Lakers’ 1971-72 team relieved to hold onto NBA-record winning streak

Below are some reflections from some members of the Lakers’ 1971-72 team on holding onto the NBA-record 33-game winning streak. The current Miami Heat came close after winning 27 consecutive games.

Bill Sharman, coach of the 1971-71 Lakers (via email)

“I watched the Miami/Bulls game at home with my wife and sister-in-law. We kept going back and forth between the Lakers game and the Heat game. I have to admit that we were all very nervous…..even when Chicago was ahead because the Heat team is so good and has come back from large deficits in other games. I felt that Miami had a very good chance of reaching our streak of 33…..they are an unbelievably good team. Who can say if the 33 straight streak will ever be broken, but as for now, I am glad that it stays with the Lakers and the Miami Heat and Pat Riley can be proud of the monumental feat of winning 27 in a row. I am really glad that Pat Riley was part of our “71 ’72 team, and I would have been among the first to congratulate him if they would have broken the streak.”

Keith Erickson, Lakers reserve forward

On Miami losing to Chicago

“I was in a meeting and my wife texted me and all it said was, “Ha! Chicago beat Miami.” It made me chuckle. That was really fun. I had not watched any of the game. I didn’t know who was winning or any of that. All I heard at the end of the game, it was fun to here. I honestly felt that Miami had a chance to beat it. I never thought that streak would be broken. Low and behold Miami is six or seven games away. They are really good. It was funy they didn’t do it. But they were close and did a good job.”

Does this validate any belief that the record will never be broken?

“Once again, it seems nobody will ever break it. So many things have to go right. Look at the games Miami won. They’re down by 27 in the second half in the Boston game, but they won. It’s a miracle they won that. A lot of things have to happen and have to go right. You know the saying all records are made to be broken. You just think that sometimes there might be a record or two that won’t be broken. This record is pretty incredible. It’s going to take a lot of good fortunte and incredibly great playing to ever break this record. Miami had that combination for 27 games. That was outstanding but not enough. Close but no cigar

Have you talked with any of your former teammates about it? I emailed Gail Goodrich about the same things I just told you. It’s pretty darn tough and not easy to take on. There was never a whole talk about it. Even though our group of guys got together not too long ago [last year at 40th year anniversary], it’s nice to see everybody and nice it’s there. It’s something to be recognized and so there was a 40th reunion of the record. If Miami broke it, we wouldn’t have had a 50 year reunion of that record.

Jim Cleamons, a Lakers rookie on the 1971-72 team

On the Lakers holding onto the record

“The fact remains that the record has lived this long. My wife said something today that, like most things in sports, you got to be good and you got to be lucky. One of these days the right team will have that combination and so be it. That’s the way I felt this year. A couple years ago when Houston made a run at it, they had a nice team and got in a great rhythm [to win 22 straight games]. I was telling another friend today this is bgigeer now than when we were making that history. It’s one of those things I’m happy to be on a team that has that kind of legacy. But it’s out of our control and it’s wonderful having something that is out there like that.

One day if a team gets on a roll and gets 34 and beyond so be it, I wish them well. It was good to see the guys in Miami. Even though they tried to downplay it, it was on their minds. It was comforting that they tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal. But it was. If you’re competitive and get on a roll like that, it shows they have agreat appreciation for what we were able to do in the 71-72 season. Like the Bulls 72-10 record [in the 1995-96 season], those are two records I’ll bet on will last for a long team.

Have you spoken to your former teammates about it?

“We’ve all dne interviews but I haven’t spoken to them. When Miami got so hot, I know we all were a part of various columns. The record is special, but the most special thing is we won a title behind it. It means more when we get together that we know we’re the first Lakers team to win a championship in Los Angeles. In our functions when we’ve gotten together last April and got together this past December within past year, it’s great seeing those guys more, especially when you get out of sports and you don’t see them in basketball related activities. They’ve been fun occasions because we’re older now and the memories are extremely fond with the streak and the championship run.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at

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