Bill Sharman, who was coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971-72 season when the team reeled off an NBA-record 33 straight wins, believes that LeBron James and the Miami Heat have what it takes to challenge that mark.
Since setting the bar, the Lakers’ record never has been seriously threatened. The Houston Rockets, who won 22 straight in 2007-08, were the only team to even reach 20 straight since the Lakers’ magical run.
But now, the defending champion Heat led by James, a three-time Most Valuable Player, are making a charge. Miami extended its winning streak to 20 Wednesday night, rallying in the fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It is certainly a possibility that the Heat could break our 33-game winning streak,” Sharman, a Hall of Fame coach, told Fox Sports Florida. “The record has held for 41 years, and all of us that participated in it are very proud to have been part of that season. However, [Heat president] Pat Riley has put together an amazing team, and I have to admit this one makes me a little nervous.”
Riley, a reserve guard on that Lakers team, built the Heat into a powerhouse in the summer of 2010 when he brought the trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together.
Hall of Fame guard Gail Goodrich, the leading scorer for the 1971-72 Lakers — his backup was Riley — also believes the Heat could make a run at the record.
“I’d say this is the most serious challenge we’ve had to our streak,” Goodrich told Fox Sports Florida. “I think they’ll make a very, very, very serious run at our record, They might even break it. They’re head and shoulders over the rest of the NBA. Who’s going to beat them? There’s not as much parity in the league now.”
Goodrich and Sharman both admitted that the record is something they would like to keep.
“Sure, I’d like to keep the record,” Goodrich said. “But I’m not going to root against the Heat.”
“If they break the record, I would be happy for Pat Riley,” Sharman said. “But, naturally, part of me wants to hold on to that record a little bit longer.”
The Heat, the fifth team in league history to win at least 20 straight, will try to extend their streak Friday at the Milwaukee Bucks, who beat them earlier this season. Here’s some irony: It was the Bucks who snapped the Lakers’ record run with a 120-104 victory on Jan. 9, 1972.