Jabbar played all 10 seasons in the decade, was an All-Star in each, and punctuated five with NBA titles, earning Finals MVP honors in 1984-85. He wasn’t at top speed when the ’80s rolled in, lost velocity as they went on, and still provided the fifth-most points, ninth-most rebounds, third-most blocks, and fifth-most win shares.
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The Human highlight reel could do more than just dunk; he could flat out fill it up on offense. He led the league in scoring four All-Star selections, four All-NBA honors, and a second place in the 1985-86 MVP race.
Alex English was the beneficiary of Doug Moe’s fast-paced offense in the 80s, but he still had to put the ball in the basket, and that’s just what he did, averaging 25.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per night. He shot 51.0 per cent from the field and 83.8 per cent from the line. During this stretch, he took home the 1982-83 scoring title, one of his six top-five finishes in points per game.
Moncrief was not flashy, but he was as complete a guard as you will ever find. Five All-Star nods, five All-NBA selections, and five All-Defensive honors. If not for a degenerative knee problem, who would go down as one of the greatest all-around guards to ever play the game. This selection came down to Sidney or George Gervin, and I know Gervin was a points machine, but Moncrief was the better player all around.
Thomas was a ferocious player and was at his best in the clutch. When Thomas arrived in Detroit, the franchise was in shambles, and in just a few years, they were legit contenders, and by the end of the decade, they were World Champions.
Malone gets left out of the conversation when people discuss the greatest Centers of all time, which is wrong. Malone started the decade and helped guide the Houston Rockets to the NBA Finals, and the Rockets were a .500 team! He then arrived in Philadelphia and, in his very first year as a 76er, led Philly to a world championship. During the ’80s, he averaged 24.5 points and 13.2 rebounds. No one grabbed more boards during the decade (or came within 2,000 of his total), and only Alex English scored more points.
Bird, much like Malone, was just a relentless competitor! Bird snagged nine All-Star selections, nine All-NBA honors (all first-team), three MVP awards (all in a row), three championships, and two Finals MVPs. Bird was a player who could do it all, but his best attribute was his desire and ability to make everyone around him better.
The 6’10” forward did everything. He was the original super-sub, the first repeat Sixth Man of the Year winner in the award’s history. He had some unstoppable force and immovable object, averaging 21-plus points four times and making five All-Defensive teams in the decade.
Jordan only played half the decade, but the way he played made it more than enough years to find him on this list. His first years with the Bulls found him as the only hope to stay in a game. The amazing thing is that he got some awful Bulls teams to the playoffs his first couple of years.
Much like Bird, Magic made everybody around him a better player, plus it doesn’t hurt when you can play not only point guard but every other position on the court! The 1980 NBA Finals proved how special Magic was in game 6, with Kareem Abdul Jabbar unable to play Magic played center and scored 42 points.
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