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Los Angeles Lakers

This Date in NBA History (May 16): Rookie Magic Johnson's historic Game 6 performance in the 1980 NBA Finals and more

On May 16th in 1980, a rookie in Magic Johnson started at center in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers and finished with one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history.

In the absence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers' superstar center and reigning league MVP, Johnson played 47 minutes and recorded 42 points (14-23 FGs; 14-14 FTs), 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals to lead the Lakers to a 123-107 Game 6 victory.

The win helped the Lakers clinch the 1980 NBA Championship, their seventh in franchise history and the first since 1972.

Courtesy of his heroics in the clincher and with series averages of 21.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and 2.7 steals, Johnson was named Finals MVP. At just 20 years old, he remains the youngest ever Finals MVP. Not to mention the fact that he is the only rookie to receive the recognition.

The Lakers also received key contributions from Jamaal Wilkes (37 points; 25 in the second half) and Michael Cooper (16 points), meanwhile for the 76ers, Julius Erving was the top contributor with 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks.

"That was still today, my greatest game in the NBA," Johnson said years after he had retired from the game.

Other notable events on May 16th

  • In 1999, the New York Knicks became the only second eighth-seeded team in NBA playoff history to upset a number one seed when they defeated the Miami Heat.
  • In 2000, Utah's Jeff Hornacek played his final game for the Jazz as they got eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Semifinals. In 1,077 career games, he 14.5 points and 4.9 assists per game while shooting 49.6% from the field, 40.3% from three-point range and 87.7% from the free-throw line.
  • In 2001, a day after Allen Iverson was named the 2001 MVP, he dropped 52 points (21-32 FGs; 8-14 3Ps) in a 121-88 Game 5 win against the Toronto Raptors in the Conference Semifinals.

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