One of the greatest rivalries in American sports was set during the 1980s when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met in three NBA Finals in four years. Their first NBA finals matchup came in 1984, which ultimately went in the Celtics’ favor in a seven-game series. The 1984 NBA Finals, also known as Showdown ’84, was the championship round of the National Basketball Association(NBA)’s 1983–84 season, and the culmination of the season’s playoffs. The Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics defeated the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game Finals, winning Game 7 111–102. Celtics forward Larry Bird averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds a game during the series, earning the MVP award. Bird was also named the league’s regular-season MVP for that year.
But before the Lakers suffered a defeat, Magic Johnson made history. In Game 3, Johnson had 21 assists and with that number of assists, he set an NBA Finals record. Lakers won by 137-104, giving the Lakers a 2-1 series lead. L.A. held a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, were ahead by 11 at halftime, then blew the game open in the third quarter. Although the Lakers allowed 33 points coming out of the half, they scored 47 themselves. Larry Bird had a game-high 30 points and was one of four Celtics to reach double figures.
Johnson notched a triple-double by adding 14 points and 11 rebounds to go along with his record-setting number of assists, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 24 points. Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis each scored 17, and James Worthy added 13 points, meaning all Lakers starters reached double digits.
Johnson’s record still stands for an NBA Finals game, though he also had 21 assists against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the 1991 Western Conference Finals.