Magic Johnson celebrates with Lakers owner Jerry Buss (left) after winning the NBA title in 1980. Focus on Sport/Getty Images

May 16 in sports history: 'Our Houdini' amazes for Lakers

Here's a look back at notable sports news on May 16 through the years:


1980: Magic Johnson played the greatest NBA Finals game in history —   at all five positions.

The Lakers entered Game 6 in Philadelphia without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had sprained his ankle in the previous contest. So Johnson started at center and played four other spots, scoring 42 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and dishing out seven assists as the Lakers beat the 76ers, 123-107, to win the championship. The victory capped an incredible two-year stretch for Johnson, who won the national title in 1979 with Michigan State against Larry Bird and Indiana State.

"Kareem is 'The Man' on this team," said Johnson, the only rookie to win NBA Finals MVP. "I'm just happy to play on the same side."

"The trouble for the 76ers tonight was Magic," Lakers coach Paul Westhead told The New York Times. "Our Magical man, our Houdini. Who would have thought we could win in Philadelphia without Kareem and with Magic playing center."

Apparently, Magic did.

"Never fear. Earvin is here," Johnson told his teammates upon boarding the flight to Philadelphia after Game 5 while taking Kareem's usual seat.

In what seems unthinkable today, CBS televised the clincher on a 2.5-hour tape delay. Even with Magic and Bird in the league at the time, the network showed tape-delayed NBA playoff games until 1986.

By meeting three times in the Finals in the '80s, Magic and Bird brought the NBA back to life and made sure that tape delay would fade to black.

RAGING BULL

1985: He might have been the third pick of the 1984 NBA Draft, but Michael Jordan made sure he finished first when it counted.

After a terrific first season, his Airness won the 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 57.5 out of a possible 78 votes to beat Houston's Akeem Abdul Olajuwon (yes, that was his name at the time).

"The award is nice, but I just feel it is very important for each individual to go out and contribute to his team," Jordan told The Chicago Tribune.

Jordan finished third in points per game that season (28.2), behind Bernard King (32.9) and Larry Bird (28.7). But playing all 82 games that season enabled Jordan to lead the NBA in total points, something he would do 10 more times.

Regarding that '84 draft, Jordan was selected by Chicago behind top pick Olajuwon and No. 2 pick Sam Bowie by the Trail Blazers, who passed on MJ because they already had Clyde Drexler. At least Drexler took Portland to two NBA Finals — losing to Jordan and the Bulls in six games in 1992.

Meanwhile, Olajuwon, who added the "H" to this first name in 1991, can partially thank Jordan for one of the two NBA titles he won with the Rockets. In 1994, Houston beat the Knicks in seven games while Jordan pursued his short-lived baseball career. In '95, the Magic ousted MJ and the Bulls before getting swept by the Rockets in the Finals.

BIG SHOTS

1955: Rocky Marciano defended his heavyweight title for a fifth straight time, beating Britain's Don Cockell via a ninth-round TKO at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Marciano would successfully defend his title one more time before retiring in 1956.

"I believe, in my prime, I could have fought with anybody alive," said Marciano, who died in a small plane crash on the eve of this 46th birthday on Aug. 31, 1969. The "Brockton Blockbuster," who went 49-0 with 43 knockouts, is the only boxer to hold the heavyweight title without drawing or losing a bout.

1975: Muhammad Ali beat Ron Lyle via an 11th-round TKO in Las Vegas to retain his WBC and WBA heavyweight titles.

1976: Behind Guy LaFleur and Pete Mahovlich — who each recorded a goal and two assists — the Montreal Canadiens won, 5-3, to sweep the host Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.

1982: With a 3-1 victory over the Canucks in Vancouver, the New York Islanders earned their third straight Stanley Cup title. 

1999: Allan Houston hit the NBA's version of the shot heard 'round the world, a bouncing runner with 0.8 seconds left in regulation to oust the top-seeded Heat from the playoffs.

With the 78-77 victory in Game 5, the Knicks became the second eight seed to oust a one seed. The Nuggets were the first when they eliminated the Sonics in 1994 in their five-game upset. 

Despite winning a front-office battle with then-GM Ernie Grunfeld, who was eventually fired, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy felt as if his job was on the line in that pivotal Game 5.

"I would have been fired," JVG told nj.com in 2009. "And Patrick [Ewing] would leave sooner. To me, those would have been the two changes I would have foreseen."

Houston's shot served as a springboard for the Knicks, who became the only eighth seed to reach the NBA Finals, which the Spurs won in five games. It was an unusual matchup, but it was a frantic, shortened season in the first place. The lockout forced teams to play 50 games in 90 days, and the Knicks had to go on a season-ending 6-2 run just to make the playoffs.

"People always tell you where they were at that particular moment," Houston told nj.com. "It's almost like being a part of their lives. How many times does that happen? So it's important that way."

BASEBALL NUGGETS

1954: The good news for the Red Sox? Ted Williams went 8-for-9 — with two home runs, a double and seven RBI — in a doubleheader in his first games after recovering from a broken collarbone. The bad news? Boston lost both games of the twin bill, each by a run to Detroit.

1965: Nineteen-year-old rookie Jim Palmer of the Orioles recorded a pair of personal firsts — a homer and a victory — in Baltimore's 7-5 win over the Yankees.

1972: In the Cubs' 8-1 victory, the Phillies' Greg Luzinski hit a 500-foot home run off the replica Liberty Bell at Veterans Stadium against right-hander Burt Hooton.


How about a virtual birthday high-five for Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew?  Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Happy birthday...

  • Four-time World Series winner, MVP of the 1991 Fall Classic and Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris. (65)
  • Thurman Thomas, 1991 NFL MVP, five-time All-Pro and four-time AFC champion with the Bills. (54)
  • Gold medal winner in the marathon at the 1984 Olympics, Joan Benoit Samuelson. (64)
  • John Salley, four-time NBA champion with the Pistons, Bulls and Lakers and first player in NBA history to win three championships with three different teams (56)
  • Tennis player Gabriela Sabatini, who partnered with Steffi Graf to win the 1988 Wimbledon women's doubles title before beating Graf to win the 1990 U.S. Open singles championship. (50)
  • Olga Korbut, Soviet gymnast who won four gold medals and two silvers over the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. (65)
  • Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, whose signature mustache and vibrant personality sparked “Minshew Mania” in Jacksonville last season after he was thrust into action following Nick Foles’ injury. (24)

R.I.P.

1924: 
Hall of Famer William "Candy" Cummings, who pitched for five teams between 1872 and 1877. Inducted to Cooperstown in 1939, Cummings is credited with inventing the curveball. He was 75.

2013: NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Richard "Dick" Trickle, who earned 36 top-10 finishes — including 15 top-fives — in 303 starts from 1970-2002. Authorities say Trickle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71.

2018: College sports executive Mike Slive. The SEC Commissioner from 2002 before retiring in 2015, Slive also served on the Bowl Championship Series and the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament Committee in prominent roles. He died of prostate cancer at age 77.


May 15: Lakers' reign ends with pain

A deputy editor for Yardbarker since February 2019, Stan Chrapowicki also has written for the New York Daily News, New York Post and saturdaydownsouth.com. Too young to witness Super Bowl III, he hopes to see the Jets win the Vince Lombardi Trophy before it’s too late.


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