This Day In Lakers History: Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lead L.A. To 10th Championship With Game 6 Victory Over Celtics In 1987 NBA Finals
Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Lakers, Knicks
Nathaniel S. Butler-Getty Images

On June 14, 1987, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to claim the franchise’s 10th championship.

The Lakers and the Celtics dominated the NBA in the 1980s, deciding the championship between them in all but two seasons during that decade. In 1986-87, it was Boston’s turn to defend the title after L.A. suffered an upset in the previous postseason, losing to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

The Purple and Gold ended the regular season with their second-best record of all time, winning 65 games. Magic Johnson took charge of the team’s offense, leading L.A. in points (23.9 per game) and assists (12.2) to claim his first NBA MVP award. No one in the league averaged more dimes than Johnson that year.

Also, the 1986-87 campaign brought in the first — and to this day, only — Defensive Player of the Year award scooped by a Laker in Michael Cooper.

But no individual achievement could have possibly mattered more than beating the Celtics in the Finals once more — having finally done so for the first time two years earlier, following eight straight Finals losses against the C’s.

Danny Ainge went off in Game 5, drilling five 3s on six attempts to lead the Celtics to a 123-108 win and reduced their series deficit to 3-2. The 40-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar arrived for Game 6 with a shaved head, signaling his determination to end the Finals that day.

After a shaky first quarter, the Lakers went back to the locker room facing a 56-51 deficit at halftime. But Johnson and James Worthy quickly regained the lead for L.A. after the break, hurting Boston in transition.

The Purple and Gold outscored the Celtics 30-12 in the third quarter, practically sealing their Finals victory. Abdul-Jabbar ended up with a team-high 32 points while Johnson dished out 19 assists.

After the game, Larry Bird memorably called Johnson the best player he had ever seen. Also, the Lakers guard claimed his third and last NBA Finals MVP award.

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