The 1980s changed the NBA, and this has been reflected on NBA Tuesday, as all-time legends like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan have won a combined 4 awards from us here this decade. One legendary player that has been unexpectedly absent from this list? We get to discuss him below!
On with the awards show for 1987 …
1987 NBA MVP: Magic Johnson (original), Michael Jordan (revised)
The three top players in the league were easy to isolate this season. Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan (16.89 WS, 29.78 PER), Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson (15.90 WS, 27.03 PER), and Boston Celtics small forward Larry Bird (15.24 WS, 26.38 PER) definitely separated themselves from the rest of the players in the league—finishing 1-2-3 in both Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating.
The Bulls claimed the last postseason berth in the Eastern Conference, while Boston and L.A. posted the best records, respectively, in each conference. It’s easy to see that the Bulls would not have made the postseason without Jordan, while the Celtics and the Lakers would have made the playoffs, anyway, even without their big studs. Johnson won the MVP vote, but we have to award this prize to MJ—his first MVP of many we expect to give out in the next few months.
Jordan’s numbers: league-leading 37.1 points per game, plus 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.9 steals, and 1.5 blocks per outing as well. Toss in an .857 free-throw percentage, and he was a dominant force in the league in just his second full season (third overall, since he was injured most of his second year in the NBA).
Magic’s numbers, for the record: 12.2 apg, which led the league, for the fourth time in his career, plus a career-high 23.9 ppg as well. His 52.2-percent shot percentage from the floor overall was an incredible number for a guard in the era of rough defense epitomized by the Bad Boys in Detroit.
1987 NBA ROTY: Chuck Person (original, confirmed)
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Hot Rod Williams (7.5 WS, 16.2 PER) was the best rookie this season, followed by Cavs center Brad Daugherty (6.0 WS, 15.6 PER) and Indiana Pacers small forward Chuck Person (5.4 WS, 15.6 PER). Despite having the two best newbies in the league, the Cavaliers still won just 31 games and finished 9 games out of the playoff hunt.
Does that make Person our pick, since the Pacers won 41 games to claim the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference? Perhaps it does, really. Seems to be one of those fluky seasons where the chips sort of fell funny. Person’s traditional numbers—18.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and 3.6 apg—are solid, too, as he helped his team make the postseason. So his vote win is confirmed by retroactive sabermetric analysis and common sense.
Check in every Tuesday for our NBA awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!