Sometimes called the Golden Age of the sport, 80s basketball was packed with such unbelievable players that most of the big names made it into the Hall of Fame.
Champions and MVP’s – sometimes more than one on a team – made for some exciting basketball, whether you were at the game or you just watched it on television.
The Los Angeles Lakers essentially owned the sport during the 80s.
With Hall of Fame greats like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading the rest of the fantastic team, they were an unstoppable force.
Out of the 10 possible Finals, the Lakers ended up winning five of them in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. Thanks to Magic Johnson’s fast breaks and no-look passes, the Lakers of the 80s were nicknamed Showtime.
The Boston Celtics were another undeniable force of great basketball in the 80s. Some big names were Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and The Chief, Robert Parish. Together they were called the Big Three. Ironically, they won three Finals throughout the decade – in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
There was also a rivalry almost as intense as the Yankees and Red Sox that all started from a heated rivalry in college. Before they even hit the NBA, Larry Bird from small Indiana State University and Magic Johnson from powerhouse Michigan State University, were the best players in the NCAA.
They were both drafted the same year, and they brought their east coast/west coast rivalry with them. Then they ultimately dominated the NBA throughout the 80s.
The Philadelphia 76ers, with Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving, Dr. J, the 76ers were another strong team throughout the 80s. The swept the Lakers 4-0 to win the Finals in 1983, and though they only won once during the 80s, they reached the NBA finals three times during the decade.
The The Detroit Pistons had Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, and the ever-entertaining Dennis Rodman. They were known for their rough defensive plays and earned themselves a great nickname – the Bad Boys.
The Pistons made it to two Finals during the 80s, and won in 1989, taking a page from the 76ers and sweeping the legendary Lakers 4-0.
The Houston Rockets also had some great basketball players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone – until he went to the 76ers, and Ralph Sampson. The Rockets made two appearances in the Finals during the 80s; first in 1981 and again in 1986 – when they swept the Lakers during the playoffs – but both ended in 4-2 losses against the Celtics.
The above teams dominated Finals games during the 80s, but there were many more great players of the 80s. The Chicago Bulls drafted some guy named Michael Jordan from North Carolina in 1984. Turns out, he was pretty good.
Throughout his career, he averaged about 30 points per game, and has since been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Some other great players of the decade were George Gervin, Alex English, Dominique Wilkins, Bernard King, Clyde Drexler, Terry Cummings, and Adrian Dantley.
The dynamics of the players and the fast pace of the sport makes it an all-time favorite. There were definitely some true legends to watch in 80s basketball games.