On this date in 1988, James Worthy, known as “Big Game James,” was at his best in the clutch and when the game was on the line. Big Game James won the 1988 Finals MVP, going off for a blistering 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists in the ’88 Finals’ deciding Game 7.
During the 1987 championship parade in Los Angeles, Lakers coach Pat Riley guaranteed a repeat championship, a feat that had not been achieved since the Boston Celtics won the 1969 NBA Finals. Motivated by their coach’s boast, the Lakers once again earned the league’s best record in the 1987–88 season (62–20), despite winning three games less than the previous year.
However, the championship didn’t come easy for the aging Lakers, who went all the way to seven games against the Jazz and then the Mavericks to reach the NBA Finals. Fittingly enough, the Lakers were forced to seven games, before securing the thrilling victory at The Forum.
This time, the Celtics weren’t waiting for the Lakers in the NBA Finals, the Detroit Pistons were. The Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman, took pride in their “Bad Boys” persona and played a physical style of basketball that many predicted would give the “Showtime” Lakers some problems.
The duo of Magic Johnson and James Worthy had other things in plan and there was a lot of chemistry between two. Worthy respected Magic a lot and said “Magic, who had a vision, from the time he got a rebound, he could a 70-foot pass. We felt confident and we understood our brand. We understood what Showtime was all about”.
Those Showtime Lakers are one of the greatest offensive teams of all time but their defense often gets overlooked. “I think our defense was kind of overlooked because of all the offense we had going. It was a great feeling knowing you had a guy that could get you the ball in unique places. All you had to do was run and utilize your talents. That made for some good chemistry”.
While he had other clutch performances, “Big Game James” truly made his debut to the world during the 1988 Finals as Worthy made huge plays in Game 7 to cement his legend. He led his team in scoring in four of the seven games, three of them Laker wins. His Game 7 was truly a performance for the ages; with his team needing a boost after narrowly avoiding losing Game 6, Worthy posted 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists for the only triple-double of his Hall of Fame career.
A 6-foot-9, 225 pounds forward, Worthy filled the lane for 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Running the floor with speed and agility, he often finished a play with a swooping one-handed dunk. In the low-post, the versatile Worthy had an assortment of offensive moves that made him an unstoppable force and a player who averaged between 17.6 points and 21.4 points for eight straight seasons.