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1972 NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers Bill Sharman 4
New York Knicks Red Holzman 1
DatesApril 26–May 7
MVPWilt Chamberlain
(Los Angeles Lakers)
Hall of FamersLakers:
Elgin Baylor (1977)
Wilt Chamberlain (1979)
Jerry West (1980)
Gail Goodrich (1996)
Pat Riley (2008, as a coach)
Jerry Lucas (1980)
Willis Reed (1982)
Bill Bradley (1983)
Dave DeBusschere (1983)
Walt Frazier (1987)
Earl Monroe (1990)
Phil Jackson (2007, as a coach)
Dick Barnett (2024)
Red Holzman (1986)
Bill Sharman (2004)
Eastern FinalsKnicks defeated Celtics, 4–1
Western FinalsLakers defeated Bucks, 4–2
← 1971 NBA Finals 1973 →

The 1972 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round played at the conclusion of the 1971–72 National Basketball Association (NBA) season. The Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Eastern Conference champion New York Knicks in five games to win their sixth title.[1]: 166  The Lakers won their first NBA championship since the franchise moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, Minnesota.[2]


The 1972 NBA Finals was a rematch of the 1970 NBA Finals that the Knicks had won in a full seven-game series.[3]

Los Angeles Lakers

The 1971-72 Lakers won a then NBA-record 69 regular season games, including 33 wins in a row—a record which still stands. The 69 wins would remain a record for the most wins in a season until the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls (who were coached by former Knicks player Phil Jackson) broke it in route to a 72-win season that also resulted in a championship. The Lakers were led by Wilt Chamberlain, the NBA's top rebounder that season. Guards Gail Goodrich and Jerry West were each among the NBA's top ten scorers. The Lakers were the league highest-scoring team, averaging 121 points per game. West also led the NBA in assists.

Los Angeles swept a solid 57-win Chicago Bulls team in the playoffs' opening round, then defeated the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks (record of 63–19) in six games to win the Western Conference Finals. That historic series had matched Chamberlain against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and West against Oscar Robertson.

New York Knicks

New York was a top defensive team that allowed just 98.2 points per game and made 47% of their shots as a team.[4] They had defeated the 38-win Baltimore Bullets and then upset the 56-win Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference Finals.

Series summary

Game Date Home team Result Road team Referees
Game 1 April 26 Los Angeles Lakers 92–114 (0–1)[5] New York Knicks Richie Powers, Ed Rush
Game 2 April 30 Los Angeles Lakers 106–92 (1–1)[6] New York Knicks Mendy Rudolph, Jack Madden
Game 3 May 3 New York Knicks 96–107 (1–2)[7] Los Angeles Lakers Don Murphy, Richie Powers
Game 4 May 5 New York Knicks 111–116 (OT) (1–3)[8] Los Angeles Lakers Mendy Rudolph, Jake O'Donnell
Game 5 May 7 Los Angeles Lakers 114–100 (4–1)[9]> New York Knicks Richie Powers, Jack Madden, Ed Rush (Alternate)

Lakers win series 4–1[10][11]

Game-by-game summary

Game 1

April 26
New York Knicks 114, Los Angeles Lakers 92[12]
Scoring by quarter: 33–28, 34–21, 19–19, 28–24
Pts: Bradley 29
Rebs: DeBusschere 18
Asts: Frazier 11
Pts: Goodrich 20
Rebs: Chamberlain 19
Asts: West 7
New York leads series, 1–0
The Forum
Attendance: 17,505
Referees: Richie Powers, Ed T. Rush

Willis Reed was out with a knee injury, but his replacement, Jerry Lucas, scored 26 points on 13 of 21 shooting to lead the Knicks to the win in the series opener. Lucas, a 6'9" center, was an excellent outside shooter. Chamberlain would not pursue him far from the basket and preferred to position for rebounds instead. The intelligent Lucas exploited this fact. But Lucas was not the only Knick who was red hot. Bill Bradley hit 11 of 12 shots from the field as New York shot 53 percent as a team for the game. The team took advantage of a nearly perfect first half to jump to a good lead and won easily, 114-92. New York hit 16 of their first 20 shots and led after each quarter. The win was considered a surprising upset. Dave DeBusschere added 19 points and 18 rebounds. Walt Frazier triple-doubled with 14 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds. The high-scoring Lakers backcourt of Jerry West and Gail Goodrich shot a cold 11 of 37, and no Los Angeles players took up their slack.

Game 2

April 30
New York Knicks 92, Los Angeles Lakers 106[13]
Scoring by quarter: 26–30, 24–21, 11–28, 31-27
Pts: Frazier 21
Rebs: Jackson, Lucas 11 each
Asts: Frazier 7
Pts: Goodrich 31
Rebs: Chamberlain 24
Asts: West 13
Series tied, 1–1
The Forum
Attendance: 17,505
Referees: Mendy Rudolph, Jack Madden

Heavily criticized for their Game 1 loss in the home opener, the Lakers looked to avenge themselves on their home court again. But at halftime, the Lakers' lead was just 51-50. Knicks forward DeBusschere, straining in position battles against the gigantic Chamberlain, hurt his side and did not play after the first half. The loss of DeBusschere, a key New York rebounder and defender, would badly hurt the team's chances from this point forward. He had played 43 minutes in Game 1, and the Knicks relied on him heavily. Also playing hurt was New York guard Earl Monroe. The Lakers' Gail Goodrich took advantage and netted 31 points. The still cold-shooting West simply passed and had 13 assists. Chamberlain took advantage of DeBusschere's absence and pulled down 24 rebounds, controlling the middle at both ends of the court. Lucas had foul trouble and sat much of the third quarter, with New York scoring just 11 points in the period. A New York rally in the fourth quarter could not stop a 106-92 Los Angeles win to even the series.

Both teams used short rotations during the series. Los Angeles played each of its starters 40 minutes or more in Game 2, with Chamberlain playing all 48. New York figured to do the same, but now had to deal with injury issues to DeBusschere and Monroe.

Game 3

May 3
Los Angeles Lakers 107, New York Knicks 96[14]
Scoring by quarter: 23–28, 29–19, 28–18, 27-31
Pts: Chamberlain 26
Rebs: Chamberlain, Hairston 20 each
Asts: West 8
Pts: Frazier 25
Rebs: Lucas 14
Asts: Lucas 6
Los Angeles leads series, 2–1
Madison Square Garden
Attendance: 19,588
Referees: Don Murphy, Richie Powers

The Knicks' Dave DeBusschere was listed as doubtful for Game Three.[15][16] Despite injury issues, New York fans were optimistic as the series now headed to Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks went 5-0 vs. the Bullets and Celtics in route to the Finals. The Knicks had gotten their ' split ' in two games in Los Angeles, and now had a chance to take control of the series. DeBusschere gamely attempted to play in the first half, but simply could not overcome his injury. He missed all six of his field-goal attempts. He was hurting and elected not to play in the second half. DeBusschere explained: "I didn't feel I was helping the team". Lucas, the star of Game 1, tried to take up DeBusschere's slack. He hit 11 of 21 shots for 23 total points and 14 rebounds in 47 minutes of play. He also added a team-high six assists. Frazier added 25 points himself. Bradley went a cold 5 of 17. The Lakers led 52-47 at the half, and with DeBusschere out, took over the game again in the third quarter. Chamberlain and Laker forward Happy Hairston collected 20 rebounds apiece, with the Laker giant also adding 26 points on 9 of 10 shooting. West and Goodrich combined for 46 points, and Los Angeles danced out to a 22-point lead and took a 2-1 lead in the series with a 107-96 win. Nineteen thousand five-hundred New York fans watched the contest.

Game 4

May 5
Los Angeles Lakers 116, New York Knicks 111 (OT[17])
Scoring by quarter: 26–28, 27-28, 25-25, 23-20, Overtime: 15-10
Pts: Chamberlain 30
Rebs: Chamberlain, Hairston 20 each
Asts: West 7
Pts: Bradley 30
Rebs: DeBusschere 13
Asts: Lucas 11
Los Angeles leads series, 3–1

The Knicks felt that Game 4 was a must-win game. DeBusschere vowed to play, lasting 48 minutes and pulling down a team-high 13 rebounds. New York led 56-53 at the half. After an even third quarter, the Lakers rallied in the fourth. West made a clutch basket to give the Lakers the lead with seconds left, but a Frazier tip-in over Chamberlain evened the score. West missed at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime tied 101-101. The Lakers would outscore New York 15-10 in the extra frame to win 116-111 and take a commanding 3-1 series lead back to Los Angeles.

All five Los Angeles starters played at least 45 minutes in Game 4, with Lakers coach Bill Sharman using just seven players total. Chamberlain played all 53 minutes and had 24 rebounds. The Laker starting guards combined for 56 points to again key the team.

In the game New York had two players that played at least 50 minutes. Lucas played all 53 minutes, and had 25 points on 11-22 shooting, with 11 assists and eight rebounds. Frazier had 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 50 minutes.

This was the first championship series game officiated by Jake O'Donnell, who was precluded from working playoff games during his first four seasons in the NBA due to his career as a professional baseball umpire. O'Donnell was called up to the American League in September 1968 and was in Major League Baseball through the 1971 American League Championship Series, when he left the diamond to focus on basketball. O'Donnell would officiate in the championship series (renamed the NBA Finals in 1986) every year through 1994.

Game 5

May 7
New York Knicks 100, Los Angeles Lakers 114[18]
Scoring by quarter: 24-26, 29-27, 25-30, 22-31
Pts: Frazier 31
Rebs: DeBusschere 14
Asts: Frazier 10
Pts: Goodrich 25
Rebs: Chamberlain 29
Asts: West 9
Los Angeles wins the series, 4–1
The Forum
Attendance: 17,505
Referees: Richie Powers, Jack Madden

Chamberlain was listed as doubtful for Game Five with a sprained right wrist.[19]

The Lakers returned home looking to win their first title in Los Angeles. After playing to a 53-all tie at halftime, The Lakers finally pulled away from the tired Knicks in the second half.

Chamberlain dominated the middle, flirting with what would've been a quadruple-double with 24 points, 29 rebounds, eight blocks and eight assists in 47 minutes. Blocked shots were not an official NBA stat at that time, but ABC announcer Keith Jackson counted them up during the broadcast. West and Goodrich combined for 48 points.

Walt Frazier had 27 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in 47 minutes for the Knicks.

The Lakers won 114-100[20] to claim their first NBA Championship in Los Angeles. For the series, Chamberlain averaged 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds and was named Finals Most Valuable Player.

West had averaged 19.8 points and 8.8 assists, and Goodrich averaged 25.2 points for the series.


The teams would meet again in the finals the following year, as the Knicks would get their revenge. In a reversal of the 1972 series, the Knicks would win four in a row after losing the opener to win their second NBA title in four years.

Team rosters

Los Angeles Lakers

1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB From
F 22 Baylor, Elgin 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1934-09-12 Seattle
C 13 Chamberlain, Wilt 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) 275 lb (125 kg) 1936-08-21 Kansas
G 11 Cleamons, Jim 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1949-09-13 Ohio State
C 14 Ellis, Leroy 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1940-03-10 St. John's
F 24 Erickson, Keith 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 195 lb (88 kg) 1944-04-19 UCLA
G 25 Goodrich, Gail 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1943-04-23 UCLA
F 52 Hairston, Happy 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 255 lb (116 kg) 1942-05-31 NYU
F 5 McMillian, Jim 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1948-03-11 Columbia
G 12 Riley, Pat 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1945-03-20 Kentucky
G 21 Robinson, Flynn 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1941-04-28 Wyoming
F 31 Trapp, John 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1945-10-02 UNLV
G 44 West, Jerry 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1938-05-28 West Virginia
Head coach

  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Last transaction: 2013-03-22

New York Knicks

1971–72 New York Knicks roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB From
SG 12 Barnett, Dick 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1936-10-02 Tennessee State
SF 24 Bradley, Bill 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 205 lb (93 kg) 1943-07-28 Princeton
PF 22 DeBusschere, Dave 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1940-10-16 Detroit Mercy
PG 10 Frazier, Walt 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1945-03-29 Southern Illinois
PF 18 Jackson, Phil 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1945-09-17 North Dakota
F/C 32 Lucas, Jerry 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1940-03-30 Ohio State
G 7 Meminger, Dean 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1948-05-13 Marquette
G 15 Monroe, Earl 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1944-11-21 Winston-Salem State
C 19 Reed, Willis 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1942-06-25 Grambling State
Head coach

  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

See also


  1. ^ Shmelter, R. J., The Los Angeles Lakers Encyclopedia (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, 2013), p. 166.
  2. ^ "Season Review: 1971-72".
  3. ^ Koppett, Leonard (April 26, 1972). "Knicks and Lakers… Then and Now: Astonishing Differences in 2 Years". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "1972-73 New York Knicks Roster and Stats".
  5. ^ Koppett, Leonard (April 27, 1972). "Hot Knick Shooting Tops Lakers, 114‐92". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 1, 1972). "Final Playoffs On in Hockey and Basketball; Rangers and Knicks Lose". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 4, 1972). "Lakers Beat Knicks, 107‐96, and Lead Final, 2‐1". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 6, 1972). "Lakers Beat Knicks, 116‐111, for 3‐1 Lead". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 8, 1972). "Lakers Beat Knicks, 114‐100, Win Crown". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "1972 NBA Finals - Knicks vs. Lakers".
  11. ^ "Los Angeles Champions At Last!". Sports Illustrated. May 14, 1972.
  12. ^ "New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers Apr 26, 1972 Game Summary".
  13. ^ "New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers Apr 30, 1972 Game Summary".
  14. ^ "Los Angeles Lakers vs New York Knicks May 3, 1972 Game Summary".
  15. ^ Anderson, Dave (May 1, 1972). "Fast Return to Line‐up Vowed by DeBusschere". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 2, 1972). "DOUBTFUL STATUS FOR DEBUSSCHERE". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Los Angeles Lakers vs New York Knicks May 5, 1972 Game Summary".
  18. ^ "New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers May 7, 1972 Game Summary".
  19. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 7, 1972). "REPORT OF INJURY LIFTS KNICK HOPES". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Koppett, Leonard (May 9, 1972). "Wilt's Crowning Touches for Lakers". The New York Times.