Jerry Buss’s Lakers were the best of the best

Jerry Buss, who owned the Los Angeles Lakers since 1979, died on Monday at age 80. The Lakers won 10 NBA championships during Buss’ tenure as owner, far more than any other team in any major North American professional sports league. In fact, only four such teams won even half as many titles as the Lakers during that time: the Chicago Bulls (6), New York Yankees (5), San Francisco 49ers (5), and Edmonton Oilers (5).

How did the 49ers manage to lose?

If you knew only these two facts about the Super Bowl—the 49ers averaged 7.8 yards per play and Frank Gore led all players with 110 rushing yards—you could have reasonably concluded that the Niners won and won big. Here’s why:

  • Only three other teams averaged at least 7.5 yards per play in an NFL or AFL title game (Super Bowl or otherwise). All won the game by more than 30 points: the 1957 Lions, 59-14 over the Browns (7.7 yards per play); 1963 Chargers, 51-10 over the Patriots (10.2 yards per play); and 1987 Redskins, 42-10 over the Broncos (8.4 yards per play).
  • Frank Gore was the 20th player to gain at least 100 rushing yards in a Super Bowl. Only three others did so for the losing team; but in each of those three cases, a player on the winning team also reached the 100-yard rushing mark.  That was not the case with Gore and the Ravens.
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