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Sharman, as much as anyone, helped fuel the Lakers’ success with his pioneering ideas and all-inclusive approach in which players had a platform to express themselves.
"He let us have input, he listened," Goodrich said. "But it was how he handled people that also made him so effective. Even when he disagreed with you, he’d say. `That’s a great idea, but let’s try it this way first and see if it works. If not, we can try your way.’
"It was actually pretty funny when you think about it. But once you understood his intent and why he handled it that way, it made perfect sense."
The streak began innocently enough Nov. 5, 1971, with a 110-106 win over the Baltimore Bullets. And though no one foresaw what was about to unfold, it wasn’t for another 19 games until the Lakers were pushed again.
While going for their 20th win in a row — and playing their third game in three nights — the Lakers went to overtime against the Phoenix Suns, but with Goodrich leading the way in the extra period, they prevailed 126-117.
Two nights later, they broke the Bucks’ record by earning victory No. 21 with a win over Atlanta.
"Obviously we knew at some point we’d lose a game," Goodrich said. "But we were a confident bunch, to be sure."
Said Erickson: "To be honest, we didn’t talk about the streak as a team much. Our goal was to win the championship; our entire focus was on that. But the streak definitely became a big deal. It was impossible to ignore."
Win No. 33 came at Atlanta in a 134-90 blowout Jan. 7, but two days later the Lakers were in Milwaukee to face the Bucks and their young phenom center.
With Goodrich, West and McMillian combining to make just 17 of 55 shots and Abdul-Jabbar dominating in all phases, the Lakers fell 120-104.
"I mean let’s face it, the Bucks were a great team," Goodrich said. "And we did not play well at all. You can’t do that against an elite team. So, we lost."
And with it, the longest winning streak in professional sports history came to an end.
The reaction was mixed afterward.
"Jerry West said it was like a death in the family," Sharman said. "Others felt a sense of relief that they could just go out and play and not worry any longer about the streak. As for me, all I could think about was, `OK, we set the winning streak record, now we have to win the championship or it really won’t matter what we have accomplished."’
The Lakers did just that, earning their first NBA title in Los Angeles by beating the New York Knicks, 4-1, in the finals.
"It would have been devastating had we not followed through with the championship," Erickson said. "The fact we did made it the perfect ending to a remarkable year."
One that has stood up for more than 40 years.
But here come the powerful Heat, who, incidentally, were built by Pat Riley, a reserve on the 1971-72 Lakers.
Could this be the year the Lakers record falls?
"Hey look, we had it for 40 years, right?" Goodrich said. "If they can do it, more power to them."
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