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Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers keep impressive streak alive with 2020 NBA Finals appearance

The 2020 NBA Finals will be the Los Angeles Lakers' 32nd appearance in franchise history - the most by any NBA team and their first since 2010.

Of their 31 previous appearances in the Finals, the Lakers have come out on top 16 times, giving them a 51.6% winning record. Their 16 titles are second only to the Boston Celtics (17) for the most in NBA history.

Here's a look at how the Lakers have fared against different opponents in their championship series appearances:

Lakers' opponent Matchups Win-Loss
Boston Celtics 12 (1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1984, 1985, 1987, 2008, 2010) 3-9
Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers 6 (1950, 1954, 1980, 1982, 1983, 2001) 4-1
New York Knicks 5 (1952, 1953,1970, 1972, 1973) 3-2
Detroit Pistons 3 (1988, 1989, 2004) 1-2
Washington Capitols 1949 1-0
Chicago Bulls 1991 0-1
Indiana Pacers 2000 1-0
New Jersey Nets 2002 1-0
Orlando Magic 2009 1-0

The 2020 Finals series appearance ensures that the franchise maintains its record of at least one NBA Finals appearance in every decade of the NBA.

Should the Lakers win the 2020 NBA championship, tying them with the Celtics for the most championships ever, they have a legitimate case to be called the most successful franchise in league history, simply on the basis of how spread out their titles are, whereas Boston won 11 of its 17 titles in a 13-year span from 1956 to 1969.

Before we dive into a decade-by-decade breakdown, here are some fast facts from the Lakers Finals appearance:

  • Prior to 2020, the Lakers were their conference's No. 1 seed in 21 of their 31 Finals appearances and went 12-9 in those series.
  • The Lakers have competed in nine Game 7s in the Finals, holding a record of 4-5.

  • The only Finals MVP from the losing side in NBA history was a Laker - Jerry West in 1969 vs. Celtics.

  • The Lakers are one of only three teams in NBA history along with the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls to win three titles in a row. Like the Bulls, the Lakers did it twice - first between 1952-54, then again between 2000-02.

  • In 1985, the Lakers joined the Celtics as the only teams in league history to make four consecutive Finals appearances. Since then, three other franchises joined that short list - Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here's a quick look at how the Lakers have performed decade-by-decade on the grandest stage of them all.

1946-50: The beginning

Finals trips: 2

Championships: 2

The Lakers lifted their first title in 1949 as the Minneapolis Lakers. They were led by 6'10" Hall of Fame centre George Mikan and the late Hall of Fame head coach John Kundla.

During these first few years, the Lakers won a couple of championships. First, against the Washington Capitols in six games in 1949. Then, against the Syracuse Nationals in six games in 1950.

1951-60: 3-peat

Finals trips: 4

Championships: 3

The Lakers established themselves as the league's first dynasty by winning five championships in a span of six years, three of which came between 1951-60.

The Lakers won three straight titles from 1952-54, twice at the hands of the New York Knicks, the last one courtesy of the Syracuse Nationals.

Right after the 3-peat, Mikan retired. He returned for one more season in 1956 but couldn't lead the team back to the Finals.

The franchise re-emerged on the back of Elgin Baylor's superstar rookie season, who led the team back to the Finals, only to be swept by the Celtics.

1961-70: Move to Los Angeles but repeated agony

Finals trips: 7

Championships: 0

Partnering Baylor with Jerry West, who they drafted in 1960, the Lakers were looking set for another dynastic run. However, each time they reached the Finals, they ran into Bill Russell and the Celtics in what turned out to be one of the most frustrating decades for the organisation.

During this decade, the Lakers reached the Finals seven times and lost each one. Six of those losses came at the hands of the Celtics, thrice in heartbreaking fashion in a Game 7 - 1962, 1966 and 1969.

So much so that many years later, West admitted that he hated the colour green and that he hadn't been to Boston since he stopped playing the game.

In 1970, with Russell retired and Celtics not even making the playoffs, the Lakers' window finally opened. But it shut quickly, as they lost in seven games to the New York Knicks.

1971-80: First title in LA, Magic emerges

Finals trips: 3

Championships: 2

It took 12 years and seven unsuccessful trips to the Finals, but in 1972, the Lakers finally captured their first championship since moving to Los Angeles. It came courtesy of a 4-1 revenge series win at the hands of the Knicks.

The Lakers attempted to repeat but lost in the 1973 Finals to the Knicks. Wilt Chamberlain retired that offseason and Jerry West brought the curtains down on his career a year later, but the franchise quickly retooled by trading for league superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975, a player who had already won a championship, an MVP and a Finals MVP.

Even with Abdul-Jabbar, the franchise wouldn't taste any championship success until a rookie called Earvin Johnson came along in 1980. He led the Lakers to the 1980 championship behind a monster game in the clincher while playing centre as a rookie against a veteran Philadelphia 76ers squad.

1981-90: Rivalry with Celtics rekindled

Finals trips: 7

Championships: 4

The 1980s were dominated by the Lakers, including a run of three Finals in four years against their arch-nemesis in the Celtics.

This time, however, they got the upper hand, winning two of those three series.

Over the course of their Finals appearances in the 1980s, the Lakers played multiple teams multiple times for the championship in the 76ers, Celtics and the Detroit Pistons - winning and losing against each.

1991-00: Another dynasty begins

Finals trips: 2

Championship: 1

After the 1991 Finals appearance, the Magic era came to an end in Los Angeles. After that, the franchise only managed one playoff series victory until 1996 - that's when another era began for the Lakers.

They signed Shaquille O'Neal as a free agent and drafted the late Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in the draft. The duo raised expectations but couldn't make the Finals until Phil Jackson was hired as the head coach before the 1999-00 season.

After three postseasons of two Conference Semifinals and a Conference Final exit, the Lakers tasted championship glory once again in 2000, the first of three straight titles.

2001-10: Kobe stars in four titles

Finals trips: 6

Championships: 4

Los Angeles won two more titles (2001 and 2002) before its dynasty ended following a Finals defeat at the hands of the Pistons in 2004. But yet again, the franchise retooled, this time rebuilding around Kobe Bryant and Spaniard Pau Gasol for another three Finals appearances that led to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.

The 2010 title was arguably the sweetest, coming at the hands of a star-studded Celtics squad.

2011-20: 2020 Finals berth keeps streak going

Finals trips: 1

Championship: ?

After Bryant's Achilles injury in 2013, the franchise went through a lull, failing to make the playoffs for six straight seasons from 2014 to 2019. Yet again, the franchise restocked by trading for Anthony Davis, pairing him with LeBron James - their 2018 free-agent signing - to create a contending superstar duo prior to the 2019-20 season.

Can the duo lead the Lakers to a 17th title that will tie them for the most all-time? Win or loss, the 2020 Finals berth keeps the Lakers streak of at least one Finals appearance every decade alive.

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