Click here to Skip to main content
Magic Johnson
Rookie Magic Johnson (No. 32) earned MVP honors in The Finals after an epic Game 6 performance.
Jim Cummins/NBAE/Getty Images

Season review: 1979-80

Posted Mar 2 2013 10:30PM


Although the season would forever be known as the year Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson entered the league, several other important changes also occurred. The 3-point field goal, a popular facet of the ABA game, was adopted by the league. The New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City and took the unlikely team name of Utah Jazz. And the schedule was altered so that teams faced rivals in their own division more often than teams from other divisions.

But the big story of the season was the arrival of two charismatic and talented rookies, Bird and Johnson, materializing on opposite coasts on the rosters of two of the NBA's most successful franchises.

The turnaround in Boston was dramatic. Havlicek had retired after the 1978 season, and Boston went 29-53 in 1979. Along with Bird, the Celtics still had former MVP Dave Cowens and third-year forward Cedric Maxwell up front, Nate Archibald and Chris Ford in the backcourt. The team posted a remarkable 61-21 record, a 32-game improvement. But Philadelphia won 59 games and behind Julius Erving's stellar play, defeated the Celtics in five games to advance to the Finals.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers experienced a little "Magic," as Johnson's enthusiasm seemed to rejuvenate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, propelling the Lakers to 60 wins and a berth in the NBA Finals.

Abdul-Jabbar, who hadn't won an NBA title since 1971 with Milwaukee, dominated the NBA Finals as Johnson fed him the ball in all the right spots in the first five games. But Abdul-Jabbar badly twisted an ankle in Game 5, and couldn't make the trip to Philadelphia for Game 6.

The Lakers, figuring they had nothing to lose, came out and played loose in the Spectrum. Jamaal Wilkes enjoyed one of the finest games of his career and finished with 37 points. But the newspapers the next day heralded the only headline possible -- "It's Magic!" Johnson, filling in for Abdul-Jabbar as the starting center and eventually playing every position in the court, scored 42 points, added 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers wrapped up the title.

"We know you're hurting, big fella," Johnson said over live television for all America, and Abdul-Jabbar, to hear. "But we want you to get up and do a little dancin' tonight."


Eastern Conference first round

Philadelphia defeated Washington (2-0)
Houston defeated San Antonio (2-1)

Western Conference first round

Phoenix defeated Kansas City (2-1)
Seattle defeated Portland (2-1)

Eastern Conference semifinals

Boston defeated Houston (4-0)
Philadelphia defeated Atlanta (4-1)

Western Conference semifinals

Los Angeles defeated Phoenix (4-1)
Seattle defeated Milwaukee (4-3)

Eastern Conference finals

Philadelphia defeated Boston (4-1)

Western Conference finals

Los Angeles defeated Seattle (4-1)

NBA Finals

Los Angeles defeated Philadelphia (4-2)

Season leaders

PPG -- George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs (33.1)
FG% -- Cedric Maxwell, Boston Celtics (.609)
FT% -- Rick Barry, Houston Rockets (.935)
3PT% -- Fred Brown, Seattle SuperSonics (.443)
Assists -- Micheal Ray Richardson, New York Knicks (10.2)
Rebounds -- Swen Nater, San Diego Clippers (15.0)
Steals -- Micheal Ray Richardson, New York Knicks ( 3.23)
Blocked Shots -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers (3.41)

Award winners

Most Valuable Player -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers
Rookie of the Year -- Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
Coach of the Year -- Bill Fitch, Boston Celtics
All-Star Game MVP -- George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs
Finals MVP -- Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

photo2015-16 Nuggets Top 10 Plays
Check out the Denver Nuggets' Top 10 plays of the 2015-16 NBA season.
photoDurant Starts With a Bang
Immediately off the tip, Kevin Durant hits the three-pointer to start the game against China for Team USA.
photoGameTime: News And Notes
NBA TV recaps the Cavaliers' extension of Tyronn Lue's contract and the Blazers retaining guard C.J. McCollum.
photoGameTime: Stoudemire's Retirement
NBA TV's Rick Kamla reports that Amar'e Stoudemire will retire as a member of the New York Knicks.
photoGameTime: Athletes And Activism
NBA TV reports on Michael Jordan's statement regarding recent social issues and Carmelo Anthony's meeting with the community in Los Angeles and the police to help repair discrmination issues at large.

Copyright © NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of may be duplicated, redistributed or manipulated in any form. By accessing any information beyond this page, you agree to abide by the Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights and Terms of Use. | Ad Choices Ad Choices is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.