Rivals Magic, Bird highlight AP’s 1980s all-decade NBA team

Jan 16, 2022, 9:07 AM | Updated: 11:50 pm
FILE - Sixers' Julius Erving (6) dunks the ball through the basket over Chicago Bulls' Artis Gilmor...

FILE - Sixers' Julius Erving (6) dunks the ball through the basket over Chicago Bulls' Artis Gilmore (24) during first half of game in Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 3, 1979. (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

              FILE - Houston Rockets' Moses Malone goes up for 31 points to lead Houston to a 92-90 victory on May 7, 1981, in Boston. (AP Photo, File)
              FILE - Atlanta Hawks' Dan Roundfield (32) catches Philadelphia 76ers' Moses Malone (2) on the jaw with an elbow as they battle for a rebound off the 76ers backboard during NBA game, March 27, 1984, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Joe Holloway)
              FILE - Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan, right, goes to the hoop next to Philadelphia 76ers' Mike Gminski during second quarter of an NBA basketball game on March 1, 1988, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Bill Cramer, File)
              FILE - Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan drives past Washington Bullets' Dudley Bradley during NBA action in Chicago, on Oct. 26, 1984. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell, File)
              FILE - The Los Angeles Lakers' Earvin "Magic" Johnson pauses for a moment's thought during a question and answer period, June 1, 1987, at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where the Lakers will meet the Boston Celtics in game one of the NBA Championship series. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)
              FILE - Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson raises his hands as he acknowledges the crowd, June 8, 1982, in Los Angeles after the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, to take the NBA Playoff Series four games to two. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)
              FILE - Philadelphia's Julius Erving (6) goes to the basket past Milwaukee's Sidney Moncrief and Brian Winters (32) during first quarter NBA playoff action in Milwaukee on May 2, 1982. (AP Photo/File)
              FILE - Philadelphia 76ers Bobby Jones, left, embraces Julius Erving after 76ers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games to win the NBA Championship, May 31, 1983. (AP Photo, File)
              FILE - Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, right, is defended by Wes Matthews, of the Atlanta Hawks, left, in second half NBA playoff action at Boston Garden, April 20, 1983. Bird led all scorers in the game with 26 points as Boston defeated Atlanta 103-96 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. (AP Photo/Mike Kullen, File)
              FILE - Boston Celtics' Larry Bird receives NBA's Most Valuable Player of the Year award during the NBA's award ceremony in San Francisco on June 23, 1985. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
              FILE - Sixers' Julius Erving (6) dunks the ball through the basket over Chicago Bulls' Artis Gilmore (24) during first half of game in Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 3, 1979. (AP Photo, File)


“Larry Legend” played his entire 13-year career with the Boston Celtics, and his rivalry with Los Angeles Lakers guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson catapulted the league to new heights. Bird’s sharp shooting, pinpoint passing and rugged rebounding helped the Celtics win NBA titles in 1981, 1984 and 1986. He won three straight league MVP awards from 1984 to 1986 — no one has won three in a row since. He was rookie of the year in 1980, All-Star MVP in 1982 and Finals MVP in 1984 and 1986. At 6-foot-9, he was one of the first players of his size to take advantage of the 3-point line. He was the 3-point contest champion three times. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.


The high-flying “Dr. J” was the ABA’s brightest star before the merger, and he dominated the NBA, too. He was the NBA MVP for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1981, becoming the only player to be capture MVP honors in both leagues. His 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in 1980 and 1982 before breaking through and sweeping them in 1983. Erving was the All-Star Game MVP in 1983. Before his 1980s accomplishments, he was ABA MVP three times and won the ABA Slam Dunk Contest in 1976. In the two leagues, he was an All-Star a combined 16 times. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.


The flashy point guard with the megawatt smile made the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers go. During the decade, he was a five-time NBA champion, three-time league MVP and three-time Finals MVP. He led the league in assists four times and in steals twice in the ’80s. At 6-9, he could do everything on the floor. In 1980, he played center in a title-clinching win over the Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. He was best known for his fancy passes that fueled the Lakers’ relentless fast break, and he retired as the league’s all-time assists leader. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.


Many remember Jordan for his title runs in the 1990s. But his footprints are all over the 1980s, too. He was rookie of the year in 1985 — the same year his Air Jordan shoes were first released to the public. His 1988 season was one of the best of all time — he won the scoring title by averaging 35 points per game and was named league MVP, defensive player of the year, All-Star Game MVP and Slam Dunk champion. He won three of his 10 scoring titles in the decade. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.


Malone ranks among the best players who went straight from high school into pro basketball. The 6-9 post player was a dominant inside force who won three MVP awards, including back-to-back honors in 1982 for the Houston Rockets and 1983 for the Philadelphia 76ers. He led the Rockets to the Finals in 1981, then won an NBA title and was Finals MVP in 1983 when he helped 76ers knock off the Los Angeles Lakers. He led the league in rebounding six times. When he retired, he was the NBA’s all-time leader in made free throws. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. He died in 2015.


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Rivals Magic, Bird highlight AP’s 1980s all-decade NBA team