Thus far it’s been a successful start to the 21st century for Los Angeles sports teams. Since 2000, teams in LA have won nine titles in four different sports.
Boston is the only other city that can boast at least one title from the four major professional sports in this century: baseball, basketball, football, and hockey.
The modern LA sports fan has many reasons to be happy, from the systematic manner in which the Dodgers keep winning and winning, to the way the Lakers retool every few years around a current superstar. Even the Clippers have made the playoffs pretty much an annual thing. The Clippers!
Yes, this is one of the best of times to be a crazy sports fanatic in LA. But is it the best?
The Best Time To Be a Sports Fan In LA
It’s likely more fun to be an LA fan in LA than anywhere else: the weather is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and there’s an air of Hollywood, of course. Who doesn’t want to cheer for the same dunks as Jack Nicholson?
1988: Showtime, Gibby’s Homer & The Great One
It’s possible that no city and its sports fans ever had a more exciting four months than LA in 1988. The bookends of the end of spring and beginning of fall served as backdrop to not one, but two championships. But somehow, the biggest news was a trade that brought the Babe Ruth of his sport to La La Land.
In June, the Lakers defeated the Pistons in a hard-fought seven game series to win the team’s second straight title (although helped greatly by a phantom foul call on Bill Laimbeer in G6). In October, the Dodgers shocked even most of the team’s fans when they got past the heavily-favored Mets in the LCS. Then in the World Series LA was a big underdog facing the Oakland A’s. They were trailing in Game 1 when Kirk Gibson hit an epic one-legged pinch-hit home run that basically led to the birth of the phrase “walk-off homer” and propelled the Dodgers to an unbelievable triumph in the 1988 World Series.
In between, in August, the BIG NEWS happened when the Kings put the sporting world on its ear by trading for hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky. The deal shook up the sport and dominated news for about a week. The Kings were essentially irrelevant until “The Great One” came south to LA to put on a black-and-silver sweater.
Combined with the championships in basketball and baseball, the Gretzky trade made 1988 the greatest single year to be an LA sports fan.
Special mention: The Rams were also a playoff team in 1988.
2020: LeBron Wins Again, Kersh Finally Becomes a Champion
Some didn’t appreciate LeBron James going to California to become a Laker. They felt the franchise was built on homegrown stars like Jerry West, Magic, and Kobe Bryant. But, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal brought their stars with them to LA, so why not?
In 2020, James led the Lakers to its first title in a decade, helped by Anthony Davis. That same year, which was complicated by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dodgers returned to the championship circle, winning the World Series after a shortened season. It was the first title for that franchise since 1988, and the first for Clayton Kershaw, the brilliant ace southpaw. Also in 2020, the Clippers lost a Western Conference semifinals series, and the Rams (10-6) made the NFL Playoffs.
1981: Magic & The Big Fella Win, Tommy’s Title
In 1981, there were people who still naively called the LA point guard “Ervin.” But after this season, which culminated in a title in the spring of 1982, he was only “Magic” in SoCal.
The ’81 Lakers featured a younger Kareem than we saw on the later 1980s championship teams. The Big Fella had the most undefendable shot in NBA history – the Sky Hook – and the smarts to know when to take over a game. This was the Lakers second title in three years with the young Magic.
In October, the Dodgers finally won a title for manager Tommy Lasorda, defeating the hated Yankees in six games. This was the only title captured by the Steve Garvey/Ron Cey led teams, who twice lost to the Yanks in the Fall Classic previously (and once was vanquished by the A’s).
1965-66: Sandy & The Dodgers, West & The Lakers
Both the Dodgers and the Lakers advanced to the championship round for their sports in 1965 and 1966. In fact, over a five-year stretch from 1962-66, the teams made four NBA Finals and three World Series. It was a golden era for sports fans in sunny SoCal in the early-to-mid-1960s.
It wasn’t just that those two teams won – it was how and with whom.
In the 1960s, Koufax established himself as the greatest pitcher in the game of baseball, while West’s ball-shooting skills and passing acumen made him a superstar for the Lakers. Both men are in the Halls of Fame for their respective sports, and both men maintain a mythic position for their LA franchises. For years, West continued to mold the Lakers into champions long after his retirement as a player.
2021: Stafford Leads Rams To First Super Bowl Title in LA
Remember this? The Rams won the Super Bowl in convincing fashion after a season under new quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Dodgers continued to dominate, winning 106 games in the regular season, though that was not enough to finish in first place. The Chargers went 9-8 under a new coach, and were a fun team, though second fiddle to the Rams. On the ice, the Kings squandered a 3-2 series lead and lost in seven games to the Oilers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.