On May 16, 1980, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson stepped in for injured center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He scored 42 points, leading the Lakers to a four games-to-two series win over the Philadelphia 76ers for their first championship since 1972.
In the finals, the Lakers met the Philadelphia 76ers, led by forwards Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Darryl Dawkins, defensive specialist Bobby Jones and guards Maurice Cheeks and Doug Collins. Abdul-Jabbar dominated the first five games of the finals, averaging 31 points and 12 rebounds per game, as the Lakers went up 3-2 in the series. When he twisted an ankle in Game 5, even the Lakers front office assumed that the team would travel without their star center to Philadelphia and lose Game 6, a fact made evident by the team’s decision not to take their celebratory champagne with them to Philly.
No one expected that Magic, at 6 feet 9 inches, the tallest point guard in league history, would so easily make the transition to center. Magic rang up 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the Lakers to victory and was named Most Valuable Player of the finals, the first of three such awards in his career.
Magic Johnson Plays Center in 1980 Finals: