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Bill Sharman, Legendary Former Lakers Coach, Dies At 87

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Bill Sharman, the former Lakers coach and general manager who coached the team to its first NBA championship in the 1971-72 season, died today after suffering a stroke at his home in Redondo Beach. He was 87.

Sharman began his coaching career with the Utah Stars in the now-defunct American Basketball Association. After successfully guiding the Stars to the ABA championship in 1970, Sharman was hired by Jack Kent Cooke in 1971 to coach the Lakers. At the time, the Lakers were a team drenched in futility; they had reached the NBA Finals several times in the 1960s, including six against the Boston Celtics, with no championships to show for it. In his first season, the team went 69-13, which included an incredible 33 game winning streak, and brought Los Angeles its first NBA championship. It was an unprecedented run that finally cemented the Lakers as a world-class team.

"Today is a sad day for anyone who loves and cares about the Lakers,'' team President Jeanie Buss said, according to City News Service. "As our head coach, Bill led us to our first championship in Los Angeles, and he was an important contributor to the 10 championship teams that followed. for the last 34 years, his importance to Dr. (Jerry) Buss and our family, and for the last 42 years to the Lakers organization, cannot be measured in words.

"His knowledge and passion for the game were unsurpassed, and the Lakers and our fans were beneficiaries of that," Buss said. "Despite his greatness as a player, coach and executive, bill was one of the sweetest, nicest and most humble people I've ever known. He was truly one of a kind."

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Sharman began his basketball career as a player for the Boston Celtics. He was named one of the 50 greatest players of the NBA's first 50 years and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1976. In 2004, he was inducted into the hall of fame as a coach, joining John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as the only men honored in both roles, according to the LA Times.

After coaching the Lakers for four more seasons, Sharman moved to the front office, becoming general manager and president, according to City News Service.