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James Worthy still laments poor pass in 1984 NBA Finals

September 27, 2011 |  1:24 pm

Throw away the three NBA championships, one Finals MVP and seven All-Star appearances that validated James Worthy's "Big Game" nickname.

What remains fresh in Worthy's mind points less to those accomplishments and more toward one mistake that cost the Lakers Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. In the waning seconds, Worthy stood trapped in the backcourt and then threw a cross-court pass that Celtics guard Gerald Henderson intercepted. His layup tied the game, forced overtime and eventually propelled Boston to a Game 2 victory. Worthy, in an interview with NBA TV's Ahmad Rashad, argued that his pass could've prevented the Lakers from going on to lose the series in seven games. 

"I still see that replay all the time and I have to learn to live with it," Worthy said in NBA TV's half-hour special "Big Game James: The James Worthy Story" that aired Monday. "It never goes away."

Fortunately for the Lakers, Worthy didn't allow the negative thoughts to consume him. Worthy stormed back the following season, averaging 21.5 in the playoffs as the Lakers finally defeated Boston in the 1985 NBA Finals. That included averaging 18 points while taking only 13 shots per game in the regular season. Worthy didn't stop there.

He was most remembered in Game 6 of the Lakers' 1987 NBA Finals victory over Boston where he dove for a loose ball, saved it from going out of bounds and assisted on Magic Johnson's fast-break layup. When the Lakers' 1988 NBA title win over the Detroit Pistons marked the first time in 20 years a team won consecutive championship, Worthy earned the Finals MVP nod over Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The key, Worthy maintained, pointed to his ability to overcome mistakes such as his poor pass in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals and willingness to fit any team role.

"I knew to shut up and be quiet," Worthy said. "I was looking at not only Magic and Kareem, but Jerry West was looking over you like Big Brother. Usually the No. 1 pick usually comes in, he's starting and he's the star. I looked at the roster, and the first thing I had to be was be patient."


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-- Mark Medina

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