Dates: May 27-June 12
Winner: Celtics, 4-3
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird revived the league, a rivalry, and captivated a nation with their play, but had yet to face each other for a championship. The 1984 Finals was a physical affair, with the Lakers and Celtics trading wins over the first four games, including two crushing overtime victories by Boston and a 33-point beating for L.A. that prompted Bird to say his teammates played like sissies.
This of course set the tone for Kevin McHale's memorable takedown of Kurt Rambis that cleared both benches in Game 4 and the Celtics literally turned up the heat in Game 5. With the air conditioning broken in Boston Garden, the C's would sweat out another win for a 3-2 lead in the series. Destined for a seventh game, the Lakers whittled a 14 point deficit down to just three with a minute remaining, but Magic Johnson would commit his last error in a series of miscues, as he was stripped by Cedric Maxwell. L.A. lost the game and the series, Bird was named Finals MVP, Magic was dubbed "Tragic Johnson," vowed revenge and the storyline for the next half-decade-not to mention the birth of the NBA as we know it-was laid before us. Without these two men leading these two teams in this series, we might still be watching the Finals on tape delay.