Ralph Sampson’s game-winner vs Lakers in 1986 West Finals

Ralph Sampson’s game-winner vs Lakers in 1986 West Finals

The most famous Twin Towers in NBA history played for the Houston Rockets in the 1980s, when Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson wore Rockets jersey. Both were All-Stars, and in 1986 they led Houston to the NBA Finals. The Rockets beat Sacramento and Denver before meeting the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets eliminated the Lakers by four games to one, losing only the first game of the series.

To win, Houston had to overcome the loss of Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets’ 7-foot center and the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak were ejected for fighting with 5 minutes 14 seconds to play and the Lakers’ holding a 103-99 lead. Olajuwon left with 30 points.

But then Sampson, the Rockets’ other 7-footer, took over. Houston tied the score with 2:54 left. The Lakers opened a 3-point lead, 112-109 when Magic Johnson hit a jumper from 17 feet. But Robert Reid hit a 3-point goal from the left side with 15 seconds remaining to tie the score. Byron Scott then missed an 18 footer with 4 seconds left. Houston rebounded and called time with 1 second left. On the inbound play, Rodney McCray lobbed a pass to Sampson, who caught the ball and in the same motion tossed it toward the basket. The ball bounced on the rim before falling through to give the Rockets their only lead of the night. Sampson finished with 29 points and 5 rebounds.  For the Lakers, Kareem had 26 points and 13 rebounds.

After losing four of five to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the regular season, the Rockets were able to win the series in five games, culminated by Sampson’s miracle shot.

Unfortunately, they had to face an equally good Boston Celtics team, that had Larry Bird in charge. The Rockets lose in the Finals to the Celtics 4-2.