L.A.'s greatest sports moments No. 2: Magic's junior sky hook
We asked you to send in your picks for the greatest sports moments in L.A. history, and 1,181 ballots later we are unveiling the top 20 vote-getters. Each weekday we will unveil a new moment until we finally reach No. 1.
No. 2: Magic's junior sky hook (32 first-place votes, 3,788 points)
Magic Johnson firmly established himself as the Lakers’ offensive leader in the 1986-87 season, so it was appropriate that he made the biggest shot of that championship year.
Coach Pat Riley decided that season that Magic would be the Lakers’ No. 1 option on offense instead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer but also 39 years old at the time.
Magic’s scoring average increased five points from the previous season to a career-high 23.9 a game. He also led the NBA in assists, helped the Lakers compile a league-best 65-17 record and won his first most valuable player award.
The Lakers rolled to the NBA Finals, winning 11 of 12 playoff games to set up another matchup with the Boston Celtics. After the Lakers’ fast-break offense led to two routs at the Forum, there was considerable talk of a sweep.
But the defending champion Celtics rallied for a Game 3 win in Boston and built a 16-point lead in the third quarter of Game 4. While most of his teammates struggled, Magic kept the Lakers in the game, scoring 27 points through three quarters and helping them enter the final 12 minutes down by only seven.
The fourth quarter was a classic. The Lakers tied the score midway through the period, fell behind by eight with 3 1/2 minutes left, then scored nine in a row to take a one-point lead with 29 seconds left. Larry Bird’s three-point basket with 12 seconds left put the Celtics ahead by two.
With eight seconds left, Abdul-Jabbar was fouled. He made the first free throw but missed the second. Boston’s Kevin McHale, battling the Lakers’ Mychal Thompson, dropped the rebound out of bounds, setting the Lakers up for a final play.
Following a timeout, Magic received an inbounds pass from Michael Cooper about 20 feet from the basket. McHale wound up as the primary defender, but Magic’s stutter-step dribble left the big forward slightly off balance. Magic continued into the lane and put up a running hook shot from 12 feet over McHale and Robert Parish. It swished in with two seconds left for a 107-106 Lakers lead.
After Bird missed a shot at the buzzer, the Lakers had a 3-1 series lead. They won the title in Game 6 at the Forum.
Magic has called the “junior, junior, junior sky hook” the biggest shot of his career.
“I started to take the jumper,” Magic said after the game, “but I saw [McHale] coming at me, so I decided to cut toward the middle. I put it up, and saw it as I released it, but then someone jumped in my face. I never saw it go in.”
The shot did go in — right into Lakers’ lore.
— Hans Tesselaar