NBA, We Reminisce / Apr 22, 2010 / 8:00 pm

Throwback Thursdays: James Worthy

Welcome back for Week 2 of Throwback Thursdays with the Coach. Being that we started with Boston Celtic great Robert Parish last week, we need to show some respect to the second greatest franchise in league history, the Los Angeles Lakers. Today’s choice was actually the only Laker from Showtime who ever had a chance for his throwback to land in the Coach’s collection, as having a Magic Johnson joint was never an option. Big Game James Worthy was not only an all-time great Laker; he was an all-time great player – both at the collegiate and pro level.

While Michael Jordan hit the most memorable shot in North Carolina history in 1982, the best player on that ’82 NCAA Championship team was the All-American James Worthy. Following a McDonald’s High School All-American honor in 1979, Worthy spent three years playing for Dean Smith at Chapel Hill before turning pro after his junior season.

As a result of a Red Auerbach type move, the Lakers had the first overall picl in the Spring of 1982 following their second championship in three seasons, thanks to a 1980 trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Worthy was the perfect fit for the defending champs as he would fit right in at the small forward position alongside veteran Jamal Wilkes. Worthy gave the Lakers another weapon in the arsenal that already consisted of a Magic and Norm Nixon backcourt, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still in MVP form on the post, veteran scoring forward Bob McAdoo and role players Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper. Unfortunately for the Lakers and Worthy, #42 got injured at the end of the 1983 regular season. The Sixers led by Moses Malone, Dr. J and Maurice Cheeks then swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Many heard the buzz about Worthy after making the All-Rookie First Team in 1983, but in 1984, everyone knew who he was. In arguably the best championship series ever played, the Lakers and Celtics went seven games, and Worthy had some of the most memorable highlights in Finals history. The chemistry he was a part of with Magic leading the break (yes, we called it Showtime), was some of the most exciting and acrobatic basketball we have ever seen. And that’s hard to say coming from a Celtics die-hard:

From 1984 to 1989, the Lakers won three more championships, two of them over the Celtics. While Bird, Magic and later Isiah were the “superstars,” the battles James Worthy had against Bird, McHale, Dantley and Rodman were flat-out awesome. As a small forward, he could face you up at 18 feet and take you to the rim on the bounce, or he could post you up on either block and finish with either hand. The move that would get ‘em every time was of course the baseline spin, that is, if he wasn’t filling the lane on the break like a suped up Ferrari.

This seven-time All-Star, three-time NBA champion and 1988 NBA Finals MVP, got his nickname “Big Game” James because of some of the monster games he would have in clutch postseason situations. In his first postseason in 1984, Worthy averaged 22 points per game with a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent against the Celtics. Straight through the 1989 Finals – which the injury bitten Lakers lost in four straight to the Bad Boys – Worthy was always above 20 points per game.

In 1988, the Lakers were attempting to be the first team to three-peat since the 1969 Celtics. With Detroit ahead 3-2 headed back to L.A., the Bad Boys were tasting their first championship. Thanks to Big Game James though, they had to wait another year. In Game 6, Worthy produced 28 points and nine rebounds; and then in one of the best Game 7 performances no one seems to talk about, Worthy hit the Pistons with a triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, capturing his Finals MVP.

Magic was Magic, Kareem was Kareem, but without Worthy, Showtime never would have reached the heights it did. Let us remember and pay homage to the career of James Worthy, this week’s Thursday Throwback.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/carlifrancis5 quest???

    not to be a troll, but this is irrelevant. save it for the offseason.

  • K Dizzle

    Ignore post #1

    I got this jersey. First Laker joint I ever owned. I liked Worthy’s silent assassin style. Never said a word, but murked dudes with the best post moves any small forward has ever used in league history when he wasn’t fillin lanes and finishin left hand, right hand, 360 layup in his rookie year. Used to give Dennis Rodman nightmares.
    Most underrated Laker and top 50 member in HISTORY.

    Respect due

  • D.I. Dollar

    My style is big game James, you’re not Worthy.

  • http://bt.davka.info/ SparkyJay23

    This is only irrelevant if you have no sense of history

    Nice write-up and James was always worthy

  • Brickshooting J

    Nice piece, Eric. Just curious: Why do you say “having a Magic Johnson joint was never an option”?

  • ENEW

    While looking through some Worthy vid’s before writing this I was reminded just how good this guy was. The first step is what got me on so many of the highlights, Worthy would be past guys before they could even think about sliding their feet to cut him off.

    @Brickshooting-thanks for the praise. As a Celtics fan I just couldn’t have a Magic joint hanging in the closet for a long time. The Bird Magic show took me back to memories and feelings about that rivalry that I sometimes forget.

    I may have to add a Magic out of respect. That’s what was so great about the rivalry between them.

  • Papa Smurf

    Sweet jersey. Wicked dunk.

  • Hucklebuck

    as Magic Johnson once put it..

    “I got Coop to my left, James on the right, no look to James, scoopa-doop layup, DON’T DO IT ‘EM JAMES! DON’T DO IT TO ‘EM JAMES! JAAMMMMMMESS WORRRRRTHYYYYYYYY!”

    “Larry Bird!-you in trouble! Cedric Maxwell!-you in trouble! Kevin McHale!-you in trouble! Robert Parrish!-you in trouble! Jammmmmes Worrrrthyyyyyy!”

  • KanDMan

    In the ’82 draft the Lakers could have taken Dominique Wilkins at #1..but somehow the front office brass knew Worthy was the man..many say it should have been Nique..imagine the oops from Magic..but Big Game James had a better all around game..

  • Jon

    Worth was the Man – guy was just flat out smooth!!!

    Part of one of the greatest if not the greatest team of all time…played when hoops was a team game!

  • ENEW

    @KanDMan

    Great point about Nique being in the same draft. They were similar in some ways as explosive small forwards. I would love to have heard the conversation when the Lakers were making that decision. I am sure Worthy being a Carolina guy and winning a national championship was a big part of the reasoning.

    @Jon
    The debate on greatest single season team of all-time is quite a good one.
    ’86 Celtics, ’87 Lakers, ’96 Bulls and ’83 Sixers make up quite a discussion.
    TEAM GAME IT WAS!!!

  • Sacto_J

    I still have mine from back in the day, without the “Hardwood Classics” patch. Not only was Worthy an all star athlete, but he was also a cat you could respect off the court. Nothing like watching this cat put in work, an all-around game you could study and learn from and consistent as all hell. It’s tough defending my early love to all the Laker haters in Sacramento, but any time I find myself having a hard time stating my case, all I have to do is pull out my #42 gold and purple and respect is given. There’s no denying Worthy is and always will be one of the 50 greats of all time….

  • Humantorchdeniedbankloan

    Superb piece coach. We’re all not Worthy for sure, but I think someday Magic deserves his own throwback thursday. Big Game wouldnt have the rings (or perhaps so many big games) without Showtime. We’ll hit the nba store for your birthday and git you #32. BTW, did you know the lakers couldve had Clark Kellogg instead (he went #8 to Indiana in ’82)? Lol

  • TL

    Such a clean jersey. Lakers should switch back to these or at least get rid of the white Sundays for these instead.

  • Brickshooting J

    Thanks for answering, Eric.