Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson battle for rebounding position during the 1987 NBA Finals.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Lakers History: Magic's Junior Skyhook Sinks Celtics

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

The series’ biggest moment required a “junior, junior, junior skyhook.”

At least, that’s what Magic Johnson dubbed the most iconic shot of his career after he lifted the Lakers over the Celtics in the final seconds of Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.

Due to the game’s famous ending, it can be easy to forget what a disaster much of the night was for the Lakers, who trailed by 16 in the third quarter.

However, from there the Lakers steadily began clawing their way back.

Johnson — who scored a game-high 29 points with eight rebounds and five assists — and James Worthy (21 points) led the way, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shot a shocking 5-of-17 from the field.

But “Cap” was there for one of the biggest moments of the night.

Down eight with 3 1/2 minutes left, the Lakers mounted a furious rally that ended with Johnson lobbing the ball to Abdul-Jabbar for a one-point lead with 29 seconds remaining.

But a sweltering Boston Garden was a stage for Larry Bird, who had 21 points including a 3-point rebuttal that put the Celtics back on top.

Abdul-Jabbar split a pair of free throws, but Mychal Thompson salvaged the situation by knocking it off of Kevin McHale and out of bounds.

Magic did the rest.

With only a few seconds remaining, he caught the ball, lost McHale with a hesitation dribble and lifted the game-winning, running hook shot over McHale and Robert Parish.

Bird just missed his own chance at a buzzer-beater, as the Lakers’ 107-106 win gave them a 3-1 lead in a series they’d eventually win in six games.

Johnson’s iconic shot also gave him the final say in one of the greatest individual rivalries in sports, as it would be the last Finals battle between him and Bird.

“You expect to lose on a skyhook,” Bird told reporters, “you don’t expect it to be Magic.”

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