1980: Magic fills in for Kareem, leads Lakers to title
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1985: Kareem scores 29 as Lakers win title in Boston
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Fear gripped the Lakers. Up 3-2 on the Sixers, they were getting on the plane to Philly without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had sprained an ankle. Now what? "Watch this," said the skinny rookie to the writer (this one), plopping into seat 1A – Kareem's seat – and announcing, "Have no fear, EJ's here!" Game 6 at the Spectrum: Magic Johnson starts at center, plays every position on the floor and scores 42 points with 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. Kareem for a day.
– John Papanek
The backdrop is Game 1, the Memorial Day Massacre, when Celtics scorched the 38-year-old Kareem and the Lakers, 148-114. The moment in Game 6 comes when Cap runs back down the floor after a made bucket, two fists in the air. The implacable one finally lets it all hang out, and when he does, you understand the weight he and the Lakers franchise have been carrying, back to Don Nelson's rim-shot, back to Red's cigar, back to every heartbreak Jerry West ever endured. They'd finally beaten Boston.
– Eric Neel