Should the Lakers Early NBA Championships Not Count?

Virtually anybody with even a passing interest in basketball knows that the Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Far fewer people know that the Lakers started out as a pro team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, before moving to California in 1960. Even the Lakers’ name comes from Minnesota’s state nickname, “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

The Minneapolis versions of the Lakers were also perennial contenders. They managed to rack up five total championships during their tenure in Minnesota. These five championships technically still count towards the Lakers’ all-time championship count of 16.

Yet many fans feel that these championships should not apply to the Los Angeles Lakers. Here are a few reasons why they feel that way.

Some Lakers’ Championships weren’t won in the NBA

The sport of basketball was invented way back in 1891. Yet not until 1949 was the NBA as we know it today formed. Prior to that, teams played in a variety of different leagues, including the National Basketball League, or NBL, and the Basketball Association of America, or BAA. Those Leagues included a lot of teams that are no longer around, as well as some that exist in far different forms now — including the Lakers.

The Minneapolis Lakers only won three of their five championships in the NBA. The other two were won in the NBL and the BAA. Many fans argue that championships from completely different professional leagues should not count.

Those fans feel that NBA records should only account for titles that were won in the NBA. If this were the case, the Lakers could only claim 14 total championships, instead of 16.

Other teams could claim past championships

Noted basketball pundit Bill Simmons has chimed in with some persuasive thoughts on the topic of the Lakers’ championship record. His argument centers around the fact that many other NBA franchises have moved locations over the years and not all of those teams’ past championships are still counted.

For instance, the Sacramento Kings franchise technically won an NBA championship as the Rochester Royals in 1951. Similar scenarios would playout for the Atlanta Hawks, who won while they were located in Saint Louis, as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise, who won a championship as the Seattle Supersonics in 1979.

Some of these cases are further confused by the fact that the teams in question have changed names. Yet the franchise lineage remains intact and clearly traceable. To avoid the inevitable squabbling about how to rule on those past championships, Simmons has proposed that teams should only be allowed to claim past city championships if they relocate less than 150 miles from their original city.

The Timberwolves have an equally strong claim to the Lakers’ Championships

Many fans argue that the biggest aspect of a team’s identity is the city they play in. From that perspective, the current Minneapolis team — the Timberwolves — would have an equally compelling reason to try and claim Minnesota’s five past championships.

Timberwolves fans would love to see that happen. Especially so, given their current team’s long-standing struggle to go deep in the playoffs.

Celtics fans are worried

The all-time championships record in the NBA is currently held by the Boston Celtics, who have won 17 titles. For the last several years, the Lakers have posed no real threat to this record.

Yet with the off-season addition of Anthony Davis, as well as the fact that LeBron James is sure to have a highly motivated season, the Lakers now have a real chance to claim one or more crowns in the coming years.

As things currently stand, the Lakers’ Minneapolis titles do count. As we’ve seen, not all NBA fans are happy about this. However, one thing is for certain: the Lakers’ proximity to the all-time record will add an extra charge of excitement to the next couple of seasons in Los Angeles.