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15 Best Rookie Seasons in NBA History

The NBA season may tip-off in October, but the real mark of a new season is the annual draft in June. Tanking franchises look to recover from a dismal season by adding a generational talent. Over the course of its 75 years, we have seen teams add a single player in the draft and turn into championship contenders. Here are the 15 best rookies seasons in NBA history.

15.) Blake Griffin 2010-11
Rookie Year Stats: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists

The hype that Blake Griffin set-off entering the NBA draft out of Oklahoma was generational, and it was no surprise he went 1st overall in 2009. A knee injury would sideline him the entire year however, making 2010-11 his rookie season. Griffin was fantastic averaging a 20 point, 12 rebound double-double. This also set in motion one of the best inside-jokes in NBA history. He would win rookie of the year in his second season because he had sat out the previous year, making it an annual joke to throw Griffin’s name in the ROY voting every year.

14.) Elvin Hayes 1968-69
Rookie Year Stats: 28.4 points, 17.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists

After finishing their first season in the NBA a lowly 15-67 record, the San Diego Rockets were looking to establish themselves in the league. They looked to Elvin Hayes out of the University of Houston to make that happen. Hayes was sensational his rookie year leading the league in scoring. He helped the Rockets win 22 more games than the previous year and secured their first ever playoff spot. Hayes would be runner-up for Rookie of the Year and the Rockets would ultimately lose in the semi-finals. 

13.) Wes Unseld 1968-69
Rookie Year Stats: 13.8 points, 18.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists

Yes, another rookie from the 1968-69 season has made this list. Elvin Hayes was runner-up for rookie of the year in 69′ because Washington Bullets center Wes Unseld took home the honors, along with the league MVP. He is only the second rookie to ever win MVP, and no player has done it since. Unseld helped take the Bullets from 6th in the East to 1st in just a single season. Unseld would claim his single NBA championship in 1978 with the Bullets. 

12.) Luka Doncic 2018-19
Rookie Year Stats: 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists

The Dallas Mavericks were in a tough spot in 2018. Their franchises greatest player, Dirk Nowitzki, was getting ready to retire and the team needed to rebuild. They would get everything they needed in more with the boy-wonder Luka Doncic. Doncic became the youngest Euro League MVP at 18 years and helped Madrid win a championship. He was eccentric his rookie year in the NBA, routinely hitting nasty step-backs and game winners. Doncic would win rookie of the year in 2019 and is still currently playing with the Dallas Mavericks. 

11.) Shaquille O’Neal 1992-93
Rookie Year Stats: 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 blocks

There may be no personality in NBA history bigger than the great Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was one of the highest touted prospects ever coming out of LSU. It was a no-brainer for the Magic to take him first overall. He won rookie of the year easily, dominating the paint night-in and night-out. Shaq would eventually leave Orlando and play for five teams across his career en route to five NBA championships. 

10.) David Robinson 1989-90
Rookie Year Stats: 24.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocks

The origins of David Robinsons ‘The Admiral’ nickname is some of the best NBA lore. Robinson was playing for the Naval Academy in college and was required to serve before he could enter the NBA. He would help add 35 wins to the Spurs season total and unanimously take home Rookie of the Year honors. He would play his whole career with the Spurs and help them win two NBA championships. 

9.) LeBron James 2003-04
Rookie Year Stats: 20.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.9 rebounds

There is and may never be a prospect more touted than LeBron James. The lottery to land the kid from Akron was going to change one franchise forever, and that was the Cavaliers. James took home Rookie of the Year honors after more than doubling the Cav’s win column. He would eventually depart Cleveland for Miami, but return and help them win their first NBA championship. 

8.) Magic Johnson 1979-80
Rookie Year Stats: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

The NBA was at a low-point in the late 70’s. Ratings were declining, attendance was abysmal, and the league was in jeopardy of falling. Magic Johnson would turn that around in just one season. With a smile the size of the sun, Johnson helped turn the Lakers into ‘showtime’. After leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was sidelined with a injury in the 1980 NBA finals, Johnson stepped in at center and dropped an insane 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. He would win finals MVP, the first and only rookie to ever be given the honors.

7.) Larry Bird 1979-80
Rookie Year Stats: 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists

Yes, Magic saved the NBA in the 80’s, but he wouldn’t of been able to do it without Larry Bird. Together Larry and Magic cultivated the greatest rivalry the NBA has ever seen. Both rookies in 1980, Larry edged out Magic for Rookie of the Year after leading the Celtics to a league best 61-21 record. Larry would play out his entire career for the Celtics and won three championships.

6.) Elgin Baylor 1958-59
Rookie Year Stats: 24.9 points, 15.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists

When talking about the greatest scorers in NBA history, it’s criminal to leave out the great Elgin Baylor. As a rookie for the Minneapolis Lakers, Baylor averaged nearly 25 points, good enough for 4th amongst all players that season. Baylor would play his entire 13 year career with the Lakers, but retire right before they would win a championship in 1972.

5.) Michael Jordan 1984-85
Rookie Year Stats: 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists

There are few, albeit maybe no basketball player who embedded themselves with such a level of ferocity and heart on the court as Michael Jordan. He hit the ground running, leading the league in total sports scored his rookie year. Jordan would win Rookie of the Year over Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rocket’s. MJ would go on to win 6 championships with the Bulls before retiring on the Wizards.

4.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1969-70
Rookie Year Stats: 28.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists

The great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest figures to be apart of the NBA. From leading the Lakers to championships, to staring on the big-screen, and most importantly fighting for fundamental rights, Kareem was unapologetically himself. In his rookie year for the Milwaukee Bucks he added 29 wins to their record. He would also help the Bucks win their franchises first NBA championship.

3.) Walt Bellamy 1961-62
Rookie Year Stats: 31.6 points, 19.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists

Most NBA fans may not know the name ‘Walt Bellamy’, but his importance in the grand scheme of the NBA is crucial. He has the third highest point per game mark for any rookie in NBA history, and was a key reason the Washington Bullets were able to become a solid organization. Bellamy also led the league in field goal percentage his rookie year, knocking down 51.9% of his attempts.

2.) Oscar Robertson 1960-61
Rookie Year Stats: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists

The big ‘O’ is one of the best all-around talents to ever take an NBA floor. His rookie season displayed just that, nearly averaging a 30 point triple double. Robertson helped add 14 wins to the Royals win total and secured himself Rookie of the Year honors. He would ultimately end his career in Milwaukee where he would win his sole championship.

1.) Wilt Chamberlain 1959-60
Rookie Year Stats: 37.6 points, 27.0 rebounds, 2,3 assists

The NBA’s record book of absurd stats could honestly have Wilt Chamberlain named as an author. No player has ever and will ever score as many points or grab as many rebounds that Wilt did his rookie year. He was so unstoppable he was awarded the league MVP on top of his Rookie of the Year honors. Wilt would go on to win two NBA championships and will be remembered as the greatest stat-stuffer ever.

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Every Steph Curry 40 Point Playoff Game

Steph Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history. No one has put the ball in the basket from beyond the arc more than him, or done it as efficiently. In game four of this year’s NBA finals, Steph Curry hit the 40 point mark for the seventh time in his career. That performance ties him for fifth with Russell Westbrook among active players to reach 40 points in a playoff game. Here is every Steph Curry 40 point playoff game.

2013 Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Antonio Spurs
Game 1: 44 points, 11 assists, 6/14 from three
(Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

The 2013 postseason would be the first time Steph Curry ever saw the floor in an NBA playoff game. After taking out the Denver Nuggets in the first round, Steph and the Warriors would square off against defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs. Game one of this series would be an all-time playoff game. After a back-and-forth first four quarters, the game would be pushed into double overtime. The Warriors held a one-point lead with just under four seconds left when Manu Ginobili hit a catch-and-shoot three to take a 129-127 lead. The Spurs would go on to win the series 4-2 and eventually capture another championship.

2015 Western Conference First Round vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Game 3: 40 points, 9 assists, 7/18 from three

During the 2015 regular season, Steph Curry became a household name breaking the three point single-season record and winning his first MVP. The first place Warriors were primed for a title run. In their first game playing in New Orleans with a 2-0 series lead, Steph Curry dropped his second career 40 point playoff game. The Pelicans would fight relentlessly all game but Curry would push the game into overtime with a contested corner three to tie the game. They had no answer for Curry who scored 7 of the Warriors 15 overtime points. The Warriors would go on to sweep the Pelicans.

2015 Western Conference Finals vs. Houston Rockets
Game 3: 40 points, 7 assists, 7/9 from three

Steph was so dominant in 2015 that it is his only playoff run to have multiple 40 point games. The second 40 point performance would happen during game 3 of the conference finals. The Warriors headed to Houston with a 2-0 lead and looked unstoppable up to this point. Game 3 would be no difference as Steph Curry would shoot 77% from three in a blowout 115-80 win. Steph was so dominant that 37 of his 40 points came in the first three quarters alone. The Warriors would go on to win the series 4-1 and Curry would eventually capture his first NBA championship.

2016 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Portland Trailblazers
Game 4: 40 points, 8 assists, 9 rebounds

Although the 2016 playoffs may be tough for Steph Curry to look back on, as they would blow a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals, he still had some all-time performances along the way. In the first round of these playoffs Curry would sprain his knee and be sidelined for a few weeks, missing the first three games of the second round against the Blazers. In game three Damian Lillard took advantage of the injured Warriors team and dropped his own 40 point game to bring the series 2-1 in favor of the Warriors. Game 4 would see Steph Curry’s return and it was one of epic proportions. Coming off the bench, Steph Curry would nearly drop a 40 point triple-double with 17 of those points coming in the five minute overtime period. The Warriors would win 132-125 and eventually win the series 4-1.

2017 Western Conference Finals vs. San Antonio Spurs
Game 1: 40 points, 7 rebounds, 7/16 from three

Curry and the Warriors would finally get their rematch against the Spurs in 2017. Kawhi Leonard was coming off a terrific season finishing top three in MVP voting. The Warriors were looking like an immovable train on their way to another championship with newly added superstar Kevin Durant. The Warriors would go down by 20 in the first half of game 1 before Leonard would go down with an injury. Curry and the Warriors would take advantage and win the game 113-111 behind Steph Curry’s 40 point 7 rebound performance.

2019 NBA Finals vs. Toronto Raptors
Game 3: 47 points, 7 assists, 8 rebounds

Steph Curry’s career high in the playoffs would come amidst the worst injury bug the Warriors have dealt with maybe ever. Kevin Durant was suffering from a nagging leg injury and Klay Thompson was also battling through injuries. Both were forced to sit out game 3 of the finals and Curry was left with the task of taking down Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors himself. He would have a generational performance dropping 47 points and a near triple-double. The Warriors would lose the game 123-109. Thompson and Durant would attempt to come back and play but would both suffer much worse injuries and the Warriors lost the series 4-2.

2022 NBA Finals vs. Boston Celtics
Game 4: 43 points, 10 rebounds, 7-14 from three

No single player has more riding on this year’s NBA finals than Steph Curry. He knows to truly be mentioned with the greats he needs a final’s MVP trophy, and he’s done just about everything he can to earn it. Heading to Boston down 2-1, the Warriors title hopes were looking dim. Curry took his game to the next level scoring 43 points among a flurry of deep threes. The Warriors head to Boston for game six with a 3-2 series lead behind Curry’s 30.6 scoring average in the finals. If the Warriors can close out the series, Steph Curry will undoubtedly win his first finals MVP.

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Highest Scoring NBA Finals Performances

There is no bigger stage in basketball than the NBA finals. A culmination of the 20+ week grind that is the regular and postseason schedule, the finals are the last chance for players and teams to put everything on the line for a coveted title. There are certain performances in the finals that transcend mother time and will forever be regarded as historic. Seeing the best players in the world go into fight or flight mode as their backs are against the wall facing elimination. Here are the highest scoring NBA finals performances.

5.) LeBron James: 51 Points – 2018 NBA Finals vs Warriors
19/32 from the field, 10/11 from free throw line, 3/7 from three

What LeBron James was able to accomplish in 2018 with a depleted Cavaliers roster was special. 2018 was truly the year LeBron earned the moniker LeGM. Over eleven players were moved either from or on to the Cav’s by the trade deadline of this year. Despite a shaky roster, Bron was able to power through the east and take the Cav’s to their fourth straight finals. His highest scoring NBA finals performance would come in game one. Despite a 10 point loss, LeBron James put up 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Cav’s would go on to lose in four games and LeBron would take his talent to Los Angeles.

4.) Jerry West: 53 Points – 1969 NBA Finals vs Celtics
21/41 from the field, 11/13 from free throw line
(Photo by Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

There are few men in NBA history who have experienced the pain and torment of losing quite like Jerry West. Despite winning one NBA title as a player, West is most-known for his eight NBA finals losses. One of those losses came at the end of the 1968-69 season. In game 1 the Celtics decided not to double-team West in hopes that the previous series had fatigued him. Instead West came out on pure adrenaline, dropping 53 points and 20 assists. The Lakers would win that game by two points, but the series would go seven games. West’s game seven performance would be an epic triple double of 42 points, 12 assists, and 13 rebounds. The Lakers would lose game seven however. West would be awarded the first and only finals MVP to a player on a losing team.

3.) Rick Barry: 55 Points – 1967 NBA Finals vs 76ers
22/48 from the field, 11/19 from free throw line

When talking about the forefathers of scoring in the NBA, it’s criminal to leave Rick Barry’s name out. Despite shooting his free throws underhanded like my 81 year old grandma at the YMCA, Barry was elite at putting the ball in the basket. His highest scoring NBA finals performance would come in game three. Barry’s Warriors were down 2-0 heading back to San Francisco and needed something epic to get back into the series. No one could stop Rick Barry as he put in 55 points and nabbed 12 rebounds. The Warriors would go on to lose in six games, but Barry cemented himself with this game three performance.

2.) Michael Jordan: 55 Points – 1993 NBA Finals vs Suns
21/37 from the field, 13/18 from free throw line

When you dominate on the biggest stage year in and year out, you earn the title of GOAT. Michael Jordan did just that and more in his six finals performances, never losing once in the finals. Many point to the 1995-96 season the Bulls won 72 games. The 1993 team was maybe the most complete however. After a game three loss, the Bulls led the series 2-1. Jordan took that loss personally and delivered a 55 piece en route to a six point win. Jordan would average 41 points across the six game series and be awarded his third NBA finals MVP.

1.) Elgin Baylor: 61 Points – 1962 NBA Finals vs Celtics
22/46 from the field, 17/19 from free throw line
(Via Getty Images)

There are few people in NBA history that can score like Elgin Baylor. His 1962 NBA finals series rivals that of any NBA great. In a tight seven game series against the Boston Celtics, Baylor averaged a maddening 40.6 points. His highest scoring NBA finals performance would come in game five. With the series tied 2-2, Baylor dropped the first ever 60 point NBA finals performance, while simultaneously grabbing 22 rebounds. Baylor and the Lakers would go on to lose game seven in heartbreaking fashion by only three points.

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History of The Celtics Vs Warriors

It’s common in the NBA to see the same teams reach the NBA finals, even in consecutive years. The Warriors and Cavaliers matched up four years in a row, The Spurs and Heat played in back-to-back finals, The Jazz and Bulls played in consecutive finals, you get the point. You would think that two of the most historic franchises, the Celtics and Warriors, would have a robust history of postseason matchups. In reality however, these two franchises have rarely battled in the postseason. Here is the history of the Golden State Warriors vs the Boston Celtics. 

Regular Season
(Photo by NBAPhotos/ NBAE/ Getty Images)

Although the postseason history between the Warriors and Celtics may be short, the regular season battles come in plenty. Both these franchises were a part of the NBA’s original eight teams, and were conceived in 1946. On November 26, 1946, the Celtics and then Philadelphia Warriors would meet for the first time. The Warriors would win the competition 66-54. Warriors guard Angelo Musi would lead the game in scoring with 16 points. The Celtics and Warriors would meet a total of 346 times during the regular season. The Celtics are currently winning the all-time series 208-138.

Postseason
(Via Getty Images)

In total the Warriors and Celtics have met on five separate occasions during the postseason. In 1962 the Warriors would move from Philadelphia to San Francisco, ultimately moving them to the Western conference. Because of this, the Celtics and Warriors first couple of playoff meetings take place in the Eastern Conference playoffs and not in the NBA finals. From 1958-1962 the Celtics and Warriors would meet Eastern Division finals three separate times. The Celtics won all these series pretty handedly except for the 1962 East Finals which went seven games.

NBA Finals History
(Via Getty Images)

This year’s finals is only the second time in NBA history the Warriors and Celtics are competing for a championship. They first met in the 1964 finals. The Celtics were dominant this season winning 59 games, a league best. The Warriors also held onto the first seed in the West after winning 48 games. The Celtics had won 5 championships in the last 6 years and were looking to be the most destructive dynasty the NBA has ever seen. The 1964 finals would only go five games with the Celtics easily taking care of the Warriors. Bill Russell put up a jaw-dropping 11 points and 25 rebound average to take down Wilt Chamberlain who boasted averages of 29 points and 27 rebounds.

2022 NBA Finals
(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

This season marks the first NBA finals in 58 years that the Celtics and Warriors are the last two teams standing. With the series tied 1-1 going back to Boston, the Warriors are looking to get their first postseason series win over the Celtics in their franchise’s history. Looking at the depth both these rosters have, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that these two teams may meet again during the finals in the near future.

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How Many Rings Does Magic Johnson Have?

When trying to rank the best NBA players of all time, there is and will never be a definitive answer. With over 75 years of history there is simply too much top tier talent to rank one player above the rest. A more constructive exercise would be to rank the best players at every position, and for the point guard position, that spot is locked in. Steph Curry is in the rearview mirror, but Magic Johnson sits alone as the greatest point guard in NBA history. A five time champion, three time finals MVP, three time league MVP, and ten time All-NBA selections, few can hold a light to Magic. Here are the five championships that Magic won.

1980 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers 4 – Philadelphia 76ers 2
21.5 Points, 11.2 Rebounds, 8.7 assists
(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

The 1979 NCAA championship gave us a preview of the greatest rivalry in basketball history. Magic Johnson of Michigan State would square off against Indiana State’s Larry Bird. Michigan State won the game handedly and it is still to this day the most watched basketball game ever. The Lakers won the first overall pick in a coin-toss with Chicago, and the landscape of the NBA would be changed forever. The Lakers would take the fresh-faced smiling star from Lansing, Michigan, Magic Johnson. The Lakers new run-and-gun offense propelled them to 60 wins and the best record in the West. After bulldozing through the Western conference, the Lakers squared off against Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. With the series tied in a pivotal game 5, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would jump up for a rebound and land on his ankle, spraining it completely. He remained in the game and dropped 40 points but would sit out game 6. Even though leading, it seemed the Lakers had no shot of bringing home the championship. That’s when Magic Johnson stepped in and started at center. He was spectacular in game 6 dropping 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. He took home the finals MVP and remains the only rookie in NBA history to receive that honor.

1982 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers 4 – Philadelphia 76ers 2
16.2 Points, 10.8 Rebounds, 8 Assists
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The Lakers were looking to become back-to-back champions in 1981, but were cut short in the first round. They lost to the eventual Western conference champion Houston Rockets in three games. The Boston Celtics would go on to win the 1981 NBA finals, giving Magic’s biggest rival Larry Bird the same amount of rings as him. With a new motivation to relinquish the title back from the Celtics the Lakers won 65 games and took back the best regular season record in the West. The Lakers plowed their way through the West again and found themselves in a rematch against the Philadelphia 76ers. Phill would meet its fate in six games again as the Lakers would go on to win the championship. Magic would nearly average a triple-double putting up 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. He also put together 2.5 steals per game through the six finals games. Magic would receive his second finals MVP award, giving him another edge against Larry Bird. 

1985 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers 4 – Boston Celtics 2
18.3 Points, 6.8 Rebounds, 14.0 Assists
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers wouldn’t win another championship until 1985, despite appearing in the previous two NBA finals. The 1984 finals is what would stay fresh in the back of all the Lakers minds. The Lakers and Celtics met in 1984 in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest NBA finals ever. The Lakers had a 2-1 lead in the series heading into game 4. With 14 seconds left the Lakers held a two point lead and looked to be victorious. That was until Dennis Johnson stole the inbound pass to force overtime. The Celtics would win that game and eventually win the series in seven, giving Larry Bird his first finals MVP. 1985 would be a whole different story. The Lakers would lose game one by 40 points after an all-time bad game from Kareem. Pat Riley forced the team to watch the footage of this beatdown and repeatedly went in on Kareem. The Lakers would dominate the series from then on out and win it all in 6 games. Despite breaking the NBA record for most assists averaged throughout a series, Magic lost the finals MVP to Kareem after he averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists.

1987 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers 4 – Boston Celtics 2
26.2 Points, 8 Rebounds, 13 Assists
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers found themselves bounced from the 1986 playoffs by the Houston Rockets in five games during the Western Conference Finals, and the Celtics would reclaim the NBA title. Going into 1987 the Lakers had a newfound motivation to take what’s rightfully theirs back from the Celtics. The Lakers would win 65 regular season games and separate themselves as clear favorites to win another title. After working their way through the West, they met a familiar foe in the Boston Celtics during the 1987 Finals. At this point the Celtics and Lakers rivalry was pure mayhem. After facing off so many times this series was about way more than just basketball. The Lakers took direct control of the series after going up 3-1, and the rest was history. Magic would get his third and last finals MVP after a dazzling 16 points and 19 assists in game six. This fourth championship broke his tie breaker with Larry, giving him another edge in the rivalry.

1988 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers 4 – Detroit Pistons 3
21.1 Points, 5.7 Rebounds, 13 assists
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers had clearly found their stride as a team as they coasted the 1988 regular season winning 62 games and finishing 1st in the West. They once again plowed through the conference and Magic Johnson found himself in his ninth NBA finals. Instead of the familiar 76ers or Celtics, the Lakers matched up against the scrappy Detroit Pistons, known for their manic defense and physical play. The Pistons would steal game five, taking a 3-2 series lead and just a single game from winning it all. In game six, Pistons star guard Isaiah Thomas would sprain his ankle but continue playing. Giving an all-time NBA finals performance he dropped 43 points and a record 25 points in the third quarter alone. It wasn’t enough however as the Lakers pushed the series to seven games. Back in Los Angeles the Lakers won a tight game seven by a score of 108-105 backed by a legendary performance from James Worthy. Worthy put up 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists in game seven and locked himself the finals MVP. This was Magic Johnson’s last NBA championship as he would soon retire in 1991. 

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How Many Rings Does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Have?

When debating who the unanimous ‘GOAT’ of basketball is, the same two names are thrown around. Before the days of the Jordan vs LeBron debate there was one player who was unanimously selected as the best basketball player of all time; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Off the court, Kareem broke down long standing barriers between athletes and social justice movements. On the court he broke down the best centers the league had to offer. Winning 6 league MVP’s, 19 all-star selections, 15 time all-NBA first team, 11 time all-defense, the list of accolades is never ending. What may be most impressive are the six championship rings that Kareem won in his 20 seasons played. Here are the six NBA finals matchups Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won and how Kareem performed in each one!

1971: Bucks defeat Bullets 4-0
27 points, 18.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists
(Photo by Vernon Biever/NBAE via Getty Images)

In the first of Abdul-Jabbar’s many rings, he squared off against Wes Unseld and the Baltimore Bullets. Abdul-Jabbar was coming off his first regular season MVP after averaging 31 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 assists during the regular season. The Bucks were able to finish off the Bullets in a four-game sweep to claim the franchises first ever NBA championship. Abdul-Jabbar was already one of the winningest players in collegiate basketball history, so this championship showed the world he could win at any level. Notably, Kareem took home the Finals MVP trophy for his outstanding performance in the series.

1980: Lakers defeat 76ers 4-2
33.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.6 blocks
(Photo by Peter Read Miller /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The first of Kareem’s five titles in Los Angeles would come at the end of the 1980 season. This season was highlighted by the turmoil the Lakers organization dealt with throughout the year. First the team was changing ownership, so a slew of changes were made to the front office. The Lakers went through nearly 4 head coaches from pre-season to the end of the season. Despite all that, the Lakers won 60 games and found themselves in the NBA finals. Kareem was sidelined for game 6 which Magic Johnson played all five positions during. Magic would take home the Finals MVP, and showtime would be kickstarted.

1982: Lakers defeat 76ers 4-2
18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 blocks
(Photo by Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The 1982 finals saw a Lakers and 76ers rematch from the 1980 finals. Unfortunately for the 76ers, the same fate would be met. Kareem was his usual self, defending the interior and snatching boards throughout the six game series. Magic would steal the spotlight once again however, nearly averaging a triple double and securing his second Finals MVP. The Lakers were in full-stride as ‘Showtime’ at this point and had no plans of slowing down. The Lakers finished with 57 wins this season although neither Magic or Kareem finished top 5 in regular season MVP voting.

1985: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2
25.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists
(Via Getty Images)

The 1985 NBA finals gave us an epic rematch of the previous years Lakers vs Celtics matchup that went seven games. The biggest storyline here was the growing rivalry between Laker Magic Johnson and Celtic Larry Bird. Magic had a dazzling series averaging 14 assists a game, but that wasn’t enough to win Finals MVP. Kareem would take home the award after a huge 29 point performance in game six. This was Abdul-Jabbar’s second and last Finals MVP. 

1987: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2
21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks
(Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

The last NBA Finals matchup that saw the ‘Showtime’ Lakers take on Larry Bird’s Celtic’s was during the 1987 NBA Finals. The Lakers were able to take care of business in 6 games and claim another NBA championship. The most memorable moment of this finals was Magic hitting the patented Kareem ‘Skyhook’ to take a one point lead in game four. Larry got a great look at a buzzer-beating game-winner but the shot rimmed out. This year the wear-and-tear of being an NBA vet was finally starting to rust on Kareem as his production slowed down.

1988: Lakers defeat Pistons 4-3
13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 block
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The last ring that Kareem and the ‘Showtime’ Lakers claimed would come at the end of the 1988 season. In a tight seven game series, the Lakers barely were able to edge out the physical Pistons. Isaiah Thomas stole the show with a legendary 43 point performance in game six on a broken bloody ankle, although the Piston’s couldn’t pull out the win. The Lakers pushed the series to seven games and the rest was history. Kareem was still able to make a real impact and help the Lakers win, but clearly age had gotten the better of Abdul-Jabbar at this point.

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How Many Rings Does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Have?

When debating who the unanimous ‘GOAT’ of basketball is, the same two names are thrown around. Before the days of the Jordan vs LeBron debate there was one player who was unanimously selected as the best basketball player of all time; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Off the court, Kareem broke down long standing barriers between athletes and social justice movements. On the court he broke down the best centers the league had to offer. Winning 6 league MVP’s, 19 all-star selections, 15 time all-NBA first team, 11 time all-defense, the list of accolades is never ending. What may be most impressive are the six championship rings that Kareem won in his 20 seasons played. Here are the six NBA finals matchups Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won and how Kareem performed in each one!

1971: Bucks defeat Bullets 4-0
27 points, 18.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists
(Photo by Vernon Biever/NBAE via Getty Images)

In the first of Abdul-Jabbar’s many rings, he squared off against Wes Unseld and the Baltimore Bullets. Abdul-Jabbar was coming off his first regular season MVP after averaging 31 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 assists during the regular season. The Bucks were able to finish off the Bullets in a four-game sweep to claim the franchises first ever NBA championship. Abdul-Jabbar was already one of the winningest players in collegiate basketball history, so this championship showed the world he could win at any level. Notably, Kareem took home the Finals MVP trophy for his outstanding performance in the series.

1980: Lakers defeat 76ers 4-2
33.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.6 blocks
(Photo by Peter Read Miller /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The first of Kareem’s five titles in Los Angeles would come at the end of the 1980 season. This season was highlighted by the turmoil the Lakers organization dealt with throughout the year. First the team was changing ownership, so a slew of changes were made to the front office. The Lakers went through nearly 4 head coaches from pre-season to the end of the season. Despite all that, the Lakers won 60 games and found themselves in the NBA finals. Kareem was sidelined for game 6 which Magic Johnson played all five positions during. Magic would take home the Finals MVP, and showtime would be kickstarted.

1982: Lakers defeat 76ers 4-2
18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 blocks
(Photo by Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The 1982 finals saw a Lakers and 76ers rematch from the 1980 finals. Unfortunately for the 76ers, the same fate would be met. Kareem was his usual self, defending the interior and snatching boards throughout the six game series. Magic would steal the spotlight once again however, nearly averaging a triple double and securing his second Finals MVP. The Lakers were in full-stride as ‘Showtime’ at this point and had no plans of slowing down. The Lakers finished with 57 wins this season although neither Magic or Kareem finished top 5 in regular season MVP voting.

1985: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2
25.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists
(Via Getty Images)

The 1985 NBA finals gave us an epic rematch of the previous years Lakers vs Celtics matchup that went seven games. The biggest storyline here was the growing rivalry between Laker Magic Johnson and Celtic Larry Bird. Magic had a dazzling series averaging 14 assists a game, but that wasn’t enough to win Finals MVP. Kareem would take home the award after a huge 29 point performance in game six. This was Abdul-Jabbar’s second and last Finals MVP. 

1987: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2
21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks
(Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

The last NBA Finals matchup that saw the ‘Showtime’ Lakers take on Larry Bird’s Celtic’s was during the 1987 NBA Finals. The Lakers were able to take care of business in 6 games and claim another NBA championship. The most memorable moment of this finals was Magic hitting the patented Kareem ‘Skyhook’ to take a one point lead in game four. Larry got a great look at a buzzer-beating game-winner but the shot rimmed out. This year the wear-and-tear of being an NBA vet was finally starting to rust on Kareem as his production slowed down.

1988: Lakers defeat Pistons 4-3
13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 block
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The last ring that Kareem and the ‘Showtime’ Lakers claimed would come at the end of the 1988 season. In a tight seven game series, the Lakers barely were able to edge out the physical Pistons. Isaiah Thomas stole the show with a legendary 43 point performance in game six on a broken bloody ankle, although the Piston’s couldn’t pull out the win. The Lakers pushed the series to seven games and the rest was history. Kareem was still able to make a real impact and help the Lakers win, but clearly age had gotten the better of Abdul-Jabbar at this point.

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Sports Strength

What Is The Closest MVP Race In NBA History?

This year’s NBA MVP race is one of the tightest we’ve seen in recent memory. In Philadelphia you have Joel “The Process” Embiid regularly babying any and every player in the paint. Out west in Denver, Nikola Jokic is putting together the most efficient season we’ve ever seen with his two main co-stars sidelined with injury. Finally, in Milwaukee we have Giannis Antetokounmpo vying for a spot on the Mount Rushmore of GOAT’s as he dominates the league night in and night out. All three players are well deserving of the MVP award, but only one will end up with hardware. This year’s race is reminiscent of the 1989-1990 MVP race, one of the tightest in NBA history. Here’s the top three MVP candidates for the 1990 race and how the voting played out.

3.) Michael Jordan
33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.8 steals – 565 total MVP points
(Photo by John Iacono /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

You know that an MVP race was stacked if the widely-recognized greatest player of all-time finished third. At this point in Jordan’s career he had one MVP to his name but was largely becoming known for being a career loser. The Bull’s couldn’t get out of the eastern conference, and that was a major stain on Jordan’s legacy. The Bulls finished 55-27, the second best record in the east. Jordan put up video-game-like numbers with 33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.8 steals per game. Just looking at the numbers Jordan should’ve won this year’s MVP but the bulls not finishing with a better record put a huge stain on Jordan’s resume this year. Jordan would finish with 21 first place votes and 564 total points in the MVP race.

2.) Charles Barkley
25.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists – 614 total MVP points
(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

The runner up in the 1990 MVP race was the Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley. Barkley had entered the NBA as an overweight, undersized forward but had proven to be an elite big-man. At age 26 he was able to average 25 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, shooting 60% from the field, all while propelling the 76er’s to the third best record in the east. Despite losing hall-of-fame guard Mo Cheeks, Barkley helped add six wins to Philly’s record and put them squarely into contention for a championship. The most odd part about this year’s voting was that Barkley actually received the most first place votes. He had 38 first place votes compared to Magic Johnson’s 27. Barkley only finished with 614 total points, which left him 22 points shy of the MVP award.

1.) Magic Johnson
22.3 points, 11.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds – 636 total MVP points
(Photo by Manny Millan /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The inevitable winner of the 1990 MVP race would go to the leader of the showtime Lakers, Magic Johnson. Even though Magic only received 27 first place votes, his 636 point total put him over the edge to ultimately claim the award. Johnson would put up averages of 22.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.5 assists per game, but it was the Lakers win total that helped propel Magic to the award. The Lakers finished the season 63-19, a league best record. This was Magic’s second MVP in back-to-back years and his third in the previous four years.

As this year’s MVP race comes to a close I think it’s important to remember that all three of the finalists are deserving of the award. There is going to be someone snubbed of an MVP award this season and there is really nothing that can be done about it. The talent in the NBA is rapidly growing, and to have the most coveted award be this tight of a race is truly a beautiful thing for this league. I can’t wait to see who takes home the hardware at the end of this season.

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Culture Movies/TV

How Realistic Were Episodes 1-2 of HBO’s “Winning Time”? Let’s Talk About It

Certain facts will be changed to keep the story interesting from a narrative sense in any sort of production that deals with retelling real-world events. In order to keep the plot more engaging or give the viewer more insight into what is going on, it’s impossible to tell a true story without twisting some facts into fiction. The trick is finding a happy medium where the story is an accurate portrayal as well as being engaging and easy to follow. 

HBO Max’s newest hit series Winning Time has been extremely successful in finding that happy middle. The show has been based on the best-selling book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty Of The 1980s by Jeff Pearlman, which chronicles the rise of the Showtime Lakers through countless interviews and first-hand accounts. So, where has the show strayed from certain details in the book? Let’s talk about it.

Jack Kent Cooke
Getty Images

One of the key figures introduced in the first episode of Winning Time is former Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke (Michael O’Keefe). Cooke is forced to sell the sports franchises he owns as he is going through one of the largest divorce settlements in history. His ex-wife Barbara Carnegie was entitled to $49 million, a then-record for the largest divorce settlement in United States history. The overall image that has been portrayed of Jack Cooke has been very accurate, as Cooke would regularly verbally abuse his employees and implement various drastic and harsh rules. Things such as his steak being undercooked would send him into a fiery rampage which would end with him forcing his employees to recite the phrase “I will not make this mistake again.” Something similar to this is the scene we see Cooke force Claire Rothman (Gaby Hoffmann) to repeat the phrase after yelling at her. 

One scene we see that isn’t entirely accurate is Magic Johnson’s first trip to the Forum. During the show, we see Magic, Earvin Johnson Sr, Jack Cooke, and Jerry Buss all enjoying some gourmet sand dabs. This event did happen, but Jerry Buss was not present. Chick Hearn, the Lakers’ broadcast voice, was the actual last participant at the table. It is true that Magic demanded $600,000 for his rookie deal and threatened to go back to college if he didn’t get that money, but Cooke actually folded once Johnson made the bluff. Cooke invited Johnson back to the Forum trophy room the next day, where they negotiated the deal, and Magic even convinced Cooke to indulge in pepperoni pizza. This was one of the only positive stories I could find about Jack Cooke, as In the words of former Lakers player and broadcaster Rod Hundley, “He (Jack Cooke) was the number one asshole that ever lived.”

Jerry Buss
(Via GettyImages)

A key figure we’ve spent a significant amount of intimate time with through the first two episodes is the late-great Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly). Buss was well known for his extravagant lifestyle and affinity to the playboy mansion, and this larger-than-life portrayal of him in the show is more than in-tune with reality.

However, the relationship portrayed between Cooke and Buss throughout the first episode may not be entirely accurate. Buss, who at the time owned a professional tennis team, was called by Claire Rothman with an offer to have his team play in the Forum. Buss rejected the offer as the team couldn’t afford it, but he met with Rothman at the Forum later and was convinced to buy a skybox. After the purchase, Rothman suggested that Buss and Cooke meet, and lunch in the Forum’s trophy room ensued.

The two began a modest friendship and would talk semi-frequently, with this friendship putting Buss at the top of the list of buyers when Cooke decided to sell the team.

In episode two, we later find out that the other owners almost voted against Buss buying the team because they didn’t want someone buying and flipping the team immediately. What wasn’t noted during the scene is that Jack Cooke went to bat for him and convinced the other owners that Buss could do wonders for their league. Overall the portrayal of Jerry Buss has been pretty spot-on, and I can’t wait to see how his character develops throughout the series.

Jerry West
(Via GettyImages)

Another central figure who gets the main share of episode two’s screen time is the ‘Logo’, Jerry West. West is one of the most important figures in the history of basketball and is a fundamental reason the league has grown to the heights it has. Off the court, however, West has been plagued with hardships throughout his life. 

Growing up, West endured regular abuse from his father, a reason he notes for his self-doubt. A scene from episode two that is strikingly realistic is West’s reaction to winning the NBA championship. After we are told the Lakers won the NBA championship in 1972, the screen cuts to an indifferent Jerry West as teammates jump around him in euphoric fashion.

In his biography of Jerry West, Roland Lazenby writes, “he admitted after so many years of inhabiting the deathly quiet locker room of the losers, he wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this new experience. “I don’t know where I’m going to celebrate,” he said. “The feelings I have now are private ones. I’m going to go home and lock the door.” The sentiment we see West carry about his inability to coach rings true as well. West was a fiery competitor and a master of the game, but being able to reciprocate that to his players was a roadblock for West. 

In his own words, “Coaching wasn’t something I was really capable of doing. As a coach, I was a screamer and a yeller, which I hated. When Jerry Buss came in, I knew it was my time to stop coaching once and for all.” Overall the portrayal of Jerry West seems accurate apart from occasionally overexaggerating his outbursts.

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Sports Strength

Who Won the First NBA Three Point Contest?

The NBA All-star weekend is truly a weekend for the fans. The three-night extravaganza of NBA content pits the best of the best against each other in a slew of competitions. A fan favorite as of recent has been the annual three-point contest. A field of some of the best shooters in the league takes five shots from five different spots behind the arch and, simply, whoever has the most points wins. So when did the NBA start the three points contest and who was its inaugural winner?

The NBA first introduced the three-point line in the 1979-80 season. Today it’s common to see players regularly pull up from 30+ feet for circus-style trick shots early in the shot clock. Taking some of the shots that are put up today in the 80s would get you immediately benched and shipped out on the next flight to Sacramento. By the 1985-86 season however, a slew of guards who could knock down the deep ball at an efficient rate had emerged, and a field of three-point contest participants was built out of role-players. Well, all role players except for the otherworldly shooter who went by the name Larry Bird. 

The field was set with eight of the best long-distance shooters the NBA had to offer. Joining ‘Larry Legend’ in the first NBA three-point contest would be Craig Hodges, Dale Ellis, Trent Tucker, Sleepy Floyd, Kyle Macy, Leon Wood, and Norm Nixon. As this was the first three-point contest ever, participants had to be briefed on the rules and structure of the competition. Participants looked around the room and were puzzled to find Larry Bird missing. That’s when the doors to the locker room swung open rapidly. Bird made his way through the locker room sizing up his opponents and then cool as a cucumber issued a question to everyone:

Larry Bird

Man, who’s coming in second?

The top four contestants in the first round would move onto the second round, where the top two scores in that round would move onto the finals. The competition started hot with Craig Hodges putting up 21 points, while making his first 19 in a row, still a record to this day. Ultimately Hodges and Bird would meet in the finale. Hodges would go first and only put up 12 points in the big finale. With the high score set in the final round, Bird took the floor for his turn. Putting up 25 points in his bright red All-Star jersey, Bird calmly took home the first three-point contest title ever. The ‘hick from french lick’ would go on to win the three-point contest in 1987 and 1988, making him and Craig Hodges the only players to win 3 different three point contests.