James Worthy
James Worthy posts up against Detroit's Dennis Rodman in the 1988 NBA Finals.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Lakers History: 'Big Game' James Worthy's Game 7 Triple-Double

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Sure, nobody had done it in 19 years, but Pat Riley knew his team was different.

During the parade for the Lakers’ 1987 championship, the head coach delivered a promise: His team would be the first in nearly two decades to win back-to-back titles.

To do so, the Lakers would have to earn what Magic Johnson called “the hardest championship we’ve ever won.”

In a clash between the “Bad Boys” and “Showtime,” the Detroit Pistons had pushed the defending champs to the NBA’s most pressurized setting: Game 7 of the Finals.

That’s where James Ager Worthy became forever known as “Big Game James.”

In one of the most legendary performances in NBA history, Worthy piled up 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists — capturing the only triple-double of his 1,069-game career on basketball’s biggest stage.

Worthy was relentless, bulldozing the Pistons in the low post and shooting 15-of-22 from the field.

He was just as much of a beast on the boards, earning extra possessions by scrapping for offensive rebounds.

With speed and power at 6-foot-9, the Finals MVP had too much motor for Detroit.

But even “Big Game” needed some help to exorcise the demons of a Lakers club that had lost five straight Game 7s over the previous 34 years.

He got exactly what was needed from the backcourt tandem of Johnson and Byron Scott.

Arguably the greatest point guard in the history of the game, Magic directed the offense to the tune of 19 points and 14 assists.

Meanwhile, Scott — who led the Lakers in scoring that season — scored 21 points, including 14 in a third-quarter eruption that turned a five-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead.

But the Pistons were never the kind of team to roll over.

Facing a hostile Forum crowd, Detroit clawed its way back within one with six seconds left.

However, a full-court assist from Johnson to A.C. Green gave the Lakers just enough of a cushion to capture a 108-105 victory and the final title of the Showtime era.

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