“It all started with Coach Smith,” Worthy once said during an interview. “He taught me the basics of how to play the game, how to approach life, how to create a team-friendly environment, how to understand how important each person’s role is.”
Together with His Airness, then known simply as Michael Jordan, Worthy crowned his college career with the title – and a memorable final game. Although the decisive shot was reserved for Jordan, it was James Worthy who put the Tar Heels in the position to win the game in the final seconds.
Despite a Patrick Ewing under the boards, despite several double teams, the forward delivered 28 points and 4 rebounds. The 1982 Tar Heels are Worthy’s team, not Jordan’s. Worthy is the clear leader, the one who gets the most attention from the opponent – but for the last time.
Because with the upcoming NBA draft suddenly everything was different. Worthy joined a team that has not only just won the championship but also had Magic Johnson and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, two of the very best of all time. “Normally, the number 1 pick is indeed the star, but I looked at the roster and thought, ‘Be patient.”. Worthy even said the Lakers did not really need him.
Selecting Magic Johnson as the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft marked the most dominant era of Lakers history. They teamed together Magic with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy (who was drafted as a 1st overall pick in 1982) to take the Lakers to eight appearances in the NBA finals, resulting in five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988).
That period in their history was known as ‘‘Showtime,’’ not only for the spectacular playing style but also for the courtside presence of Hollywood stars, most notably Jack Nicholson. Worthy won three NBA championships with the Lakers and was honored in 1988 as an NBA Finals MVP. From 1986 to 1992 he was invited to the All-Star Game. In 2003 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.