Mel Counts


1966-67 (#31) 31 8.5 6.1
1967-68 82 11.7 8.9
1968-69 77 12.4 7.8
1969-70 81 12.6 8.4
1972-73 59 5 4
1973-74 45 3.2 3.2


Forward, #31


A member of the gold-medal-winning 1964 U.S. men’s basketball team, the 7-foot center-forward played parts of six seasons during two stints with the Lakers in the 1960s and '70s. Drafted out of Oregon State by Boston in 1964, Counts was shipped to Los Angeles by the Baltimore Bullets as part of a three-team, four-player trade in January 1967.

He had a breakout season the following year, averaging close to 12 points and nine rebounds per game while splitting time with Darrall Imhoff. Counts’ playing time continued to increase following the Lakers’ acquisition of Wilt Chamberlain. Despite playing an important role in helping the Lakers advance to the NBA championship game three years in a row, Counts may best be remembered for the five minutes he played at the end of Game 7 of the 1969 NBA championship game against Boston. Chamberlain was in foul trouble and, after injuring his knee, he was replaced by Counts. Despite Chamberlain indicating he felt good enough to reenter the game, coach Butch van Breda Kolff refused to take out Counts, sticking with a lineup that had pulled the Lakers to within one point of the lead. Boston went on to win the game, 108-106.

Despite posting career highs in points per game and minutes played the following season, the Lakers traded Counts to Phoenix to reacquire Gail Goodrich. Counts was then traded back to Los Angeles in November 1972 as part of a four-player deal with Philadelphia. The then 31-year-old Counts had less of an impact during his second stint with the team, averaging about 4.2 points per game.

His rights were sold to the New Orleans Jazz in the 1974 off-season and he retired in 1976.

— Austin Knoblauch
Feb. 12, 2011