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But by the fourth quarter the Sixers, and reality, came creeping back. Erving hit two quick jumpers. Caldwell Jones dunked. Bobby Jones hit a 14-footer, and the Laker lead was 103-101 with 5:12 left. Westhead called another well-placed time-out. He gave a pep talk to Magic and Wilkes, the only Laker who had been in a championship game before. "I was tired," said Magic. "Really tired. But I ran through it." He tapped in a fast-break miss by Cooper, and then Wilkes drove the lane, drew a foul and made a three-point play. The Lakers were up by seven only 1:16 after the time-out.
"After Jamaal's three-point play," said Kareem, "I ran out into my yard and screamed. Then I came back and chewed on a pillow."
From seven points, it went back to five, but then the Lakers won running away, Magic scoring nine points in the last 2:22. The next thing Abdul-Jabbar knew, Magic was talking to him on the television screen. Kareem turned up the volume. "We know you're hurtin', Big Fella, but we want you to get up and do a little dancin' tonight," Magic said.
In Bel-Air, Abdul-Jabbar got up and did "a little hippity-hop step," he said. Was there not even a tinge of regret that the championship he had worked so hard for was won while he was absent?
"Not at all," said Kareem. "In the Islamic culture we call that Kismet. Something that is fate. I was meant to be here, and Earvin was meant to have that game. It reminded me of the kind of game Oscar Robertson used to play in college, when he would score 56, get 18 assists, 15 rebounds, when he used to do it all. Just one man playing against boys. Except that Earvin was just one boy playing against men."
The Laker victory party started in the Spectrum, continued at the hotel and on the plane back to Los Angeles on Saturday morning. Magic, as usual, was the music master. "From center to point guard to E.J. the deejay," said Westhead.
"E.J. the deejay," said Magic in his deep deejay voice. "Goin' to Noo Yawk for the MVP thing, then back home to do some partyin' and play third base for the No. 1 softball team in Lansing—the Magic Johnsons! To be me, just plain Earvin Johnson again. Oh, maybe they'll congratulate me, you know, for one or two days, but then it'll be over. We'll be singing on the street corners again. This season—wow!—97 games. Exciting, crazy and fun. A lot of love for each other. A great experience. I learned a lot and—we're the world champs. Wow!"
The long flight went quickly. No one slept. At the L.A. airport a crowd was gathered on the tarmac. The airplane door opened but before anyone could get off a big man in cowboy duds—denims, a cowboy hat, red bandanna—came aboard. Abdul-Jabbar. Norm Nixon yelled, "It's Billy Jack!"
Kareem silently hugged each one of his happy teammates, then stood straight up in the cabin and yelled at them in mock anger, "You didn't even wait for your boy!"