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Finally, A Happy Laker Landing
Alexander Wolff
June 17, 1985
Los Angeles overcame its history of failure against the Celtics and won the NBA championship in Boston
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June 17, 1985

Finally, A Happy Laker Landing

Los Angeles overcame its history of failure against the Celtics and won the NBA championship in Boston

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Worthy poached to his left and sent McHale's shot flying for the sideline, ticketed for out-of-bounds. Rambis pursued the ball to the courtside row of Forum fat cats. It did not matter to Rambo that a long-stemmed lovely in lavender and white, squired by Indy 500 champ Danny Sullivan, sat demurely in his path. Nor did he mind particularly that to keep the ball in play, he had to leave size 12DD treadmarks on her face, which would soon be sullied with tears. "Hey, sorry, lady," Rambis would say later.

Worthy took Rambis's retrieval to the other end, where he sank a free throw. Soon Worthy and Rambis each picked off a D.J. pass, and L.A. put together a 14-3 run to end the half ahead 64-51 and very much in control. When the Celts rallied to trim an 89-72 Laker lead to 101-97 with 6:01 remaining, L.A. ignored the autopsies that blamed the Game 4 loss on heart failure. Magic conjured three hoops, and Abdul-Jabbar threw down three skyhooks, plus a dunk for good measure. "People didn't think we could win close games," Magic said. "But we won one."

When it was close in Game 6 on Sunday—tied, in fact, at 55 at halftime—the Lakers actually felt good about themselves. "They'd only played seven guys," Magic said. "Kareem and me hadn't played much because of foul trouble, and we were running off the long jumpers they'd take." The long jumpers they'd miss.

When fatigue did begin to settle in—Games 5 and 6 were separated by only 38 hours, and 3,000 miles—it bypassed Abdul-Jabbar. He led the Lakers through the stretch, scoring 18 of his 29 points in the second half, seemingly unmindful that more than 14 years had passed since he was last a playoff MVP, as a young Milwaukee Buck named Lew Alcindor. "He defies logic," says Riley. "He's the most unique and durable athlete of our time, the best you'll ever see. You'd better enjoy him while he's here."

He'll be there for one more season, in which the Lakers will try to do what these Celtics came so close to but no team has done since 1969—win back-to-back titles. Riley likes their chances. "This team is going to win again," he says. "It's going to win as long as he's with us."

"The best marathoner in the world is in his 30s," Kareem says. "He pays the price. I live with me all the time. I know what I can do."

"He amazes me," Magic said. "But then again, he doesn't, because he's Kareem. He was focusing in. Nobody and nothing stops Kareem once his back hits the wall. You know he's coming back."

And Magic?

"I'm back. Back."

To Los Angelenos, flying is "skying." To fly back to their home airport is to "sky to LAX." The word somehow does justice to both how the Lakers won, and what they'll be doing all summer long. Look for contrails of contentment wherever they go.

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