The 2009 Finals mark the Lakers' record 30th appearance in the championship round. They are 14-15 all time. Here is a look at how they compiled that record.
Led by dominant big man George Mikan, the Lakers won five titles in six years in Minneapolis (1949-50; 1952-54). They also reached the 1959 Finals behind Rookie of the Year Elgin Baylor but lost to the Celtics, who launched their run of eight consecutive championships. The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
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The first Boston-L.A. Finals was a classic, thanks to Jerry West's game-winning steal and layup in Game 3, Elgin Baylor's 61-point eruption in Game 5 and the Celtics' 110-107 overtime victory in Game 7.
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Bob Cousy retired a champion as the Celtics denied Jerry West and Elgin Baylor again, this time in six games.
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The hard part for the Celtics was getting to the Finals, as they needed John Havlicek's famous steal to put away the 76ers in Game 7 of the East Division championship. With the Lakers' Elgin Baylor sidelined by a knee injury, Boston's average margin of victory in its four Finals wins was 23 points.
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Calling it a "great way to go out," Red Auerbach won his eighth consecutive championship (and ninth overall) in his swan song as Boston coach. Auerbach announced during the series that he would be replaced by Bill Russell, who finished with 25 points and 32 rebounds in the decisive Game 7.
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First-year coach Butch van Breda Kolff couldn't reverse the Lakers' fortunes against Bill Russell and the Celtics, who had a harder time getting past the defending champion 76ers in the Eastern Division finals.
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Another Celtics legend went out a winner: Bill Russell retired as a player after collecting his 11th championship, spoiling a brilliant series by Jerry West, who averaged 37.9 points and became the first (and still only) player from a losing team to be named Finals MVP. In Game 7, the Celtics nearly squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, but, thanks in part to Don Nelson's famous last-minute shot near the free-throw line, held on to win 108-106.
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The series is best remembered for an inspirational appearance by Willis Reed in New York's Game 7 win, but it also featured Jerry West's buzzer-beating 60-footer to force OT in Game 3; another OT finish in Game 4; the Knicks' comeback from a 13-point halftime deficit to win Game 5 after Reed left with a leg injury; Wilt Chamberlain's 45-point, 27-rebound domination in L.A's Game 6 win; and Walt Frazier's 36-point, 19-assist tour de force in Game 7.
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After a record-breaking regular season under first-year coach Bill Sharman -- the Lakers won 33 consecutive games and finished 69-13, the best mark until the 1995-96 Bulls went 72-10 -- L.A. finally broke through for its first title since moving west in 1960.
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The third Knicks-Lakers Finals matchup in four years ended with a five-game victory for New York, which got the best of the aging Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. The Lakers would go another seven years before advancing to the Finals again.
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With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (ankle) sidelined for Game 6, rookie Magic Johnson moved to center and led the Lakers to a series-clinching 123-107 victory. Johnson, the Finals MVP, had 42 points and 15 rebounds.
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In November, Magic Johnson was demanding a trade (the Lakers responded by replacing coach Paul Westhead with Pat Riley) and getting booed at home. By June, he was winning the Finals MVP award again, controlling the Game 6 clincher with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists.
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With first-year Sixer Moses Malone joining Julius Erving, Philadelphia went 65-17 in the regular season and won 12 of 13 playoff games, including all four in the Finals against the injury-plagued Lakers.
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The first Finals duel between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson lived up to expectations, from Gerald Henderson's improbable steal to save the Celtics in Game 2, to Kevin McHale's clothesline of Kurt Rambis that helped turn the tide in the Game 4 overtime classic, to the Lakers' furious comeback in their Game 7 loss in Boston.
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The series started with a more-of-the-same feel as the Celtics whipped the Lakers 148-114 in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. But the Lakers bounced back to win Game 2 in Boston, took two of three in Los Angeles (losing Game 4 on Dennis Johnson's buzzer-beating jumper) and finished off the Celtics on their home floor in Game 6 behind Finals MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 29 points. Finally, the Lakers had beaten the Celtics in the Finals after eight consecutive series losses.
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In one of the most memorable moments in Finals history, Magic Johnson won Game 4 with what he called his "junior, junior, junior sky hook." That victory in Boston gave the Lakers a 3-1 lead; they wrapped it up two games later in Los Angeles, where 39-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 32 points and Magic closed with 16 points, 19 assists and eight rebounds. Johnson became the fourth player to win the regular-season and Finals MVP awards.
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Games 6 and 7 alone made this series an all-timer. First, in Game 6, Isiah Thomas scored 25 third-quarter points on a sprained ankle, but the Lakers overtook the Pistons in the final minute and won 103-102 to stay alive. In Game 7, with the injury limiting Thomas, the Lakers staved off the Pistons' late rally behind James Worthy, who finished with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
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In 43-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's swan song, injuries to Magic Johnson and Byron Scott hampered the Lakers and cleared the way for the Bad Boys to sweep the series.
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After winning five titles in the 1980s, the Lakers passed the torch to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, who won this series to begin their run of six championships in eight seasons.
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The Shaq- and Kobe-led Lakers did their heavy lifting in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals when they rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to topple the Trail Blazers. They dispatched Reggie Miller and the Pacers in six games in the Finals for the first of three consecutive championships.
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A Game 1 overtime loss to Allen Iverson and Co. was the Lakers' only defeat in 16 postseason games. Shaquille O'Neal averaged 33.0 points and 15.8 rebounds in the Finals.
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After surviving a classic and controversial series against the Kings in the Western Conference finals, the Lakers swept the Nets for their third consecutive championship. Shaquille O'Neal joined Michael Jordan as the only players to win three Finals MVP awards in a row.
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A six-game loss to the Pistons spelled the end of the Shaq-Kobe era in Los Angeles. O'Neal was traded after the season and Phil Jackson departed as coach (only to return a year later). Minus Shaq, Kobe would miss the playoffs in 2005 and lose in the first round in '06 and '07.
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Boosted by a midseason trade for Pau Gasol, the Lakers lost only three games in the first three rounds of the playoffs. But they couldn't get past a highly motivated Celtics team that swarmed Kobe Bryant on one end and spread the wealth among three future Hall of Famers (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) on the other.
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