1980 NBA Finals
The 1980 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the 1979–80 NBA season.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the league's MVP. But midway through Game 5, the Laker center suffered a severely sprained ankle. He managed to come back in the game in the 4th quarter to lead the Lakers to victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. But the Lakers still had to travel to Philadelphia for Game 6. Abdul-Jabbar was listed as out of game 6, although 76er coach Billy Cunningham was quoted as saying "I won't believe he's not playing until their plane lands and he's not on it." As it turned out, Kareem did not make the trip and was listed as doubtful if Game 7 had been needed.
In game 6, Magic Johnson played what may have been the greatest game of his career. Playing on the road in Philadelphia, Magic (a 6'9" point guard) started the game at center and eventually played all 5 positions in a dominating performance. Scoring a game-high 42 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds—and handing out 7 assists—Magic Johnson led the Lakers to the NBA crown. The Lakers also received strong performances from Jamaal Wilkes with 37 points and 10 rebounds, and Norm Nixon. Jim Chones played strong defense on 76er center Darryl Dawkins, while Mark Landsberger provided rebounding off the bench, and little used Brad Holland chipped in 8 key points.
Magic Johnson's performance in game 6 and the series earned him the 1980 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. What made Magic Johnson's performance even more remarkable was that he was an NBA rookie—and, indeed, one who had left college after only two years, and was only 20 years old. "Jamaal Wilkes had an unbelievable game," said Johnson in 2011. "Everybody talked about my 42, but it was also his ."
On a side note, here, in Game 4 of the 1980 Finals, Julius Erving executed the legendary Baseline Move, an incredible, behind-the-board reverse layup that seemed to defy gravity. Play-by-play announcer Brent Musberger has noted that Erving made such moves almost routinely in his ABA days—but the ABA had no national TV contract in those days. This Game 4 move, played to a national audience in a title game, has probably become Julius Erving's most famous move.
The 76ers were the first of the four Philadelphia professional sports teams to play for their respective sports' championships in a span of nine months. The Flyers lost their series against the New York Islanders in overtime of Game 6, eight days after the 76ers fell to the Lakers in their Game 6. The Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals, themselves in six games, in the World Series. The Eagles lost Super Bowl XV to the Oakland Raiders in January 1981.
"A Magic Season", a season-ending documentary narrated by Brent Musburger, was the last 30-minute NBA championship documentary, recapping the 1980 NBA Playoffs. Later championship documentaries on NBA Entertainment will have 60 minutes of running time.
Of note, this marked the first of the ten NBA Finals played in the 1980s, all of which featured either the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers (three Finals featured both teams).
This was also the first NBA Finals to make use of the three-point line which debuted that very season.
The series-deciding Game 6 became the most notorious example of CBS's practice of showing even the most important NBA games on "tape delay" broadcasts. Because May 16, 1980 was a Friday, the network did not want to preempt two of its highest-rated shows, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas, even though both shows were already in reruns: the 1979-80 TV season had ended early, back in March, in anticipation of a strike that summer by the Screen Actors Guild. So Game 6 was shown at 11:30pm Eastern (10:30pm Central) in all but four US cities: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle, who carried it live. (This is often cited as an example of TV's lack of interest in the NBA in the "pre-Magic and Bird" era.)
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