Top NBA Finals moments: Johnson steps in at center in 1980
The Game: 1980 Finals, Game 6
The Series Situation: Los Angeles Lakers lead Philadelphia 76ers, 3-2
The Play: With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar home in Los Angeles resting a sprained ankle suffered the game before, rookie Magic Johnson jumped center, played every position and piled up 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in a 123-107 victory that clinched the championship.
The Significance: Not merely a night that would stand as one of the great moments on the court in Johnson’s career, Game 6 remains emblematic of his megawatt personality that captured the basketball and marketing world. It wasn’t enough that Magic had been unfazed by the attention all season as the No. 1 pick in the draft in a marquee franchise. He took it to the next level in The Finals. Upon boarding the flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, he took Abdul-Jabbar’s usual seat in the first row, winked at coach Paul Westhead and announced to the other Lakers, “Never fear, E.J. is here.” Earvin Johnson definitely was. While Jamaal Wilkes delivered his own performance for the ages by scoring 25 points in the second half and 37 in all, Magic and the spotlight had an unbreakable bond.
— Scott Howard-Cooper
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.