NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
It was the end of a period in the 1980s in which it seemed like every NBA Finals matchup featured the Celtics and the Lakers, although in reality the two teams met only three times in the decade. The 1987 NBA Finals in a way marked the end of an era.
With the Lakers up 2-1, Game 4 in Boston was a pivotal one. Win, and the Celtics were even with their long-time foes. Lose, and it would be an uphill battle to win another title.
Boston rolled out to a 16-point halftime lead, but the Lakers whittled away at it until they were within eight points with three minutes left and down just 103-102 with 30 seconds to play. A pick-and-roll from Magic Johnson to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put Los Angeles in front, but Larry Bird responded with a three-pointer to put Boston back on top 106-104 with 12 seconds left. After being fouled on the next possession, Abdul-Jabbar made the first and missed the second, but the rebound squirted out of bounds off Boston.
After a timeout, Johnson took the inbounds pass near the left sideline. He thought about launching a jumper, but lanky Kevin McHale was in his way. So he dribbled toward the key, with McHale in pursuit and Bird and Robert Parish moving over to join him. Before they could collapse on him at the foul line, however, Johnson tossed an old-fashioned running hook shot that nestled through the net, giving the Lakers the lead. After Bird missed an attempt at the buzzer, the Lakers had a 107-106 victory; they went on to win the series in six games.
Afterwards, Johnson labeled the shot “my junior, junior sky hook,” after Abdul-Jabbar’s favorite weapon.
“You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky hook,” noted Bird. “You don’t expect it to be from Magic.”