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Lakers’ Forgotten Studs: Sam Perkins and the “What If?” Title Teams - Fan’s Reflection

Sam Perkins Spent Just Two Seasons with the Lakers and Played a Key Role in Nearly Bringing a Title (or Two) to Los Angeles

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Throughout the history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise there have been a number of standout players who will never have their numbers retired or have statues erected in their honor - call them the Lakers' Forgotten Studs.

As a Lakers fan I want to make sure their legacies are remembered.

Today's installment: Sam Perkins

Perkins' Solid 1991 Season

Sam Perkins joined the Lakers as a free agent prior to the 1991 season after having spent six productive years with the Dallas Mavericks, averaging at least 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in each of his previous five seasons.

Perkins only remained in Los Angeles for two full seasons before being traded in 1992, yet Perkins' impact on the Lakers made the NBA title tantalizing close.

In his first season with the Lakers Sam Perkins teamed up with Vlade Divac and James Worthy to form a stellar frontcourt.

Perkins averaged 13.5 points on 49.5% shooting, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks during the regular season as the Lakers went 58-24.

But it was in the 1991 playoffs when Perkins made the biggest impact.

The Lakers advanced to the 1991 NBA Finals thanks in large part to Sam Perkins' 17.7 points (55% FG), 8.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game throughout the postseason. He was the Lakers leading rebounder and third highest scorer in the playoffs.

The 1991 (Almost) NBA Champions

In the1991 Finals the Lakers lost 4-1 to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in a series that was much closer than it may seem.

Sam Perkins won Game 1 for the Lakers with the go-ahead, game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.

The Bulls won convincingly in Game 2. In Game 3 the Lakers led by two in the final minute before Michael Jordan hit a shot to force overtime, and Jordan eventually led the Bulls to a victory.

The Lakers were this close to having a 2-1 series lead against the Bulls.

But facing a 2-1 deficit, disaster struck the Lakers in Game 4 when both Byron Scott and James Worthy suffered playoff-ending injuries. The Lakers had no chance without Scott and Worthy and Chicago won the title.

The Great "What If?" 1992 Season

After injuries derailed the Lakers in the 1991 Finals, the team looked poised for another title run in 1992.

Magic Johnson was playing as well as at any point in his career. James Worthy and Byron Scott were in their primes. Young players like Vlade Divac and Elden Campbell had established themselves.

And Sam Perkins was ready to play the best basketball of his career.

But the hopes of the 1992 team were cut short by Magic Johnson's shocking HIV announcement and retirement.

With the pall of Magic's announcement hanging over the team, Perkins still managed to average career highs in scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (8.8 RPG). But he struggled with a shoulder injury and was forced to miss the final 16 regular season games and the entire 1992 playoffs.

Without Magic and Perkins the Lakers lost in the first round.

Lakers fans often ask "what if?" with the 1992 team.

With a healthy Magic Johnson and Sam Perkins, Los Angeles would have been a legitimate title contender to challenge the emerging Chicago Bulls dynasty.

With a healthy team, the Lakers - and Sam Perkins - could have won both the 1991 and 1992 NBA Finals.

Traded in 1993

Perkins played well in 49 games for the Lakers in 1993 before he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics for Doug Christie and Benoit Benjamin.

Sam Perkins only spent two full seasons in Los Angeles and under slightly different circumstances could have been a two-time NBA champion.

Instead he is a largely forgotten piece of the Lakers' past.

Though his time was brief in Los Angeles, Sam Perkins is a Laker I will never forget.

Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Lakers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles:

Lakers' Forgotten Studs: Eddie Jones, the Silky Assassin

Lakers' Forgotten Studs: Nick Van Exel and His Killer Swagger

Lakers' Forgotten Studs: Cedric Ceballos, Scoring Machine

Lakers' Forgotten Studs Archive: Rick Fox | Norm Nixon | Happy Hairston | Sedale Threatt | Elden Campbell | Bob McAdoo


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