The golden age of the NBA


NBA 1980-‘81: 23 teams

1980-'81 Cover

Season Recap

The 1980-81 season was a relatively strange season. The reigning champion Lakers saw Magic Johnson go down with torn cartilage in his left knee, causing him to miss 45 games. The Lakers never really recovered, and fell in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets were the surprise of the playoffs, led by rebounding champion Moses Malone, becoming just the second team in NBA history to make the Finals despite finishing the regular season with a losing record (40-42).

The Celtics swept Chicago, defeated Philadelphia in seven games after trailing 3-1, and overmatched Houston in six games to win their first title of the Bird-Parish-McHale Era.

A shot by Larry Bird late in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of The Finals remains a staple that series and on the all-time NBA playoff highlight reel.

Bird launched an 18-footer from the right side, knew instantly that the shot was off, hustled in to rebound his miss, caught the ball as his momentum was carrying him to the baseline, switched the ball to his left hand in mid-air and swished a 12-footer. The Boston Garden faithful fell about the place.

"It was the one best shot I've ever seen a player make," Auerbach claimed.

In conjunction with the NBA's 35th Anniversary, pro basketball writers selected their "All-Time NBA Team." It included Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Julius Erving, John Havlicek, George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Auerbach was selected as coach.

(Source: NBA.com)

 

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NBA 1983-‘84: 23 teams

1980-'81 Cover

Season Recap

The 1983-84 season was one of change in the NBA. The league moved to an expanded playoff format, including eight teams per conference in the postseason for the first time. Each first round series would be a best-of-5, and even the division winners would have to play in the first round. 

Off the court, the league saw big changes, with NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien retired after the season, and the league's executive vice president David Stern taking his place. 

The Celtics emerged as the dominant team during the regular season, winning 62 games and taking the Atlantic Division by 10 games over the defending champion 76ers. Philadelphia won 52 games, but was eventually tripped up by New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs, marking the high point in the Nets' NBA history.

Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer on April 5, 1984, while Detroit defeated Denver 186-184 on December 13, 1983, in the highest-scoring game in league history.

Come playoff time, the Celtics eased past Washington, defeated the Knicks in seven games, and easily moved past Milwaukee to reach The Finals.

The Lakers, who won 54 games, defeated Kansas City, Dallas and Phoenix, losing only three games along the way, to meet Boston.

Four seasons had gone by since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had entered the NBA in 1979. Magic's Lakers had won two titles and Larry's Celtics had captured one. But the two greatest players in the game had yet to meet in the NBA Finals, with their on-court meetings limited to two a year during the regular season. But 1984 changed all that.

For years afterward, the Lakers would rue the title that got away from them. The Lakers won the first game in Boston, and led Game 2 115-113 with 18 seconds left and possession of the ball. With the series shifting back to Los Angeles after Game 2, the thought of a series sweep was on the mind of players on both sides. But James Worthy's crosscourt pass was intercepted by Gerald Henderson, who went in for an uncontested layup to tie the score. Boston won the game in overtime, and after winning again in overtime in Game 4, managed to pull it out in seven games.

"To be honest, they should have swept," Bird later said.

(Source: NBA.com)

 

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NBA 1985-‘86: 23 teams - NEW TEMPLATE!

1985-'86 Cover

Season Recap

Larry Bird had won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player Award the previous season, but the Celtics' loss to the Lakers in the 1985 Finals weighed heavily on his mind. In much the same way that Magic Johnson had been driven during the 1984-85 season by the Lakers' failure in the 1984 Finals, Bird set out to find a way to lead the Celtics back to the top in 1985-86.

Aside from Bird's quest, some other notable events happened in 1985-86. Before the season, the Kansas City Kings relocated to Sacramento, where they finished 37-45 in their first season there. Spurs guard Alvin Robertson, who led the league in steals and played in the 1986 All-Star Game, won the inaugural Most Improved Player Award and was also named Defensive Player of the Year. The NBA Draft used the lottery format for the first time, which the New York Knicks won the right to draft Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown University. Ewing would go on to win the league's Rookie of the Year award as part of a rookie class that included future Hall of Famers Karl Malone, Joe Dumars and Chris Mullin. And at All-Star Weekend in Dallas, 5-foot-7 rookie Spud Webb won the Slam Dunk title, beating his teammate, Dominique Wilkins, while Bird won the inaugural 3-Point Shooutout.

This season, though, was all about Bird. He finished in the NBA's top 10 in five categories: scoring (25.8 ppg), rebounding (9.8 rpg), steals (2.0), free throw percentage (.896) and 3-point field goal percentage (.423) and led the way as the Celtics put together one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history. The Celtics had made an important addition with the acquisition of Bill Walton, who came from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade for Cedric Maxwell. Walton, plagued by injuries for years, shocked NBA observers by playing a career-high 80 games as a valuable backup to Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. His comeback season also netted him the league's Sixth Man Award in the process. The contributions of Walton and fellow reserves Scott Wedman and Jerry Sichting alleviated some of the burden from the Celtics' starters, and propelled Boston to a franchise-best 67-15 record, including an astounding 40-1 home record.

In the postseason, Boston faced Chicago in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Though the Celtics swept the Bulls, the NBA got a sign of things to come as Michael Jordan, who missed most of the regular season with a broken foot, set an NBA playoff scoring record with 63 points in Game 2. The Celtics would lose only one more playoff game in dispatching Atlanta and Milwaukee on their way to the NBA Finals.

The Lakers had won 62 games, but were shocked in the Western Conference finals in five games by the Rockets as Houston earned its second Finals appearance. Under former Boston pilot Bill Fitch, Houston employed a Twin Towers look with 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson and 7-foot Hakeem Olajuwon playing together. Houston had won the Midwest and won two playoff series, but when the Lakers took Game 1 in the West finals, NBA fans got ready for another Boston-L.A. Finals showdown. But the Rockets surprised everyone by taking the next four straight games to advance to The Finals.

With Olajuwon and Sampson, the Rockets had brought a new wrinkle to the NBA. In the days of George Mikan, and later, with Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond and Wiilis Reed, success in the league had been measured by how good your best big man was. Houston decided to take that formula a step further with their two uncommonly agile big players. But the Celtics, unlike most teams, had the answers with Parish, Walton and McHale, complemented by double-teams from Bird and Dennis Johnson. Although the Celtics received much praise for their unselfish, crisp-passing offense, it was their defense that brought down Houston. Playing at the top of his game, Bird averaged 24.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.5 assists as Boston took its 16th title in six games.

"I don't remember the last time I was hounded by a team more than I was today" Sampson said after Game 6. "Every time I touched the ball, there were two and three guys around me. And that went for Hakeem, too."

(Source: NBA.com)

 

TO BUY THIS SEASON: ONLY 16 $ FOR ALL THE 23 TEAMS!

ADVANCED RULES INCLUDED. THREE POINT "EARLY DAYS" RULE EFFECTIVE!

WITH NEW TEAM CHARTS TEMPLATE!