It’s NBA Tuesday again, and we slide into 1982 this week, as the Los Angeles Lakers begin to assert themselves as the Team of the Decade with a second league title in three seasons—and more to come, obviously. But basketball fans still did not get to see Bird v Magic in the Finals … that showdown would have to wait a bit longer.
Remember also to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1982 NBA FINALS MVP: Magic Johnson, SG, Los Angeles (original, confirmed)
The Lakers topped the Philadelphia 76ers, again, in the Finals, and it happened in 6 games, too, just like the 1980 Finals. Weird! Oh, and one more similarity: L.A. star guard Magic Johnson was named the Finals MVP for a second time. But Philly actually outscored the Lakers in the 6 games, which is interesting. Is Magic’s hardware up for grabs? Let’s find out …
L.A. had 6 players average at least 13 ppg in the Finals, which is crazy, and no one topped 20 ppg, either. Magic (16.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 8.0 apg, 2.5 spg, 41.7 mpg) and point guard Norm Nixon (17.7 ppg, 10.0 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.7 spg, 39.3 mpg) were the best of the bunch, in terms of stat lines and minutes played. No one on the 76ers really stands out, especially since the Finals did not go 7 games.
So, Magic or Stormin’ Norman? It has to be Johnson, as he came much closer to averaging a double double here while also playing more minutes than Nixon did. The Lakers went up, 3-1, in this series and cruised to the Game 6 victory, mostly thanks to Johnson’s all-around play.
1982 NBA DPOY: Greg Ballard, SF, Washington
This is the last season where we will be picking the DPOY on our own. So, this is a special analysis! The prime candidates for the award are Seattle SuperSonics center Jack Sikma (6.74 DWS), Boston Celtics power forward Larry Bird (5.70), New Jersey Nets PF Buck Williams (5.33), and Washington Bullets small forward Greg Ballard (5.29). Three of these guys played in the Atlantic Division.
All four players helped their squads to the playoffs, too, as the Celtics won 63 games to post the best record in the league. That makes Bird’s defense a little less valuable. Meanwhile, Seattle won 52 times to make the postseason with a 7-game cushion. That’s interesting for Sikma’s value. Yet the Bullets only had a 4-game margin for error, and the Nets finished 1 game ahead of Washington.
That means Ballard, technically, brought the most defensive value to his team. Surprise! His numbers—career-best 37.3 mpg, 8.0 rpg, 1.7 spg—show a consistently strong presence on the wing for Ballard, who also managed 6.3 rpg on the defensive side alone.