This year for the Los Angeles Lakers is a special one. That’s not because the 17th championship is coming. I cannot predict the future. No, this year is special due to it being a Leap Year, with the Lakers having a game falling on Leap Day, February 29th.
Unfortunately, the Lakers lost that game to the Memphis Grizzlies, 105-88. Still, we don’t have to dwell on that. Instead, I want to take a trip back in time through Lakers’ history through the portal of the games that fell on Leap Day.
As Leap Years come around every four years, the Lakers had only played 10 games on Leap Day in their history of calling L.A. their home before this season. I’m going to recap five of the most interesting box scores from those 10 games, but if you wanted to look at the other five games I’ve included links to those at the bottom. Below I’ve also included who has the most points scored on Leap Days, which smoothly brings us to the most recent Leap Day game before this year.
On February 29th, 2012, a certain Lakers superstar exploded for 31 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. If you’re thinking of who could have been a superstar on the Lakers in 2012, you’ve probably already realized who I’m talking about, as Kobe Bryant was up to his usual ways against the Minnesota Timberwolves (Lakers won 104-85). Kobe was actually wearing a mask in the game, due to the broken nose sustained in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the hands of Dwyane Wade (side note: this was also the season where the NBA season didn’t start until Christmas Day due to the lockout).
Guess what. Kobe Bryant was a beast for a very long time.
He had another stellar game in this one, dropping 33 points on 50% shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists. The Lakers (41-18 after this game), actually ended up losing 119-111 to LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, STEVE BLAKE (15 points), and the rest of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers ended this year by going to the NBA Finals, but we will not talk about how that ended.
Oh, also. Luke Walton had 17 points. Somehow, that was not his career-high (it wasn’t even his season-high so maybe I’m just being mean).
Oh, look! Another game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers actually won this one, 90-87, but I mostly just wanted to highlight the amazing names on the Trail Blazers (a team that faced the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals that year).
We’ve got Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace in his pre-Pistons days, current NBA/NCAA analyst Greg Anthony, Detlef Schrempf, Bonzi Wells, and a 21-year-old promising big by the name of Jermaine O’Neal. My favorite name though? Their starting center Arvydas Sabonis. If you’re wondering why that sounds familiar, it’s because he is the father of the current All-Star center, Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis.
We’ve jumped over a few Leap Day appearances so that I can bring you some more amazing names. As we’re in the late 70s, the Lakers obviously have one of the best basketball players ever playing for them at this point, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dropping 26 points on February 29th, 1976 in a 108-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Who cares about that though when there are men named Kermit Washington and Bingo Smith playing? Also, who could forget my man, Foots? Yes, that’s right, Foots Walker. My favorite point guard to ever come out of West Georgia University.
Another name that sticks out like a sore thumb in the box scores is a man named Stuart. Back then he actually went by Stu and, believe it or not, he still does. I’m obviously talking about the current color commentator for the Lakers on Spectrum SportsNet, Mr. Stu Lantz. He was coming off the bench along with Kermit, and was second on the team in points this game with 19!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Donny is just talking about names that either stand out to him because they’re funny or they’re someone who is more famous now than when they were playing.” First off, you’re correct. Second off, that’s a perfect transition to the last game I’m going to talk about which was in 1972.
In that game, the Lakers beat the New York Knicks 114-111. It was actually a preview of the 1972 NBA Finals, when the Lakers also prevailed in five games. We have some absolute NBA giants in this game though that we have to talk about.
There are the obvious ones on the Lakers in Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich. However, there are two players who played between 15-20 minutes in the contest who have become, arguably, bigger legends than those three players I just named. Those two are Pat Riley of the Lakers and Phil Jackson of the Knicks. What a game full of legends!
Again, if you wanted to take a unique stroll down through memory lane, I’ve hyperlinked each year’s box score in the heading of each section. Here, you can find the other years I did not discuss: 2004, 1984, 1980, 1968, and 1964.