How many NBA Championships have the Los Angeles Lakers won? The number you will most often see thrown around after the Lakers won the 2020 title is 17, but how many have they really won?
As usual, Bill Simmons is leading the anti-Lakers charge here, arguing that the Lakers only won 12 titles because any championships won in Minneapolis should not count towards the Lakers' total. Simmons is right that the count is too high, but he's right for the wrong reasons.
The first Lakers title was in the Basketball Association of America. The Lakers then won four of the first five NBA Finals in Minneapolis, except they weren't the NBA Finals either. They were the NBA World Championship Series (and very briefly the "Showdown.") In fact, they didn't officially refer to it as the NBA Finals until 1986. By then the Lakers had won eight titles. So, good for those teams, but they really don't have anything to do with the modern Lakers franchise, whether they played in California or Minnesota.
I think we can all agree that Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan signaled the beginning of the truly modern version of the NBA. Aside from the name of the league, how much does anything from before that moment in time resemble anything that happens on the court today?
The size of the league fluctuated from eight teams to 18 up until 1976. Even in '86, when they finally settled on the NBA Finals, there were only 23 teams. If you want me to care about who won titles that were shown in black and white on tape-delay when there were more players on a bench than teams in the league, well, that's just not going to happen.
The Lakers winning four championships in the 50's and the Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 seasons during the 50's and 60's is trivia. It has nothing to do with the modern Lakers and Celtics. If Boston or LA fans need to wrap themselves in 60-year-old blankets to keep themselves warm at night, that's kind of sad.
For the Lakers, it might be easier to let go of those old titles since they have the most recent ones. Even then there are barely any connections between this Lakers team and the 2009-2010 team that won the previous title. General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Head Coach Phil Jackson are gone. Outside the Buss family and the jerseys, nothing is the same.
There weren't even any connections between this Lakers team and 2010 outside the Buss family. If you looked around the celebration, Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson were nowhere to be seen. And speaking of Phil, look at the Chicago Bulls. 25 years ago they were one of the most successful franchises in the world. How much connective tissue remains from that era? How much of Michael Jordan's six titles were in Jim Boylen's DNA as they failed to get a bubble invite?
The number of titles a team or franchise has won going back 50 or 100 years is even less important. In any sport. The New York Yankees lost in the divisional series last week as they failed to win the World Series for the 11th consecutive season. Do those 10 World Series they won before the end of World War 2 really help mute the pain of the recent string of postseason failure? Did you know kids will virtually attend middle school next year who were not alive the last time the Yankees won a World Series? The horror!
So if you are one of the people who keeps hitting refresh on the MOST RINGZ EVER list to make sure your favorite team doesn't drop a spot, I'm sorry. It's nothing more than trivia. Here is the real NBA title count, using that previously mentioned 1986 line of demarcation.
ONE NBA Finals Win - Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks
TWO NBA Finals Wins - Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics
THREE NBA Finals Wins - Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons
FOUR NBA Finals Wins - LeBron James
FIVE NBA Finals Wins - San Antonio Spurs
SIX NBA Finals Wins - Chicago Bulls
NINE NBA Finals Wins - Los Angeles Lakers
Those are the new counts. They are official. They are unimpeachable. They should be the ultimate, inarguable truth for anyone old - or young - enough to be reading this website. At least until another couple decades have passed, LeBron is considering retirement, and some writer suggests ignoring anything that happened in the NBA before the league champion was determined in the NBA Finals Presented by YouTube TV.