Laker Winning Streak Comes To An End

On January 9, 1972, the 24-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the Milwaukee Bucks in a 120-104 victory over Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers, breaking the Lakers’ record 33-game winning streak, the longest of any team in American professional sports.

Coached by former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman and led by future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, the 1971-72 Lakers began their historic run of victories on November 5, 1971 when they beat the Baltimore Bullets in Baltimore, 110-106. They set a new NBA record with their 21st win on December 11, beating the Atlanta Hawks 104-95 and surpassing the 20-game winning streak the Bucks had put together the previous year.

The defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champion Bucks got their revenge on January 9, when a keyed-up Abdul-Jabbar scored 39 points, outplaying Chamberlain (15 points) with more rebounds (20 vs. 12), blocked shots (10 vs. 6) and assists (5 vs. 2). Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance, combined with a “get-back” defense formulated by Bucks Coach Larry Costello, decisively halted the Lakers’ historic streak.

After ending their season with a then-record 69 wins, Chamberlain and his team beat the Bucks in the Western division title match. This got them a berth in the NBA finals, where they decisively defeated the New York Knicks, four games to one. Chamberlain retired from professional basketball in 1973, and two years later Abdul-Jabbar joined the Lakers, where he later teamed with Magic Johnson to make Los Angeles the dominant team of the 1980s.

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