Training camp for the Los Angeles Lakers opens on September 26th with a lot of questions swirling. What players will make the opening night roster? Who will new head coach Luke Walton tab for starters? What is the overall expectations for this young team, do they have a chance to compete, and (dreaming) can they actually win it all?
One thing is certain, the Lakers huge are long shots. Currently the Golden State Warriors are 5-4 (-120) favorites to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers just behind at 2-5 (+250). Past the Cavaliers are the San Antonio Spurs at +1,000, the Boston Celtics +1,750, and then the Los Angeles Clippers at +2,000.
The Lakers are a massive +50,000 which translates to 500-1 odds against. Pretty daunting. Have crazier things happened? We asked Mr. Gary Leeboy the sportsbook director at the Lucky Red Sportsbook his thoughts on the Lakers chances and he didn’t seem too optimistic.
“I’ve seen some wild things over the years, but in the NBA we just have not seen many true Cinderella stories. However, the same could have been said about the NFL until the St. Louis Rams in 1999 – it’s sports, you never know… “
Let’s not forget that the Lakers absolutely stunned the Warriors last season. The Los Angeles entered that March 6th game with a record of 12-51. The Warriors were 55-5. At -2,000 to win Los Angeles was the largest NBA home underdog in over 20 years that night. Then they promptly recorded the largest outright NBA upset over the same span. A $100 money-line bet paid $2,000.
Could they do something similar again? Three professional sports teams in the last 30 years have either come close or matched the Lakers long odds.
In 1991 World Series featured a pair of worst-to-first teams. The Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves were 250-to-1 and 300-1 against respectfully to win the World Series. In Major League Baseball prior to the 1991 season, no team had ever won a pennant after finishing last the previous season. The Twins and Braves followed those dreadful seasons by reaching the World Series, with the Twins coming out on top paying $3,000 for every $100 bet.
Similar to the Twins, the 1999 St. Louis Rams were 300-1 underdogs to win the Super Bowl. That off-season the Rams had signed quarterback Trent Green, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. That’s when 28-year old rookie and former Arena Football quarterback Kurt Warner led the “Greatest Show of Turf” to a record 13-3 regular season record, burning the sportsbooks on their way to their only Super Bowl title.
You have to go way back to 1987 to find a 500-1 winner. In Minnesota (again), Tom Kelly was in his first full season as manager of the Twins and expectations were low for a team that had not made the playoffs in over 15 years. The Twins went 85-77 to win the American League West despite getting outscored 806-786. They then shocked the 98-win Detroit Tigers in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. The Twins outlasted the Cardinals 4-3 behind Series MVP Frank Viola paying out an amazing $500 for every $1 bet on pre-season futures.
Though most would settle for a solid rebuilding season, maybe just maybe the Lakers can channel some of their Minnesota history and match the Twins for the greatest sports upset of all time.