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On this date: Kareem scores 40 on sprained ankle in NBA Finals

By Robert Marvi

The late Kobe Bryant wasn’t the only Los Angeles Lakers great who had the chutzpah and iron-clad will to play well in big games while hurt or injured.

In the 1980 NBA Finals, L.A. was engaged in a very competitive series against Julius Erving and the rough, physical Philadelphia 76ers.

After the teams split the first four games, they returned to Southern California for the pivotal fifth game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was the regular season MVP and considered the best player in the world that year, was utterly dominant. Whatever Sixers big men Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones did in that contest to try to contain him didn’t work.

Just past midway through the third quarter, with the game tied, the big fella scored on a finger-roll, but he landed on a Sixers player and sprained his ankle. It looked like perhaps that old Lakers jinx from decades past was haunting the team yet again at such an inopportune time.

Team physician Robert Kerlan wanted Abdul-Jabbar to head to the hospital, but the superstar wanted to keep playing.

His injured ankle was taped up tight, and he returned to the court for the start of the fourth quarter.

He was clearly in lots of pain, but Abdul-Jabbar channeled some type of almost unnatural focus and delivered like a champ.

With 33 seconds left and the score tied, he dunked on Erving for the and-1 that led to a 108-103 Lakers triumph.

After he sprained his ankle, Abdul-Jabbar had 14 points and six rebounds, and he ended the game with 40 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks.

But due to his injury, he was unable to make the trip back to Philly for Game 6. The Lakers were simply hoping that he would be able to play in a winner-take-all Game 7 back at The Forum.

As it turned it, they didn’t need him for either contest.

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Dive Deeper:
On this date: Rookie Magic Johnson carries Lakers to NBA title
In Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, rookie Earvin Johnson had a performance that was, well, magical.
Doc Rivers will return as Sixers coach, team president Daryl Morey says
PHILADELPHIA — Addressing the big question about Doc Rivers’ future as the 76ers’ head coach, team president of basketball operations…
On this date: Lakers mount massive comeback to sweep Seattle
In Game 4 of the 1989 West semis, the Showtime Lakers came back from a huge deficit to sweep the…
On this date: Showtime Lakers sweep their way to the NBA Finals
The 1982 Lakers reached the NBA Finals unscathed after sweeping George Gervin and the Spurs thanks to some strong individual…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Defending champion Bucks eliminated in second round by Celtics
The Bucks, who breezed past the Bulls in the first round, were routed in Game 7.
Lakers will be interested in Doc Rivers if 76ers let go of him
If the Philadelphia 76ers fire head coach Doc Rivers, the Lakers will consider him a candidate for their coaching job.
Get all your news in one place