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The Los Angeles Lakers were regular visitors to the NBA Finals during the 1980s. Led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers captured five championships during the decade and played in the championship series eight times.

In 1982, the Lakers faced the Philadelphia 76ers in the Finals for the second time in three years. After closing out the series with a 114-104 Game 6 victory, Abdul-Jabbar admitted there was some serious motivation to get the job done.

Led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers were the class of the 1980s

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers pulls down a rebound against the Washington Bullets during an NBA game circa 1977 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

While a rookie Magic Johnson obviously helped, the Lakers dominated in the 1980s with veteran center leading the way.

In his first year with the Lakers, Johnson helped push LA back into the NBA Finals for the first time since 1973. The Lakers knocked off the Sixers in six games in the 1980 NBA Finals, and the rookie point guard was named MVP of the Finals.

While Magic stole the show on the big stage, Abdul-Jabbar was the star that helped get them there. Abdul-Jabbar was the MVP of the league in 1980 after averaging 24.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. It was the sixth MVP of his career.

From there, Johnson took over the MVP honors for the Lakers. Not only did Johnson capture five NBA championships, but he was also named MVP in 1987, 1989, and 1990.

The Lakers reached the championship round in every year of the decade except 1981 and 1986. They squared off against the rival Boston Celtics three times, defeating them in 1985 and 1987. In each year of the decade, either the Lakers or Celtics made the NBA Finals.

Abdul-Jabbar was motivated to close out the 1982 Finals because of two recent failures

The 76ers held homecourt advantage in the 1982 NBA Finals, but the Lakers stole it away with a 124-117 victory in Game 1.

After the Sixers evened the series with a Game 2 win, the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead with consecutive home victories. Looking to seal the deal on the road in Game 5, the Lakers were embarrassed in Philadelphia, falling 135-102. In that game, Abdul-Jabbar finished with six points.

The Lakers bounced back nicely at home in Game 6, closing out the series with a 114-104 win. After the game, Abdul-Jabbar said he was motivated by his Game 5 performance and the fact the Lakers failed to reach the NBA Finals the previous year.

“We remembered Sunday (Game 5), and we remembered it real well,” he said then per United Press International. “We knew that wasn’t the real Laker team Sunday.”

Then he reflected on the previous season’s unexpected first-round playoff exit suffered at the hands of the Houston Rockets.

“It’s hard to put this championship into words,” he said. “Last year, we were at the bottom and now we’ve come all the way back to the top. We’ve proven something. Philadelphia gave a great performance and they are a class team. But we’re a better team.”

Johnson agreed.

“The guys made up their minds that no matter what the cost, we were going to get our title back,” said Johnson. “When you lose a championship like we did last year, it makes you want it more.”


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