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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 7, 1972

Anguish Finally Ends for West and Lakers

May 07, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To Laker fans, for the dozen years their favorite team had been in Los Angeles, it seemed they were destined never to win an NBA championship.

And for sure, it seemed that way to guard Jerry West.

In his 1969 autobiography, West had written: "I guess it just wasn't meant for me to be a member of a championship team."

He had joined the Lakers in 1960, right after the Rome Olympics, then endured eight Boston Celtic championships over the next 11 seasons.

But on this night 27 years ago, at the Forum, "Zeke From Cabin Creek" finally shook off the years of frustration when he helped lead the Lakers to an NBA title with a 114-100 win over the New York Knicks.

A major assist was delivered by Wilt Chamberlain, who ignored a wrist sprained so badly he was advised not to play.

He played all right.

Twenty-four points. Twenty-nine rebounds.

Chamberlain, in a riotous Laker locker room, was asked to compare the Lakers' title to the one in 1967, when he led Philadelphia to the NBA title.

"That Philadelphia team was picked to beat everyone," he replied. "At the start of this season, we weren't."

Another tall guy walked into the Laker locker room that night--Bill Russell, who'd been the leader of those eight Celtic championship teams that had so tormented West.

They shook hands, and West said to him: "I know now how you felt all those times."

Said Russell to others: "I'm just glad to see this happen to him."

West, 33, had 23 points and nine assists.

Also on this date: In 1959, the Dodgers and New York Yankees honored paralyzed ex-Dodger Roy Campanella in a midseason exhibition game at the Coliseum. Campanella, in his wheelchair at home plate, cried as one ovation after another rolled down from the crowd of 93,103, still the largest baseball crowd ever. . . . In 1917, Boston's Babe Ruth pitched a two-hit shutout and beat Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators, 1-0. . . . In 1955, Swaps beat Nashua by 1 1/2 lengths at the Kentucky Derby. . . . In 1957, Cleveland pitcher Herb Score, pitching to the Yankees' Gil McDougald, was hit flush in the eye by line drive and didn't return to pitch for a year.

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