Examining the Lakers’ rich history of dominant duos – Kareem and Magic

The Los Angeles Lakers have a rich history of dynamic duos. Today we’re going to begin a series that explores the best playoff run of each duo.

Dynamic duos. That has been the name of the game for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout their rich, championship-laden history.

Elgin Baylor and Jerry West were their first dominant duo, but couldn’t quite get past the Celtics. Then we have the Chamberlain/West duo which only delivered one championship. After Chamberlain and West though is when the good stuff begins.

With the acquisition of Kareem Abdul Jabbar during the 1970s, the Lakers drafted a point guard by the name of Earvin Johnson, also known as Magic. The Lakers won 5 titles headlined by the Kareem/Magic duo although James Worthy would later replace Kareem as the second-best player thus creating the Worthy/Magic duo.

After the 1989 Finals, the Lakers embarked on an 11-year title drought that ended in the year 2000 led by probably the most dominant duo in NBA History. I’m talking of course about the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant duo which won three straight titles together and made the FInals 4 times overall. The Kobe/Shaq Lakers are still the last team to have won three straight titles.

After Shaq’s departure to Miami, the Lakers embarked yet another title drought this one lasting 6 years. In 2009 and 2010 the Lakers went back to back off the back of the Kobe/Pau duo. Following the 2010 title, the Lakers went on another drought until this year. After 10 years the Lakers won a record-tying 17th championship led by the AD/LeBron duo.

For the next couple of articles, we’re going to examine the best title run of each aforementioned dynamic duo starting in with the Kareem/Magic duo. No disrespect to Wilt and Jerry but they only won one championship together. When they get compared to the other historically great Laker duos, they simply fall short, but it’s good to at least acknowledge them. Let’s go.

Los Angeles Lakers’ first dynamic duo: Magic Johnsson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are one of the most prolific duos in NBA History. As teammates, they won 5 NBA championships and were named to the All-NBA teams together for a total of 4 times.

With both players on the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers advanced to 8 NBA Finals. For such a dominant duo it is pretty tough to find a “best” season together, but I think that the closest season one can find to them being at the height of their powers as a duo is the 1984-85 season.

During that season, the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics (led by league MVP Larry Bird) for the first time in franchise history and secured what was to that point their 9th title.

Both Johnson and Abdul Jabbar received All-NBA honors with Magic being named to the first team and Kareem being named to the second.

The Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 62-20 regular-season record. With Magic commandeering the offense, the Lakers had an offensive rating of 114.1 which ranks as the 23rd most efficient offense in NBA History and led the league. Johnson finished 2nd in MVP voting and Kareem finished 4th. Here’s a look at their regular season stats:

  • Magic: 18.3ppg, 6.2rpg, and 12.6apg while shooting 56/18.9/84.3
  • Kareem: 22ppg, 7.9rpg, and 3.2apg while shooting 59.9/0/73.2

Los Angeles entered the Western Conference playoffs as the #1 seed and finished with an overall record of 15-4. Magic and Kareem posted right around the same numbers as they did in the regular season, but Johnson took a major step forward particularly in his assists.

Magic went from averaging 12.6apg during the regular season to 15.2apg while maintaining a relatively similar efficiency from the floor (51.3/14.3/84.7)

In the finals, the Lakers faced a familiar foe, the Boston Celtics. Up until that point, the purple and gold had never defeated the C’s. The year before featured a grueling seven-game series between the two teams and the Celtics prevailed. L.A. was out for revenge and recovered well after a Game 1 massacre. They won 4 of the next 5 games and claimed victory over their hated rivals.

Kareem was named Finals MVP at 38 years old after averaging 25.7/9/5.2 for the series. This actually made him the oldest Finals MVP in NBA History, a record that still stands to this day. The Lakers had finally conquered their biggest hurdle.

For the next article, we will be examining the Magic/Worthy duo. As Kareem started to inevitably fade away due to his advanced age, Big Game James took a step forward and became Magic’s running mate. Join me as we take a look into the rich history of this historically great franchise.