This was the LosAngeles Lakers: a team or many coaches, multistars, manic hopes—and no titles.They were pro basketball's perpetual heirs apparent. They were clearly over thehill when last season started, but they were just as clearly the divisionchamps when it was over, winning more games than any predecessor. Then in theplayoffs—scene of those old familiar failures—they won it all. This ascensionwas inspired by a demanding new coach and led by new stars; the night ElginBaylor retired, young Jim McMillian (at right) became a starter and Los Angelesbegan a procession of 33 consecutive wins. Most of the oldtime heroes like WiltChamberlain, Jerry West and the others on the pages that ensue are stillaround, and now they must defend their championship. Sure enough, three strongpotential spoilers await them right in their own backyard. The prospects forthe Super-Pacific and scouting reports on all the pro teams of both leaguesstart on page 59, followed by an introduction to a new member of basketball'sbusiness hierarchy.
The shiningsuccess of the Lakers' fast break is mirrored in a playoff win over Milwaukee.Dashing downcourt in textbook-perfect alignment, West dribbles through themiddle as Goodrich and McMillian fill the outside lanes. Rebounders Chamberlainand Hairston trail behind after Wilt set up the play with a crisp outlet pass.Other breakaways resulted from larcenous defense by West, who stole the showfrom Oscar Robertson. The Lakers' race to the title bathed The Forum in goldand left Sharman speechless. He futilely tried a bullhorn, but it was thechampionship that spoke loudest for him.
Leadingcomfortably, Sharman, Chamberlain, Assistant Coach K. C. Jones and West relaxas the subs polish off o playoff win Otherwise, the Lakers rarely relaxed: theypracticed so often that their warmup suits (below) became all-day attire on theroad.