On January, 9, 1972, the longest winning streak in major professional sports is snapped at 33 games when the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 120-104. A 39-point performance by the Bucks’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hands the Lakers their first loss since October 31.
Afterward, Lakers coach Bill Sharman kept the locker room closed for 15 minutes. He had a speech written for when the team’s streak ended, but he kept the dog-eared paper in his coat pocket, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Oh, I had a couple of corny things written,” he said. “but I didn’t read them today.” Sharman credited the Bucks’ aggressive defense for being the difference. “We had to work for every shot we took,” he said.
The Lakers included center Wilt Chamberlain, a future Hall of Famer, who had set a season record for points 10 years earlier. But the aging Chamberlain was only fourth on the team in points per game. Gail Goodrich and Jerry West, both of whom would join Chamberlain in the Hall of Fame, led the team in scoring at nearly 26 points per game apiece.
Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks’ star and a future Hall of Famer, was traded to the Lakers in 1975.
Beginning with a 110-106 victory over the Baltimore Bullets in the first game of November, the Lakers tore through the league for the next two months. Their closest brush with defeat came on December 10, when the Phoenix Suns took them to overtime.
Two nights later, the Lakers broke the NBA record for most consecutive wins by defeating the Bucks, who had set the record at 20 the previous season. The Lakers scored at least 100 points in every game during the streak, and only failed to do so once all season.
“When we put it all together, we’ve got to be perhaps the greatest club ever,” Sharman said during the streak.
After losing to the Bucks on January 9, the Lakers hit a rough patch but finished the regular season with a 69-13 record. In the first round of the playoffs, they swept the Chicago Bulls in four games, then defeated the Bucks in the second round in six games. In the NBA Finals, the Lakers beat the New York Knicks in five games to earn their first title since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960