Magic Johnson

In their first Finals matchup, Larry Bird's Celtics edged Magic Johnson's Lakers in seven games.


The season began with a significant change off the court. Larry O'Brien, who had presided over the peaceful merger between the NBA and ABA, retired as commissioner. In O'Brien's place came David Stern, an energetic attorney who had been the NBA's Executive Vice President. As the league's fourth Commissioner, Stern would oversee tremendous expansion in the marketing of the NBA, develop a cohesive and profitable broadcasting strategy and become the driving force behind the NBA's profound increase in global popularity. Stern would move quickly to ensure the stability of NBA franchises by increasing licensing revenues, developing corporate sponsorships and bolstering the league's image with a ground-breaking anti-drug policy.

On the court, the Playoff system underwent a radical expansion. The format was expanded to include 16 teams instead of 12, which eliminated the First Round, best-of-3 miniseries. Instead, each First Round series would be a best-of-5, and even the division winners would have to play in the First Round. Now the NBA Champions would have to win four series for the first time in NBA history.

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 ousted in the First Round by New Jersey, the high point in that franchise's NBA history. The Celtics eased past Washington, defeated the Bernard King-led New York 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. In what would eventually become a trilogy of epic meetings in the NBA Finals over the next four seasons, Boston outlasted the Lakers to win a 15th NBA Championship.

LARRY'S CELTICS PREVAIL OVER MAGIC'S LAKERS IN SEVEN
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 was going to change 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 said.