As a longtime NBA fan (and one who grew up as a staunch Los Angeles Lakers backer), I never thought the day would come that sports fans would have to consider a serious challenger to the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak. And yet, as we stand here today (as of March 26), the Miami Heat are cruising through the Association after 27 consecutive victories.
You see, we’ve always been taught that records were made to be broken, but for me, I thought this particular standard would stand forever, like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, or a player finishing the season with a .400 batting average, or scoring 100 points in a hoops game. This blog is not to wonder whether the Heat could have beaten that Lakers team, or the Bulls team of 1995-96 which won 72 games (because debating different eras is usually a waste of time), but to provide you with some background on one of the greatest teams ever.
That unit featured a splendid blend of players, the tenacious, yet potent backcourt of Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, talented forwards Jim McMillian and Happy Hairston, and dominating big man Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain. If you were wondering where was All-Star Elgin Baylor, the silky-smooth scorer was out for the season after nine games with a knee injury that ultimately ended his playing career.
That squad was special, believe me.
While Miami’s talented band of champions are certainly deserving of any accolades they receive during their demolition run of NBA teams, parts of me wants this record to stand the test of time and never, ever become second-best.
Call me old school if you want, but one particular note about that Lakers team really impresses me about their accomplishment — and it involves back-to-back games.
Remember how much whining went on after last year’s lockout as teams had to endure those stretches in the abbreviated 66-game season (anywhere from one to three sets)? Well, back in the ancient days (and 40 years ago isn’t ancient, youngsters) NBA teams did this with regularity.
As a matter of fact, the Lakers played FOUR SETS of back-to-back games DURING their 33-game streak! Just imagine today’s players trying to pull this off while flying commercially – not via charter – to their next destination after a late-night game with a 6 AM wake-up call three days in a row…then play at least a 48-minute game against the likes of Walt Frazier, Earl “the Pearl ” Monroe, Willis Reed and the New York Knicks or Oscar Robertson, Bobby Dandridge, Lew Alcindor (pre-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the Milwaukee Bucks to name a few. Me thinks there would be a lot of complaining by today’s contemporaries to say the least…
Yes, I certainly believe the Heat will get the record (and shatter it), the Lakers of ’71-72 not only rolled through the NBA with a then-record 69 wins, but they also won their first championship. While it will be stunning if LeBron, DWade and the rest of the Heatles don’t get both, cherish what you’re seeing, because you won’t ever see perfection like it ever again.
Well, maybe not until next season, when they shoot for 82-0…
Arthur Triche is the executive producer of 929 the Game’s afternoon show, “GAMETIME, and he spent 23 years in the Association as a member of the Atlanta Hawks organization. You can follow him on twitter @exhoopsprguy.