The Game: 1987 Finals, Game 4.
The Series Situation: Los Angeles Lakers lead Boston Celtics, 2-1
The Play: With the Los Angeles Lakers trailing the Boston Celtics 106-105 with seven seconds left, Magic Johnson takes an inbounds pass from Michael Cooper and dropped a “junior, junior” sky hook that put the Lakers ahead for good.
The Significance: The Lakers and Celtics could sew a gorgeous quilt of memories from their epic meetings in the 1980s. But one of the biggest plays was made possible by a shot famously labeled as small. Or: “Junior, junior,” to quote the creator. Magic Johnson’s running floater/sky hook that decided the outcome of a thrilling Game 4 of the 1987 series was pure poetry, both in execution and finish.
The Celtics led the Lakers by 16 at halftime. After a furious rally, Boston still led 106-105 with seven seconds left in the steamy, loud Boston Garden. Magic took an inbounds pass from Michael Cooper, used a hesitation dribble to freeze Kevin McHale, then dribbled inside the lane, where McHale was joined by Robert Parish. Magic’s junior hook floated just beyond their fingertips and was all net.
Larry Bird squirmed away from James Worthy and launched a 3-pointer deep in the corner, in front of the Lakers bench on the final play, but the ball rimmed out. The Lakers finished off the Celtics in six and it was the end of a great rivalry; the 10th meeting between these teams in the NBA Finals was also the last between Bird and Magic.
— Shaun Powell
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