The Lakers lost--as usual--108-106, but they couldn't blame it on bad luck or bad karma. Their problem was bad feelings between Chamberlain and Coach Bill van Breda Kolff. In the closing minutes, Chamberlain had asked to be taken out, claiming he was injured. When the Lakers rallied and Chamberlain asked to go back in, van Breda Kolff told him the team was doing just fine without him.

So the Lakers ended that season with Chamberlain on the bench, the balloons in the rafters and their record of futility intact.

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At the start of the 1970s, the Lakers had new hope because Father Time had done what they never could: removed the Russell factor.

But there was a new tormentor on the block in New York Knick center Willis Reed.

The 1969-70 season ended with the Lakers again in the NBA Finals, this time playing the Knicks. Once again, it came down to a seventh game, this time at Madison Square Garden. Reed wasn't supposed to play because of a leg injury. But when he limped onto the court and played the first few minutes, the emotional lift whipped the fans into a frenzy and solidified the rest of the Knicks into an unbeatable unit that crushed yet another Laker title dream.

There would always be another chance to dream, but not for Baylor. Age and injuries forced the high-flying Laker forward into retirement nine games into the 1971-72 season.

But as Baylor's flame was snuffed out, the rest of the Lakers were suddenly ignited. Chamberlain and West were still playing at high levels, Hairston was still a master rebounder, Jim McMillian was an able replacement for Baylor at small forward and Gale Goodrich was an ideal backcourt mate for West.

The day after Baylor said goodbye, the Lakers took off on their record 33-game winning streak, the longest for a professional team in any sport. They finished the season with 69 wins, a record that stood until the Chicago Bulls broke it with 72 victories in the 1995-96 season. Goodrich averaged 25.9 points in 1971-72, West 25.8. Chamberlain and Hairston each pulled down 1,000 rebounds.

The Lakers roared through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping Chicago in four games, then beating Milwaukee, the team that had stopped their streak, in six.

Ahead lay their old Waterloo, the NBA Finals, and a rematch with the Knicks. In all, the Lakers had lost seven times in the Finals after moving to Los Angeles, six of those to the Celtics.

All of their records in that unprecedented season would mean nothing if it ended as had the others.

But this Laker team was so talented, no barrier, no jinx could withstand it. The team won the championship in five games, its first since calling Los Angeles home.

This, however, was no dynasty. The Lakers returned to the NBA Finals the following season, but returned also to their losing ways, New York winning in five.

Despite all the big names on their roster, the Lakers had that elusive magic touch for only one season.

It would take seven more years until they returned to the NBA Finals, seven years until they got the Magic they needed to build a dynasty worthy of the Minneapolis days.