered from the retirement of NBA legend Bill Russell and role players K.C. Jones and Sam Jones. Over the last three season LA and Boston traded weakness and strengths. For example, Boston now had a so-so center, while the Lakers had a similar defensive center to Bill Russell.

In the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Bulls and Milwaukee defeated Golden State. New York beat the Bullets and Boston won against the Atlanta Hawks. In the conference finals the Lakers lost Game 1 versus the Bucks at The Forum 116-72, but a Laker squad led by assist champion Jerry West, leading scorer Gail Goodrich, and veteran Wilt Chamberlain beat Milwaukee, led by the 1972 scoring champion, in six games. New York beat the top seed Celtics in five games.[1]

In the NBA Finals, New York won Game 1 very easily, but Los Angeles won Game 2 106-92 to even this series. In Game 3 the Los Angeles Lakers danced out to a 22-point lead and regained home-court advantage with a 107-96 win. In Game 4 the Knicks kept it close, enough to go into overtime. At the end of regulation 35 year-old captain Wilt Chamberlain picked up his fifth foul. In his first 12 seasons he never fouled out of a game. However, in overtime he didn't foul out, though he did break his wrist. The Lakers won 116-111, leading 3-1 heading back to Los Angeles. In Game 5, Wilt Chamberlain played despite his injury. The score was tied at 53 in the first half but the Lakers outscored the Knicks 61-47 in the second half to win the game and a tile 114-100.[1]

Like Baylor, star guard Jerry West had been brilliant in defeat for so many years in the NBA Finals, almost didn't seem right that he was no longer a dominant player when the Lakers finally won the Championship.

"I played terrible basketball in the Finals and we won," West said. "And that didn't seem to be justice for me personally, because I had contributed so much in other years when we lost. Now, when we won, I was just another piece of the machinery. It was particularly frustrating because I was playing so poorly that the team overcame me."

"But maybe that's what a team is all about." [1]

Notable trades

1971 To Baltimore Bullets----

Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth, 1973 first round pick, 1976 second and first round picks

To New York Knicks----

Earl Monroe

Final standings

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Boston Celtics 56 26 .683 -
New York Knicks 48 34 .585 8
Philadelphia 76ers 30 52 .366 26
Buffalo Braves 22 60 .268 34
Central Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Baltimore Bullets 38 44 .463 -
Atlanta Hawks 36 46 .439 2
Cincinnati Royals 30 52 .366 8
Cleveland Cavaliers 23 59 .280 15

Western Conference

Midwest Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Milwaukee Bucks 63 19 .768 -
Chicago Bulls 57 25 .695 6
Phoenix Suns 49 33 .598 14
Detroit Pistons 26 56 .317 37
Pacific Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Los Angeles Lakers C 69 13 .841 -
Golden State Warriors 51 31 .622 18
Seattle SuperSonics 47 35 .573 22
Houston Rockets 34 48 .415 35
Portland Trail Blazers 18 64 .220 51

C - NBA Champions

Playoff bracket

Conference Semifinals Conference Finals NBA Finals
1 L.A. Lakers 4
4 Chicago 0
1 L.A. Lakers 4
Western Conference
2 Milwaukee 2
2 Milwaukee 4
3 Golden State 1
W1 L.A. Lakers 4
E3 New York 1
1 Boston 4
4 Atlanta 2
1 Boston 1
Eastern Conference
3 New York 4
2 Baltimore 2
3 New York 4

Finals

Game Date Winner Score Site
Game 1 April 26 (Wed.) New York Knicks 114-92 at Los Angeles
Game 2 April 30 (Sun.) Los Angeles Lakers 106-92 at Los Angeles
Game 3 May 3 (Wed.) Los Angeles Lakers 107-96 at New York
Game 4 May 5 (Fri.) Los Angeles Lakers 116-111 at New York
Game 5 May 7 (Sun.) Los Angeles Lakers 114-100 at Los Angeles

Lakers win series 4-1

Statistics leaders

Category Player Team Stat
Points per game Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Milwaukee Bucks 34.8
Rebounds per game Wilt Chamberlain Los Angeles Lakers 19.2
Assists per game Jerry West Los Angeles Lakers 9.7
FG% Wilt Chamberlain Los Angeles Lakers .649
FT% Jack Marin Baltimore Bullets .894

NBA awards

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