Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals was played 36 years ago today. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that it was not only one of the great series of all time in any sport, it may have been the peak of human civilization. As good as anything ever produced by Chinese dynasties, Ancient Rome or the Renaissance.
This was five years after Bird and Magic came into the league and put the NBA front and center of the national conversation. They’d each won a championship in their first two seasons, but never faced one another until now. And it felt like the stakes they were playing for was dominion over the entire world.
There was so much to this one series there should be a “Last Dance”-like docuseries done about it. The vastly different cultures of the two teams and the cities they played for. The Lakers running the Celts out of the building in Game 1. Gerald Henderson’s miracle steal off James Worthy in Game 2. Boston getting humiliated in Game 3 in LA and Bird calling his team “a bunch of sissies” and questioning their heart afterward. Kevin McHale responding with a flying arm bar of Kurt Rambis and more fights than a WrestleMania card as the Celts tied the series. The next game in Boston, when the Garden was like the hot box from “Cool Hand Luke,” with 5,000 fat guys from Revere and Quincy taking off their shirts as Kareem took air from an oxygen mask. The Lakers doing everything right in LA, but being outmatches in the last game back in Boston thanks mostly to Cedric Maxwell’s clutch 24-8-8.
The teams would meet again in 1987, but major injuries to cornerstone players made them a hollowed our shell of themselves. This was one of the great rivalries between two of the most loaded rosters in the history of sports at its absolute zenith. These Balls might be Old, but they’re glad they got to experience this.