EXCERPT | June 2, 1986
Punching It Up
The Lakers-Rockets feud before Kobe and Artest
The contretemps that have heated this year's Rockets-Lakers playoff series are nothing new between the teams. SI's Jack McCallum chronicled the Western Conference finals, and all its shenanigans, 23 years ago.
The situation was as improbable as the final shot itself—a twisting, half-blind, turnaround prayer launched by a guy who is supposed to clutch in the clutch. The ball bounced on the front of the rim, again on the back and then, just as the final buzzer sounded like a doleful foghorn for the home fans in the L.A. Forum, it dropped through the basket. The Rockets had beaten the Lakers 114--112, their fourth straight win and the one that sent the revved-up Rockets into the final.
Trailing 3--1 in games, blowing leads of as much as 14 points, the defending champion Lakers had failed to pull away even though their personal Marquis de Sade, Akeem Olajuwon, was in the locker room. And then, with a second left and the score 112--112, L.A. coach Pat Riley chose not to contest the inbounds pass that Rodney McCray would send so easily to 7'4" Ralph Sampson.
McCray might have been looking to pass to Olajuwon had not L.A.'s Mitch Kupchak taken care of that five minutes earlier. He had bumped and shoved Olajuwon until the Rockets center roughly elbowed him away. Kupchak shoved back, and Olajuwon started swinging. Referee Jess Kersey then showed the best defense of the series, charging Olajuwon and driving him toward the L.A. bench, where that noted peacemaker Maurice Lucas applied a headlock. For a moment it looked as though a hockey game had broken out. Olajuwon and Kupchak were ejected.
Breaking News | Real-Time Scores | Daily Analysis