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On This Date in Sports May 31, 1983:Fo Fo Fo

The Philadelphia 76ers win their second NBA Championship, completing a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 115-108 win in Game 4 at the Forum. Moses Malone, who predicted the Sixers would sweep through the postseason, is named Finals MVP. Malone averaged 25.8 points and 18 rebounds per game in the finals and had a game-high 24 points with 23 rebounds in the clincher.

Since the arrival of Julius Erving in 1976, the Philadelphia 76ers had come tantalizing close to an NBA Championship three times only to lose in the NBA Finals. This included 1977 when they were beaten by the Portland Trail Blazers and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980 and 1982. Seeking to get over the hump finally, the Sixers acquired Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets for Caldwell Jones and a first-round draft pick. Malone, who won the NBA MVP in 1970 and 1982, gave Philadelphia a center that could compete with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who tormented them in the 1982 NBA Finals.

Moses Malone won another MVP and helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers, coached by Billy Cunningham, to the best record in the NBA at 65-17. At the time, division winners got a bye into the second round of the playoffs, as the 12 teams made the postseason, with non-division winners meeting in a best-of-three preliminary round series. Before the playoffs started, Moses Malone predicted “Fo-Fo-Fo,” as in the Sixers, would sweep all three series in four games. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Sixers did need just four games to beat the New York Knicks, though all four-game were close. With the Boston Celtics getting upset in the second round, the Sixers would face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Surviving a 111-109 win in the opener at the Spectrum, the Sixers won the first three games of the series, but Malone’s Fo-Fo-Fo prediction fell apart when the Bucks won Game 4 at the MECCA 100-94. The 76ers would close out the series with a 115-103 win at the Spectrum in Game 5. It was their third Eastern Conference Championship in five years.

Coming off a second NBA Championship in three years, the Los Angeles Lakers, coached by Pat Riley, were the toast of the NBA. The Lakers were even better in 1983 thanks to a foolhardy trade by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1979 that saw them acquire Dan Ford for a draft pick that turned out to be the first overall pick used to select James Worthy in the 1982 draft. The Lakers posted the best record in the West at 58-24. The Lakers cruised through the West in the postseason, beating the Portland Trail Blazers in five and the San Antonio Spurs in six.

The Lakers and Sixers were the matchups in the NBA Finals for the third time in four years. The Lakers won each of the first two meetings in six games in 1980 and 1982, as the two teams had a combined eight Hall of Famers. Game 1 was a tough, hard-fought battle won by Philadelphia at the Spectrum 113-107, with Moses Malone scoring 27 points with 18 rebounds, while Andrew Toney had 25 points. Julius Erving, meanwhile, fell just short of a Triple Double with 20 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists. Malone again had a big game in Game 2 with 24 points and 12 boards as the Sixers beat the Lakers 103-93. 

Moses Malone again led the Sixers in Game 3, as not even the home crowd of Los Angeles could get the Lakers going. Malone scored 28 points with 19 rebounds, as Toney and Erving scored 21 points. The Lakers looked to hold off the Sixers from celebrating on their floor in Game 4. Leading 93-82 at the end of three quarters, the Lakers played their best game of the series, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scoring 28 points while Magic Johnson added 27. However, the 76ers proved an unstoppable force outscoring the Lakers 33-15 in the final 12 minutes. Moses Malone led the way for Philadelphia with 24 points with 23 rebounds. Meanwhile, Andrew Toney added 23 points, Julius Erving said 21, and Maurice Cheeks added 20 as the Sixers won their first championship since 1967.