The Los Angeles Lakers won three NBA championships in the first six seasons of the 1980s, including their first Finals victory over the Boston Celtics in 1985.
After that, the challenge is to go from a great team to a dynasty.
But Los Angeles was beaten by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the 1986 Western Conference Finals, a wake-up call for the entire team.
When head coach Pat Riley challenged everyone to play their career best in 1987, he focused his attention on Magic Johnson.
By then, Johnson had been the best point guard and conductor in the game, but he wasn’t known for being a scorer. With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar approaching 40, Johnson needs to take on more of the scoring burden.
He did have the best season of his career, averaging 23.9 points and 12.2 assists, and earned league MVP honors.
Johnson led the Lakers to the best record in the NBA and returned to the NBA Finals against anyone other than the Celtics.
With a 3-1 lead thanks to Johnson’s “teenage skyhook,” the Lakers returned to home seeking to end the game after losing Game 5 in Boston.
The first half of Game 6 was tense, but the Lakers dominated the third quarter, and just like that, the old, tired Celtics ended.
The final seconds of the game create an atmosphere worth watching.
With less than 20 seconds left, the Lakers grabbed a rebound from a free-throw turnover while leading by 13 points. The audience on the forum counted down the last few seconds in unison. Then they stormed the field in a way that West Coast fans didn’t know.
After losing to the Celtics eight times before in the Finals, Lakers fans tasted caviar at the hottest restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.
Johnson won his third Finals MVP award, but he, Riley, Abdul-Jabbar and others aren’t quite done yet.