This day in sports: Lakers finish with best record in NBA en route to first title in L.A.

Wilt Chamberlain puts in a finger roll during the Lakers' first title season in L.A. in 1972.
(Associated Press)

The Honda Center would have been one of four sites for the regional semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament, which were canceled by COVID-19. Other Sweet 16 games were to be played at arenas in Louisville, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City.

The Lakers and the Kings would have continued trips to Cleveland and Nashville, respectively. The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers at Staples Center 128-99 on Jan. 13 to improve their record to 33-7. LeBron James scored 31 points. The Kings last played the Predators on Jan. 4, and lost at home 4-1.

Patriotic bunting, the smell of Dodger Dogs and a landscape of Dodger Blue would have filled Chavez Ravine today when the Dodgers were to open the 2020 season against the San Francisco Giants. The Angels were to start today too, with the first of four games at Houston against the notorious Astros.

Here is a look at memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:


1946 — Hank Iba’s Oklahoma A&M Aggies (now Oklahoma State) beat North Carolina 43-40 at Madison Square Garden for their second straight NCAA basketball title. Bob Kurland, regarded as the game’s first big man at 6 feet 10½, scores 23 points, including the first two dunks in NCAA tournament history. John Dillon leads Tar Heels with 16 points.

On March 25, 1972, Bill Walton had 24 points and 20 rebounds in guiding UCLA past Florida State in the NCAA title game at the Sports Arena.

1969 — John Hall devotes his Page 3 column in The Times to USC assistant football coach Dave Levy. Levy, who joined John McKay’s staff in 1960, has the distinction of coaching at USC and playing for UCLA. He was a two-year letterman and Rose Bowl lineman for Red Sanders’ Bruins in 1952-53.

1972 — The Lakers beat Seattle 124-98 to finish the season at 69-13, the best record in NBA history, until the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls finish at 72-10. Gail Goodrich scores 24 points and Pat Riley adds 19. Bill Sharman’s club would go on to beat the New York Knicks for the NBA title, its first since the franchise moved from Minneapolis before the 1961 season.


1973 — Bill Walton scores 44 points to help UCLA win its record seventh NCAA basketball championship with an 87-66 victory over Memphis at the Arena in St. Louis. Jamaal Wilkes adds 16 points and Greg Lee has 14 assists for the Walton Gang. Larry Finch scores 29 for the Tigers.

1974 — George Foreman knocks out Ken Norton in the second round at Caracas, Venezuela, to retain his world heavyweight title. It was Norton’s second straight loss after Muhammad Ali had edged him in a close decision seven months earlier. Foreman’s next defense would be in October against Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, in their fabled “Rumble in the Jungle.”

1985 — As the Angels wind down spring straining, The Times’ Ross Newhan reports on manager Gene Mauch’s desire for shortstop Dick Schofield and outfielder Gary Pettis, two dazzling defensive players, to make their batting averages shine as much as their play in the field, especially Schofield, who had hit just .193 the year before.

On March 23, 1994, Wayne Gretzky scored career goal No. 802, passing his idol Gordie Howe as the greatest goal scorer in NHL history.


1995 — Nanci Bowen wins the Nabisco Dinah Shore at Rancho Mirage, her first LPGA victory, by a stroke over Susie Redman. Bowen, who played her college golf at the University of Georgia, takes the lead with a birdie on the par-three 17th hole. Nancy Lopez has a chance to tie, but her third shot on the par-five 18th goes in the water.

1996 — Mario Lemieux scores five goals and has two assists in his first game against Wayne Gretzky in more than three seasons, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to an 8-4 win over the St. Louis Blues. It was the third time “Super Mario” had scored five goals in a game, and the assists put him at the 800 mark for his career.

2002 — Utah’s John Stockton turns 40, becoming the 10th player in NBA history to play at that age. Stockton scores 20 points in the Jazz’s 109-105 victory over Houston. Karl Malone, who consistently delivered with Stockton on the pick-and-roll, scores 23.

SOURCES: The Times, Associated Press