On June 16, 1975, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman and Dave Meyers.
The trade would forever alter the course of Lakers history, as Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five championships with the franchise. The deal was completed eight months after he informed the Bucks of a desire to be traded.
Upon meeting with members of the Bucks front office in October 1974, Abdul-Jabbar had won one championship with Milwaukee and wasn’t long removed from carrying the team to a Game 7 loss in the 1973 NBA Finals.
And while his trade to the Lakers saw unparalleled success, it did not begin that way. The Lakers finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs in their first season with Abdul-Jabbar.
It wasn’t until 1977, when the dominant center won a fifth MVP Award and the Lakers returned to the playoffs after being on the outside looking in for two consecutive years. Three straight trips to the playoffs resulted in heartbreak for the Lakers.
The arrival of Magic Johnson via the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft helped push Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers over the top. They won the NBA Finals that season, with a rookie Johnson famously filling in for Abdul-Jabbar in the clinching Game 6 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Abdul-Jabbar continued to play at a high level in 1981, averaging 26.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He was named to his eight All-NBA First Team and his fifth All-Defensive First Team, but the Lakers were upset by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.
Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers returned to the NBA Finals the following year, again defeating the 76ers in six games. Then after consecutive losses in the Finals, the Lakers embraced a ‘Showtime’ approach in 1984 and went on to win three more titles.
Abdul-Jabbar was named NBA Finals MVP in 1985 for the second time in his career. He became the oldest player in NBA history to win Finals MVP, and the 14-year gap between his two trophies is also the longest ever.
The Lakers won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988, and the 1989 season was the last for Abdul-Jabbar. He averaged just 10.1 points per game and shot under 50% from the field for the first time in his career, but it didn’t matter in the big picture.
The Lakers tried to send him out on top with one last championship, but injuries decimated them in the playoffs as they were swept in the NBA Finals by the Pistons.
Abdul-Jabbar retired as arguably the most accomplished basketball player ever. He is a six-time NBA champion with two NBA Finals MVPs and six regular season MVPs. He also is a 19-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team selection, and five-time All-Defensive First Team selection.
Abdul-Jabbar additionally was a two-time scoring champion, four-time blocks leader, and won the rebounding title in 1976. He remains the NBA all-time leader in points, field goals made and minutes played; and also ranks fourth all-time in rebounds, third in blocks, and second in games played.
The Lakers honored Abdul-Jabbar by retiring his jersey on March 20, 1990, then immortalized with a bronze statue outside of Staples Center on Nov. 16, 2012.
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