The ‘80s was the decade that saved the NBA and this was after they merged with the American Basketball Association in 1976. With this move, it was obvious that the league was struggling to get attention because, during the ‘70s, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League were all more popular than ABA and NBA. After their merging, it was up to two kids from French Lick, Indiana and Lansing, Michigan to usher in a new era of great basketball.
The ‘80s was the decade when the Lakers and Celtics took home eight of the ten titles. Larry and Magic along with Adrian Dantley and Alex English made shooting hoops and scoring look easy. The ‘80s was such an amazing time for basketball. That’s why in this article, we are going to name the best basketball players of the ‘80s.
Ralph Sampson was the first pick of the Houston Rockets where he proved that he could change the game from being a newbie to the league to being one of the best basketball players around. In fact, Sampson was the reason why players like Kevin Garnett exist and why having two skilled 7-footers in the team was an instant recipe for success. With his 7’4” frame, Sampson started out as a center but his lanky and tall frame, as well as his style of play, showed that he was better being in the power/point forward position. When the Rockets took Sampson as the first pick during the 1983 NBA draft, they took Hakeem as their first pick the following year. The two immediately became contenders on the League and managed to make it all the way to the Finals the next season in 1986. Unfortunately, after Sampson’s third season, knee injuries plagued his career which disabled him to regain his form.
Also known as the “Ice Man”, George Gervin was a great scorer with the cleanest and prettiest layup in the game. In fact, his name is synonymous with the finger roll and he was a two-time scoring champion during the ‘80s all of which he did effortlessly. You could see George Gervin being all graceful while strolling across the court but he could probably drop a 30 on a rookie. Gervin made the impossible look possible.
This guy was one of the smartest scorers the league has ever seen. Dantley was always noted to be one step ahead of his opponent who he was able to hit with pump fakes left and right. Adrian Duntley averaged 30 plus for four consecutive seasons in 1981 to 1984. In fact, he even finished his career with a mind-blowing 54 percent from the field.
During his days in the NBA, Alex English was an unstoppable scorer and he was always among the leaders when it comes to points. In fact, English was the first player to score at least 2,000 points in eight straight seasons and he finished his career shooting 50 percent from the field which made him the best scorer of the ‘80s. Alex English’s mid-range game was second to none and may we add that he had one of the sweetest touches ever in NBA history.
It was during the ‘80s when Dominique Wilkins earned his nickname “The Human Highlight Film”. Wilkins didn’t just get points from his rim-rocking jams, he was also capable of shooting the ball from anywhere. When he was on fire and in the game, nobody was safe. During 1986, Wilkins took home the scoring title and had iconic battles with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
After Michael Jordan won every college Player of the Year award, the Chicago Bulls made him their third pick during the 1984 NBA Draft. During Jordan’s first year in the league, he averaged 28 points and won Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately for Jordan, he only got to play 18 games during his second year in the league because of a broken leg. But something must have happened when he was healing in his healing process because he surprisingly turned into a basketball superstar after. Between 1987 and 1989, Michael Jordan put up an amazing 35, 6, and 6. Before Jordan cemented his legacy in the Basketball scene, he had to battle Isiah and the Bad Boy Piston. But the rest, as they say, was history. Michael Jordan is probably the most iconic basketball player to date.
Julius Erving did things on the basketball court no one could ever duplicate. Erving or Dr. J was the reason the NBA and ABA decided to merge and just look at his line during the ‘80s, he did it all and he managed to do it with class too. His only rival during his time was Michael Jordan. But nevertheless, Julius Erving looked like he defied the laws of physics with every layup and dunk. If you want to see some legendary battles in the basketball court, watch his battles with the Celtics and Larry Bird.
Standing at 6’1”, Isiah Thomas was a cold-hearted killer on the basketball court he was the captain of the Bad Boy Pistons army. He was able to take over games when the going got tough and he often played injured too. Isiah Thomas will give his opponents a smile before the game and won’t hesitate to throw them ‘bows when it was time to close the show.
Moses Malone was a beast in the basketball court and he is the center’s center. He had an awesome rebounding skill that could score in the post multiple ways and he was also a great defender too. Malone scored an average of 31 and 15 with the Houston Rockets during the season in 1982 and he used that season as a key to get a contract with the 76ers. It turned out that transferring to the Sixers was the right decision because Malone helped the team to reach the Finals.
Even if Larry Bird wasn’t the fastest player or he couldn’t jump the highest, he was sure one crafty basketball player. The player from French Hick made every shot he took whether it was a mid-range jumper, three-point shot, dunk, a layup, or a free throw. Larry Bird’s signature move was when he passes the ball behind his head for assist. He also grabbed 10 boards a game and made game-winning steals. Can you believe that he made all this despite being the slowest man on the court?
We think it’s safe to say that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson saved the NBA from oblivion. Magic Johnson played basketball unlike anyone in the world had ever seen. Magic Johnson was considered to be the greatest point guard to ever play in the NBA. And even though he had very little knowledge about basketball during his early years, he helped the Lakers with the Finals during his rookie year.