WATCH: When Magic Johnson Clinched the Game With a Kareem-Like Skyhook Against the Boston Celtics

Published 06/10/2020, 11:30 AM EDT


The NBA in the 80s was different. The game was much more physical and players tore each other’s shirts attempting to guard one another. This particular era saw the rise of a legendary rivalry in the league. The battle between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. 

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The special part of their rivalry is that all of it happened on the court. The pair were close friends but gave it all they had when they faced off against each other. Magic and the Lakers dominated the 80s with heavy resistance coming from the Boston Celtics

Both teams fiercely met each other in the NBA Finals on several occasions. In the 80s, the Lakers and Celtics squared off thrice in the Finals, giving a treat to basketball fans. The Lakers won the battle in this particular era as they dominated the finals meeting 2-1. 

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The 1987 NBA Finals was the last meeting between Magic and Bird in the grand stage. Both players were craving for the title, which eventually ended up in the hands of the Lakers. Furthermore, we are going to delve into a spectacular moment produced by Magic during Game 4 of the 1987 Finals. 

When Magic Johnson won the game with a “junior skyhook”

The Los Angeles Lakers went to the Boston Garden carrying a 2-1 lead from the previous three games. As Game 4 began, the Celtics completely dominated the first half and the Lakers were on the prowl to come back. 

Coming to the most dramatic part, the closing seconds of the fourth quarter was a nail-biter. With just 15 seconds left on the clock, Larry the Legend sunk a 3-pointer to which the crowd at the Garden erupted in cheers. The Celtics were up by one point and had a chance to level the series. 

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The score was 105-106 in favor of the home team. Magic and the Lakers needed a moment of magic to boost their momentum going into Game 5. It is during high-pressure moments that great players step up. With just five seconds remaining on the clock, Magic receives an inbound pass from Michael Cooper, elegantly dribbles past Kevin McHale who then double teams with Robert Parish in an attempt to stop Magic.

Magic then caught the entire area by surprise as he leaped up and produced an iconic skyhook with his right hand to nail the game-winner. “Magic down the middle; just what I thought. A hook shot at 12. GOOOOO!” These were the lines of the commentator who absolutely lost it when Magic Johnson made the junior skyhook” 33 years ago. This particular shot was never expected from Magic’s hands and that is what made the moment so iconic.

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The Lakers won the game 107-106, with the help of their phenomenal point guard. It was indeed known at this moment that the Lakers would go on to win the championship, which they did. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made the skyhook famous and Magic Johnson further elevated the significance of the shot by draining in the winning shot.

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Arjun Athreya

1729 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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