We have taken a long weekend off, and now we’re back with NBA Tuesday, cruising through the 1980s, one season at a time. This was a season to remember (aren’t most of them?) as the Los Angeles Lakers won their fourth NBA title of the decade while posting a sweep of our awards here today—in addition to the voted regular-season MVP. Impressive!
Remember also to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1987 NBA FINALS MVP: Magic Johnson, PG, Los Angeles (original, confirmed)
The Lakers dropped the Boston Celtics, the defending champions, in six games to win the NBA Championship, and L.A. point guard Magic Johnson won the Finals MVP vote again. We’ve already granted him three of these trophies (1980, 1982, 1985); will we give him a fourth?? Yes, because he led his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals in a series that was never really that close.
His stat line—26.2 ppg, 13.0 apg, 8.0 rpg, and 2.3 spg in less than 40 mpg (which shows how it wasn’t a close series)—is impressive. This was Magic in his prime at age 27, for sure. The Lakers won the first two games at home by an average of 21 points to take control of the series, and after Boston earned a 6-point win at home in Game 3, L.A. famously stole Game 4 in the Garden to set up another title.
This Finals MVP nod from us breaks a tie with Celtics star Larry Bird, although Magic still trails Boston legend Bill Russell, who won this award from us 5 times. Johnson will have a chance to tie that next year …
1987 NBA DPOY: Michael Cooper, SG, Los Angeles (original); Akeem Olajuwon, C, Houston (revised)
Long known for his defensive prowess, Lakers shooting guard Michael Cooper won the DPOY vote, despite posting just 2.3 Defensive Win Shares. This was a bad vote, of course. The real candidates here are Houston Rockets center Akeem Olajuwon (6.02 DWS), Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone (5.11), and Jazz C Mark Eaton (5.01)—our winner from 1985. Obviously, we have to give this to the Dream.
What is laughable is that Olajuwon didn’t earn a single vote at the time! But he grabbed 7.2 defensive rebounds per game, while also blocking 3.4 shots per game and stealing the ball 1.9 times per contest. Do the math: That is 12.5 possessions a game he ended singlehandedly for the Rockets. Impressive! Houston won just 42 games to make the postseason by only 6 wins. He was the difference for his team.