In the last week, Kobe Bryant became the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history and Paul Pierce surpassed Larry Bird and now trails only John Havlicek as the leading scorer in Celtics history.
Although each achievement was exceptional, such feats are not allowed to stand on their own. Not in sports. When records are set, there is a larger discussion – is that player the greatest of all-time in that sport or for that franchise? And if not, it is absolutely mandatory that we know exactly where he is ranked.
And we must hear from everybody.
A few years ago, I decided to approach it a different way and now seems a good time to update that exercise. A fun project for any franchise – but the Lakers and Celtics in particular – is to take the NBA awards structure and apply it to each team.
It is when you do that and compare it to other teams that you realize, again, how dominant the two franchises have been. The NBA has had 65 champions. Thirty-three of those titles have been won by the Celtics or Lakers. The reason is because they have had the best front office, best coaches and best players.
At the end of each season, the NBA names a first ,second and third team, and recognizes the most valuable player, best defensive player, coach, most improved, etc. So I’m going to apply that structure to the Celtics and Lakers and, of course, let the debate begin. Or continue.
I do feel compelled to point out to “NBA expert” Tim Legler that the Lakers were a franchise before they began playing in Los Angeles. That apparently escaped Legler last week when he was selecting his all-time top five Lakers from a list of 10 that did not include George Mikan, merely voted the greatest player of the first half of the 20th century by The Associated Press.
You cannot do a history of the Lakers without including the Minneapolis years (1948-1960). If you do, you eliminate five titles and instead of a 17-16 lead in titles by the Celtics, it becomes 17-11. And what Laker fan wants that?
The NBA officially includes the Minneapolis years in Lakers history. What Legler may not know is that the Lakers franchise originally started when a group of businessmen purchased the Detroit Gems franchise from the National Basketball League in 1947 and moved it to Minneapolis. Those Detroit years are not a part of NBA history because the league does not recognize the NBL history.
But the league does recognize Lakers history, just as it recognizes Pistons records from Fort Wayne, Golden State records from Philadelphia, 76ers records from Syracuse and Kings records from Kansas City, Omaha, Cincinnati and Rochester.
And the league has the right to determine its official history. Legler does not.
OK. I’ll relax. Got that out of the way.
So now, we attack the project and here’s how deep the franchises are: Wilt Chamberlain is not on the all-franchise first, second or third team for the Lakers.