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It was a sign of things to come for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Los Angeles Lakers center woke up the morning of Game 1 of the 1984 NBA Finals with yet another migraine. The pounding headaches had been a problem for the 7-foot-center for years, and this one couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The Lakers were in Boston for Game 1 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Abdul-Jabbar battled his way out of bed and onto the court. There, he became Boston’s biggest headache.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a force as the LA Lakers upset the Boston Celtics in Game 1

There wasn’t anything that was going to keep Kareem Abdul-Jabbar off the court for the first game of the NBA Finals against the rival Boston Celtics. He had battled migraines for the last two decades, but this was Game 1 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

According to the LA Times, he was hurting too much to attend the team breakfast and a team meeting. He did, however, manage to get on the court.

Abdul-Jabbar proved to be too much to handle for the favored Celtics. The legendary center helped LA get off to a roaring start that saw the Lakers claim a 34-22 lead after one quarter and hold a 13-point lead at halftime. The Lakers went on to post a 115-109 victory to steal homecourt advantage from the Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar led the way with 32 points on 12-for-17 shooting. He also made eight of nine free throws.

While the Lakers posted the victory, those migraines never let up throughout the series. According to The Times, Abdul-Jabbar had six migraine attacks in nine days during the series.

“What makes it so difficult is that people think you are just having a regular headache,” Abdul-Jabbar said in May 1985. “You just can’t explain them to someone who doesn’t have them.”

Abdul-Jabbar nearly missed Game 6 of the series


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The Lakers outplayed the Celtics for much of the first four games, yet the series headed back to Boston tied at two games apiece. After the Celtics posted a 121-103 victory in Game 3, the Lakers faced elimination back home for Game 6.

There were serious questions about whether Abdul-Jabbar would suit up after undergoing another migraine attack. Even Lakers coach Pat Riley was unsure of his center’s availability.

“I think if he can just get into a dark, quiet room before a game, he’s better,” Riley said, per The LA Times. “But I can’t even relate to what he goes through.”

Again, Abdul-Jabbar battled through the pain and led the Lakers in scoring with 30 points in a 119-108 victory. He went 14-for-26 from the floor and played a team-high 42 minutes. He also pulled down 10 rebounds.

Abdul-Jabbar’s heroics forced a Game 7, but the Celtics prevailed 111-102. Abdul-Jabbar again led the way for LA with 29 points.