The Los Angeles Lakers played and won their first playoff game at Staples Center since 2013, on Thursday night in front of a season-high 7,825 fans in a building that seats 18,997 for basketball.
The 109-95 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of their first round best-of-seven series gave the Lakers an immediate sense of short-term history.
And before they took a 2-1 lead in a series that resumes Sunday, the club addressed its long-term history by extending the lease on their building through 2041.
With their fellow NBA tenant Clippers expected to move to a new building as owners in Inglewood by 2024, the Lakers could have followed suit.
Instead they will remain where they’ve been since 1999 and continue their pursuit of championships in downtown Los Angeles.
“To me, this was this group’s first opportunity to play a playoff game in front of these great fans,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after the win. “We’re really yearning for full capacity. But to be able to deliver a victory, there’s nothing like winning in the playoffs for sports fans….
“To be able to deliver that is a great source of pride, and we’ll be looking forward to being in this building for years to come,” he said.
The Lakers signed the extension with AEG, the owner and operator of the building and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
In a club media release, the two entities committed to making a wide range of improvements and upgrades throughout the building that cost $375 million when it opened on Oct. 17, 1999. The Lakers won six of their 17 NBA titles since. They also won five of those championships during the early days of the league, as the Minneapolis Lakers, before moving to Los Angeles in 1960, and the other six across town at The Forum.
Right now they’re trying to repeat the title they took in the Orlando bubble last year. As a seventh seed in the Western Conference, by virtue of squeezing out a play-in victory at home over Golden State, they are attempting to become the first team seeded that low to win a title.
But that’s for the immediate future. The announcement to remain at Staples at least for 20 more years came before the game.
“The decision was made first and foremost with our fans and players in mind and AEG’s commitment to investing significant capital in the arena means that the Lakers will continue to play in one of the world’s premier venues,” said Jeanie Buss, whose late father Jerry owned the Lakers and Forum, during the Magic Johnson Showtime era and through the move downtown. “From the very beginning, AEG proved to be more than just the best arena operators in our industry, and on a daily basis they continue demonstrating why they are the best partner an organization could ask for.”
The Lakers are 987-780 during the regular season and now 140-79 during the playoffs at Staples.
Few understand that history better than LeBron James, whose gold No. 23 will one day be up in the rafters along with the other Lakers greats.
“Even before I got here I understood,” said James, who had 21 points Thursday night, behind the 34 Anthony Davis had as the Lakers blew out the Suns in the second half. “All the memorable shots and the memorable plays and the memorable players of this franchise….
“It’s a historical franchise,” James said. It’s been an honor to be here, and I’ll continue to love being part of this history.”