The Game: 1980 Finals, Game 4
The Series Situation: Los Angeles Lakers lead Philadelphia 76ers, 2-1
The Play: Julius Erving glides by the Lakers’ Mark Landsberger on the right side, avoids Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while airborne behind the backboard, then manages to swoop his right arm around for a balletic reverse layup.
The Significance: Erving’s fourth-quarter artistry enabled Philadelphia to even the series at 2-2, though the 76ers wound up losing in six games. The play ranks not just as one of Erving’s three most famous — along with his free-throw-line dunk in the 1976 ABA All-Star Game in Denver and his soaring rim attack and “cradle dunk” in the 1983 Finals — but as another milestone in the mid-air majesty “Dr. J” brought to the league. Tall players had been stuffing the ball for years, but Erving turned it into something explosive, spectacular and 3D. Of the flight past Landsberger and Abdul-Jabbar, Lakers rookie Magic Johnson said: “Here I was, trying to win a championship, and my mouth just dropped open. He actually did that! I thought, ‘What should we do? Should we take the ball out or should we ask him to do it again?’ It’s still the greatest move I’ve ever seen in a basketball game, the all-time greatest.”
— Steve Aschburner
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