Wilt Chamberlain’s Role In The Lakers 1972 Championship Season
Even with all his accolades, Chamberlain had lost in numerous NBA Finals, and before the 1971-1972 season, he had only won one NBA championship.
While he was known for his scoring, Chamberlain was the captain of the 71-72 team, and anchored the defensive effort while he deferred to Jerry West and Gail Goodrich on offense.
Chamberlain would only average 14.8 points a game, but still managed to grab 19.2 boards, and even posted an impressive four assists a game. He played a 82 games and led the league in field goal percentage with a .649 average.
The 71-72 season would turn out to be a historic season, the Lakers would win an impressive 33 games in a row, a record that still stands today. Chamberlain was used to imposing his will on his opponent on offense, but he decided the team would be better if he focused more on the defensive end and on the glass.
While West and Goodrich combined to average over 50 points a game, the true leader was Chamberlain, it was his defense and rebounding that would create easy fast break opportunities for the rest of the Lakers.
His regular season numbers were good, but it was in the post season that Chamberlain stepped it up and produced some fantastic numbers. In the series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he would face the young big man, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Lakers would beat the Bucks in six games, and Chamberlain was impressive in game six, ending up with 24 points and 22 rebounds.
In the NBA Finals, the Lakers would face the New York Knicks, and Chamberlain saved his best for last. The Big Dipper would go on to average 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds per contest. He would break his hand in game four, but that would not stop Chamberlain in game five. Chamberlain scored 24 points, grabbed 29 boards, and recorded eight assists. He was the Finals MVP, and brought the Lakers its first championship in Los Angeles.
Chamberlain sacrificed his own numbers for the ultimate goal, and that was to win a championship. The Laker players accepted their roles and won because of a complete team effort, however it was Chamberlain who was the captain that anchored that mentality. Without Chamberlain, there would be no 33-game winning streak, and more importantly, no 1972 title.
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