The 1984 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics was a battle for the ages. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott and the ‘Showtime Lakers’ faced off against the gritty Celtics, in the prime of their rivalry.
With Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish leading the charge for Boston, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry was more existent than ever. Often sought out as the greatest rivalry in all of sports, the passion of both fan bases truly came out during the heated exchanged of the 1984 NBA Finals.
Both Scott and Abdul-Jabbar appeared on ESPN’s The Jump, before the release of the 30-for-30 segment titled ‘Best of Enemies.’ The documentary encompassed the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, with a keen emphasis on the 1984 Finals. During a segment, Abdul-Jabbar stated that McHale’s clothesline on Kurt Rambis was the turning point in the series:
Kareem: He should’ve been out of the game for doing that. He could’ve ended Kurt’s career or really hurt him. That’s why we got so upset. We got so upset we stopped focusing on the game and just tried to figure out a way to retaliate.
The Game 4 altercation is viewed as one of the most physical altercations in NBA history, a potential career-ending play for Rambis. The skirmish that soon followed was representative of the rivalry, with the fight going into the fans on the baseline.
From that point on, the game turned into a chippy fight more so than a basketball game. Key plays involved Bird pushing Michael Cooper into the stands and a verbal fight between Bird and Abdul-Jabbar. Scott, the premiere wing of the Lakers, also chimed in on the physical play, stating that McHale-Rambis altercation shifted the mindset of the Lakers:
Byron: To see him taken down in that fashion, Cap is right, we wanted to kill Kevin McHale […] We forgot we had to still play Lakers-style basketball. That’s the reason we felt we lost the series. That one particular play changed the whole dynamic of the series because we stopped thinking about the game and started thinking about, like Cap said, retaliation.”
The Lakers, who had a 10-point lead at halftime, slowly started dismantling and would fall to the Celtics in overtime in Game 4. After earning a 2-1 series lead, the Lakers would lose three of the next four games, with the Celtics clinching an 111-102 Game 7 victory during the 1984 NBA Finals.
The 30-for-30 special on ESPN concludes on Wednesday, with part 3 airing at 5:00 P.M. PST.