The 1979-80 season ushered in the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era, two players whose teams and personalities would dominate the NBAfor the next dozen years.
The Lakers were returning to the finals for the first time since the West/Chamberlain era as after the 1975 season they had obtained Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 24.8 ppg/ 10.8 rpg/ 3.4 bpg from Milwaukee and with theaddition of the rookie Magic Johnson 18.0 ppg/ 7.7 rpg/ 7.3 apg , the team had the Western Conference’s best record at 60-22.
They also featured Norm Nixon 17.5 ppg/7.8 apg and Jamaal Wilkes 20.0 ppg.
Philadelphia 59-23 was coached by former 76er Billy Cunningham and was led by Julius Erving 26.9 ppg, Caldwell Jones 11.9 rpg, Maurice cheeks 11.4 ppg/ 7.0 apg, Daryl Dawkins 14.7 ppg/ 8.7 rpg and Doug Collins 13.8 ppg.
Featuring two of the greatest stars of that day in Abdul-Jabbar and Erving the series opened at the Forum in LA and was tied at halftime 53-53 but the Lakers went on 31-17 run in the third quarter to build up a lead which they held for a 109-102 win.
The Lakers were led by Abdul-Jabbar 33 points/14 rebounds, Magic Johnson 16points/9 rebounds/10 assists and Norm Nixon with 23 points.
Philadelphia made only 44. 4% of their field goals compared to 53.9% for LA and were led by Erving 20 points and Caldwell Jones 15 points/9 rebounds.
Still in LA the 76ers responded with an early surge giving them a 59-41 halftime lead which the Lakers chipped away at but came up short 107-104 and Philadelphia ties the series at one game apiece.
Maurice Cheeks played an inspired game as he made 11 of 13 field goals, had 10 assists and 6 steals while Daryl Dawkins added 25 points and Erving 23. For the Lakers Abdul-Jabbar dominated with 38 points/14 rebounds/5 blocks and Magic Johnson had 13 points and 11 assists.
Game three was held in the Spectrum in Philadelphia and the Lakers outrebounded the 76ers 56-37 with Jamaal Wilkespulling down 12, Magic 11 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 14 to go with his 33 points to propel LA to a 111-101 win and regain home court advantage.
The Lakers led throughout and after three quarters 84-65 but the 76ers made run in the fourth quarter to tighten the game.
For Philly Erving had 24 points, Caldwell Jones 15 points/11 rebounds and Daryl Dawkins 21 points.
Still in Philadelphia the 76ers answered with big first and third quarters to pull out a 105-102 win and even the series at 2-2. Although outrebounded 49-34 the Sixers won the game at the foul line making 23 of 26 attempts compared to 13 of 16 for LA.
Dawkins led the winners with 26 points, Erving added 23 and Lionel Hollins had 18 points and 13 assists while for the losers Magic Johnson had another great game with 28 points/9 rebounds/ 9 assists/ 3 steals and Abdul-Jabbar had 23 points and11 rebounds.
Game five was back at the Forum in LA and the Lakers behind a big third quarter and Abdul-Jabbar’s 40 points and 15 rebounds obtained a 108-103 victory which was even more remarkable considering Kareem turned his ankle late in the game and didn’t play much in the fourth quarter. Julius Erving led the 76ers with 36points.
Game six was at the Spectrum and with Abdul-Jabbar out with a swollen ankle. Magic Johnson had an inspired game with 42 points/15 rebounds/7 assists/3 steals and Jamaal Wilkes responded with 37 points as the Lakers outscored the 76ers 63-47 in the second half to win the game andthetitle 123-107.
Magic was awarded the series MVP and the Lakers and 76ers would be back in 1982 in a rematch.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate