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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 15 NBA Players of the 1980s: Bird, Magic, or Jordan at Number one?

Top 15 NBA Players of the 1980s: Bird, Magic, or Jordan at Number one?

Ranking the top 10 players of the 1980s!
Publish Date: 04/06/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The greatest players of the 1980s!

To me, the 1980s was the greatest decade in basketball history. In the NBA, you had great rivalries like the Celtic/Lakers and Sixers/Celtics. In the mid-80s, you had the arrival of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, etc… Today we will look at the top 10 players of the greatest decade in NBA History.

15) Adrian Dantley

Dantley was a scorer in the purest sense. However, he was a liability on defense, and he did not make the players around him any better.

Video: Vintage Adrian Dantley Highlights

Vintage Adrian Dantley Highlights

14) Alex English

English averaged 26 points per game during the decade, and while he did benefit from the Nuggets fast-paced offense, he was a great scorer, and for the decade, English shot better than 50 percent from the field.

Video: Meet Alex English: The NBA’s Top Scorer in the 1980’s

Meet Alex English: The NBA’s Top Scorer in the 1980’s

13) George Gervin

Gervin’s lack of defense is why he ranks so low on this list, but damn he could score! Winning two-scoring titles in the 1980s and averaging 26 points per game for the decade.

Video: George Gervin Unleashes the Funk (1980 All-Star MVP Highlights)

George Gervin Unleashes the Funk (1980 All-Star MVP Highlights)

12) Sidney Moncrief

Moncrief was great on both ends of the floor, and he is one of the most underrated players in NBA history.

Video: Sidney Moncrief NBA Legend

Sidney Moncrief NBA Legend

11) Dominique Wilkins

Wilkins’s performance in 1986 will go down in history as one of the greatest single-season campaigns in NBA history. Of the 78 games Wilkins played, he averaged 30.3 points per game, narrowly edging out the Denver Nuggets, Alex English (29.8 points in 81 games), and Adrian Dantley (29.8 points in 76 games).

Video: Dominique Wilkins CRAZY Dunk Reel! Over 10 Minutes Of Highlights

Dominique Wilkins CRAZY Dunk Reel! Over 10 Minutes Of Highlights

10) Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon puts himself on this list, and he only played half of the decade. Olajuwon was dominant from day 1 in the NBA and, for the decade, averaged a double-double. He helped lead the 1986 upset of the Los Angeles Lakers that advanced the Rockets to the NBA Finals. For the short 5 years, he played a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA First Team, and Two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Video: Hakeem Olajuwon CRAZY Full Game 6 Highlights vs SuperSonics 1987 WCSF - 49 Pts 25 Reb 6 Blk

Hakeem Olajuwon CRAZY Full Game 6 Highlights vs SuperSonics 1987 WCSF – 49 Pts 25 Reb 6 Blk

9) Kevin McHale

McHale was a high-energy cerebral player who was the unsung hero of the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s. His ability to move his body was unmatched, and that, combined with his massive reach, made him impossible to guard.

Video: Kevin McHale Full Highlights 1985.03.03 vs Pistons - Career HiGH 56 Pts!

Kevin McHale Full Highlights 1985.03.03 vs Pistons – Career HiGH 56 Pts!

8) James Worthy

Worthy was known as Big Game James, and in the 1988 Finals, he solidified that nickname by single-handily dragging the Pistons across the finish line in a close game 7 to beat the Detroit Pistons. Worthy was the perfect compliment on the wing to Magic Johnson in the Lakers showtime offense.

Video:

“Big Game James” – Worthy’s Early NBA Years

7) Julius Erving

1983 NBA Champion, 1981 NBA MVP, Eight-time NBA All-Star, Five-time All-NBA First Team, Erving was on the downside of his career in the 80s and was still a dominant force. The stats were not what they were in the 1970s, but the important thing was how he figured out how to help his team win.

Video: 1980: Dr.J Baseline Scoop

1980: Dr.J Baseline Scoop

6) Michael Jordan

1988 NBA MVP, Five-time NBA All-Star, 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year, Three-time NBA Scoring Champion, 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan is only this low because he only played half of the decade his dominance became more pronounced in the 1990s.

Video: Best Of Michael Jordan Early Years | The Jordan Vault

Best Of Michael Jordan Early Years | The Jordan Vault

5) Isiah Thomas

Thomas had the ability to impose his will on his opponents, and he was just a little over 6′ and 180lbs! When Thomas arrived in Detroit, the Pistons organization was a mess, and just a few years later, they had become a contender, and by the end of the decade, they were back-to-back world champions. Thomas’s numbers for the decade were more than impressive, averaging a double-double for the decade.

Video: HD Highlights of Isiah Thomas

HD Highlights of Isiah Thomas

4) Moses Malone

Could he be above Jabbar? Let me ask you this? If Malone was a Laker, could he have won 5 titles? I would say easily he could have. Malone took a .500 team all the way to the Finals in 1981 and beat Kareem’s Lakers along the way. He was traded to the Sixers in 1983 and put the Sixers over the top right away. The Sixers went 12-1 in the postseason, and for the decade of the 80s, Malone’s achievements were significant 1983 NBA Champion, 1983 NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star.

Video: Moses Malone’s DOMINANT 1983 Season With The Philadelphia 76ers!

Moses Malone’s DOMINANT 1983 Season With The Philadelphia 76ers!

3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Five-time NBA Champion, 1985 NBA Finals MVP, 1980 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, Four-time All-NBA First Team not too bad! Kareem dominated the NBA for two decades and was as smart as any big man ever playing the game.

Video: How Good Was Kareem Abdul Jabbar ???

How Good Was Kareem Abdul Jabbar ???

2) Magic Johnson

The Lakers had Kareem when Magic arrived, but before Magic, the Lakers always came up short of the finals; with Magic, they seemed to be finals every year. Johnson was a five-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, Two-Time NBA MVP, Seven-time All-NBA First Team, Nine-time NBA All-Star. Magic could play any position on the court, and really Bird and Magic should be number 1 and 1A.

Video: Rookie Magic Johnson Full Game 6 Highlights vs 76ers (1980 NBA Finals) - 42 Pts, 15 Reb, FINALS MVP!

Rookie Magic Johnson Full Game 6 Highlights vs 76ers (1980 NBA Finals) – 42 Pts, 15 Reb, FINALS MVP!

1) Larry Bird

Three-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, Three-time NBA MVP, Nine-time NBA All-Star, Nine-time All-NBA First Team, 1980 Rookie of the Year. Bird is almost always left out of the GOAT conversation, and that is absolutely ludicrous as Bird, with the help of Magic Johnson, helped the game explode globally. He facilitated the game to everyone around him and made everybody on his team a better player. Bird averaged close to a triple-double for the entire decade.

Video: 1980 Rookie Larry Bird

1980 Rookie Larry Bird

Thanks for reading The Top-15 NBA players of the 1980s! We hope you enjoyed what we put together for you!

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