It’s a turning-point season for NBA Tuesday, as this was the year it all started to change for the NBA. Bicoastal powers were born in Boston and Los Angeles, and their rivalry dominated the decade, for better or for worse. For the record, and we don’t usually do this but … you should check out the HBO Max series Winning Time. It’s a fun waltz down Memory Lane for this season!
Remember also to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1980 NBA FINALS MVP: Magic Johnson, SG, Los Angeles (original, confirmed)
This was the famous Game 6 when Los Angeles Lakers rookie Magic Johnson started at center in place of injured league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and led the Lakers to the championship victory over Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. For his heroic efforts, Magic won the MVP vote after putting up 42 points and 15 rebounds in Game 6. Overall, his numbers were a ittle different (21.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg).
But he also tossed in 8.7 apg and 2.7 spg, so he was close to a triple-double effort. Kareem was more dominant in the 5 games he did play, but it’s hard to overlook what Magic did in his stead while clinching the title. L.A. small forward Jamaal Wilkes also posted 21.3 ppg and 7..7 rpg, so the Lakers were loaded in this series.
Kareem was the league MVP (confirmed by us as well), though, and facing a Game 6—and maybe Game 7—without him after an ankle injury, it’s impressive to see an age-20 rookie step into the big man’s shoes and dominate so readily playing out of position. We’re confirming this award.
1980 NBA DPOY: Dan Roundfield, PF, Atlanta
Big field of contenders here, surprisingly, and led by Boston Celtics rookie power forward Larry Bird (5.61 DWS). He was followed closely by Philadelphia C Caldwell Jones (5.44), Seattle SuperSonics C Jack Sikma (5.33), Kareem himself (5.29), Dr. J (5.20), and Atlanta Hawks PF Dan Roundfield (5.10). Two-way players were becoming the thing, clearly, as the NBA evolved into relevance in America.
All these teams made the postseason, too, so … Boston had 22 games to spare; Philadelphia had a 20-game cushion. Seattle had a 21-game margin for error, L.A. 25 games. The Hawks only had 11 games to spare, so we’re going with Roundfield, surprisingly, as the DWS marks are all pretty bunched together here. His stats: 10.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg, and 1.2 spg. He played 32 mpg and added 16.5 ppg and 2.3 apg.