Season by Season
1981 to 1982
Magic Ushers in Riley Era
with a Ring
Frustrated by their Playoff failure in 1981, the Lakers started the
season determined to make a better showing. But an early-season disagreement
between Coach Paul Westhead and Magic Johnson led to Westhead's dismissal
just 11 games into the season, despite the coach having won 50 games
in each of his two seasons at the Lakers' helm. Johnson, cast as the
villain, was actually booed at the Forum, which had previously been
unthinkable. But out of the chaos stepped Pat Riley, the former Laker
who had been part of the 1972 Championship team. Riley had been brought
down by Westhead from the broadcast booth to serve as an assistant
coach a year earlier, and was thrust into the top job when Jerry West,
then a personnel consultant to the team, declined.
Riley installed a freewheeling offense and aggressive, trapping defense,
and the Lakers responded by winning 57 games. Boston won a league-high
63 games and the Eastern Division, and Philadelphia and Boston advanced
to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight year.
Philadelphia went up 3-1 for the second straight year, but Boston again
won two games to send it to a seventh game in Boston. This time, Philadelphia
triumphed 120-106, and moved on to meet the Lakers in the Finals. Los
Angeles had swept Phoenix and San Antonio to reach the Finals, and had
been enduring two-a-day practice sessions in order not to be rusty for
the Finals. The Lakers won Game 1 by seven points, the closest game
of the Finals, and captured the series in six games.
McADOO TRADES PERSONAL SUCCESS
FOR CHAMPIONSHIP RING
Bob McAdoo had won three consecutive league scoring titles as a member
of the Buffalo Braves. But his teams never got past the Eastern Conference
Semifinals, and after several injuries and trades, the former All-Star
had fallen into the category of many high-scoring players: admired for
his point-producing ability but disdained for his team's lack of Playoff
success. The night before Christmas, 1981, the 30-year-old McAdoo was
traded to the Lakers. Although the trade received little notice, McAdoo
became a key player for Los Angeles, averaging 16.7 ppg in the Playoffs.
The Championship ring was a fine fit for McAdoo.
"This is the happiest moment of my life," he said in the moments
after the Lakers' victory. "People have said bad things about me
during my career, but this makes up for it."
NBA History Season by Season
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