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DAR Sports: The 20 Greatest NBA Players of The 80s

By @TrueGodImmortal

In today's NBA, the story has seemingly been that there is a lack of competitiveness. By that, I mean there are only really three or four true championship contenders in this age. In the West, it's been the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs for the last 5 seasons or so, and in the East, whichever team LeBron James is on is the favorite since the 2010s began. Truth be told, this has always been the case in the NBA. In the 2000s, it was the West dominating with the Spurs or the Lakers, while the 90s of course saw the Bulls dominate the decade with the Rockets sneaking two titles in and the Pistons winning one. In the 80s, it was all about the Celtics and Lakers. Magic vs Bird. But they weren't the only great players from that decade, not at all. There are some names that tend to go forgotten or slept on, and some names from the 80s that we all know and love. Today, we narrow it down to 20 of the greatest players from the 80s and why.

*Bernard King 

-As much as I wanted to put Clyde Drexler on this list, I knew Bernard deserved to be here. Who could deny his scoring prowess and ability? Injuries weighed him down in the end, but Bernard was truly something fun to watch. He won a scoring title, made 3 All Star and All-NBA appearances, and kept the Knicks in the conversation during his tenure there, but also brought his firepower to the Jazz, Warriors, and Bullets. It's a shame he's not remembered as much as some of the other players on this list.

*Sidney Moncrief 

-Aside from the usual names like Isiah, Jordan, Magic, and Bird, Sidney is one of my favorite players from the 80s. He was a true all around player, able to score when need be, but also able to handle what was needed on the other end of the ball. He was a true leader and helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the playoffs every season he was with the team. He was a 5 time All Star, a 5 time member of the All-NBA team, the winner of the first 2 Defensive Player Of The Year awards, and a 5 time All Defense member as well. That's one hell of a career when you think about it.

*Alex English

-One of the better scorers of the era as well, Alex was efficient on the court. The first man to score 2,000 points in eight straight seasons, English was a player that truly brought something extra to the Denver Nuggets, and he also was solid for the Pacers. As a 8 time All Star, 3 appearances on the All-NBA team, and a scoring champion, English was one of the most unstoppable players of the decade.

*Robert Parish

-One of the big men during the heyday of Boston, The Chief was a dominant force on the court and in the post. Averaging almost 18 points and 10 rebounds a game during the entire decade, he was a vital piece to the Celtics Eastern Conference dynasty. With 3 NBA championships, 7 All Star appearances, and 2 All NBA appearances, The Chief certainly left his impact on the 80s.

*James Worthy

-Big Game James is definitely one of the more noteworthy players of the decade by far. With his ability to rebound, play good defense, and show up when it was necessary (they don't call him Big Game James for nothing), he was an integral part of the dominant Showtime Lakers. He was a 4 time All Star during the 80s, a member of the All-NBA once, the Finals MVP, and of course, he was there for three of the five titles the Lakers won in the 80s. Big Game James is a legend.

*Adrian Dantley

-A scoring juggernaut during this decade, Adrian was damn near unstoppable. He averaged 30 points per game for four straight seasons, an amazing feat and ended up winning the scoring title twice during the decade. He would make the All-NBA team twice, and be named an All Star 6 rtmes during the 80s. Both his time with the Pistons and the Jazz this decade spawned great moments for him.

*Dennis Johnson

-One of the more underrated generals on the court during this decade, Dennis Johnson was very important to the Celtics success in winning two of their championships. He played for the Sonics and Suns as well, but is most remembered for his contributions to the Boston dynasty. Defensively, he was vital to any team he was on, as he appeared on the All Defensive team 8 times during the decade, showcasing his ability to lock down other players. He would also be a 4 time All Star and make an appearance on the All-NBA team as well, just adding to his personal accolades in addition his championship success.

*Mark Aguirre 

-One of the top scorers of the decade, Mark was consistent when need be. His work with the Mavericks was superb and earned him multiple trips to the All Star Game, but his biggest success came when he was traded to the Detroit Pistons and helped them garner the first of their back to back titles as the decade came to a close.

*Charles Barkley

-Sir Charles was one of those guys with the right attitude to make the game more entertaining every time he was on the court. His time with the 76ers showcased his athleticism and his ability to be a huge rebounder despite a slightly smaller size than other big men in the league. Barkley would become a 3 time All Star, 4 time All NBA and also lead the league in rebounds (for a season) during this decade. He managed to be a force for the 76ers, and dominate the game where a lot of people didn't expect him to.

*Hakeem Olajuwon

-The Dream came of age in the 80s as a player, and averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds during the decade, which was no easy feat to complete. In addition to that, he utilized his amazing footwork and athleticism to wear down any opponent and helped lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986. A 5 time All Star, 4 time All NBA and All Defense member, Hakeem is certainly one of the best players of the decade without question.

*George Gervin

-How could you deny the Ice Man? He was a scoring machine during his heyday and that finger roll was deadly against any defense. He spent time in the 80s with the Spurs and the Bulls, but his best moments are with the Spurs of course. A 6 time All Star, 4 time All NBA member, and a 2 time scoring champion, the Ice Man was a force to be reckoned with during this decade for sure.

*Dominique Wilkins

-One of my all time favorite dunkers was also one of the best players of the 80s. He didn't make the NBA Finals or win a championship, but he won the dunk contest, and ended up as a 4 time All Star, a 3 time member of the All-NBA team, and a scoring champion. He was called the Human Highlight Film for a reason, and his battles with MJ and Bird are the stuff that makes legends.

*Kevin Mchale

-Another vital piece in the Celtics dynasty, Mchale was considered a tough opponent to handle and a tough opponent to play against. He was one of the best defenders on that Celtics and team, and after winning the Sixth Man award two times, being named to the All Defensive team 5 times, once to the All-NBA team, and a 5 time All Star in addition to the 3 NBA Titles, Mchale is deserving of his name on this list.

*Larry Bird

-The greatest white player to ever play the game is probably top 2 of the decade, if not no. 1. He ruled this decade with the Celtics alongside the Showtime Lakers. This is where we solidified the Lakers vs Celtics as the greatest NBA rivalry ever. Bird became the Rookie of the Year In 1980, won 3 MVP awards in a row (the only player to do so), a 9 time All Star and 9 time All-NBA member, 3 times All Defensive team member, and of course 3 NBA Titles with two Finals MVP awards to boot. If there was any doubt of Larry and his legacy, that right there should quiet any detractors. He made his mark in the 80s as one of the greatest to ever do it.

*Isiah Thomas

-Zeke was smaller than most on the court, but he had the most heart. His ability to take down defenses and take over games when need be is still something that makes him one of my favorite players ever. His toughness is what led the Pistons through the Bad Boys era, and Isiah would end up leading them to a NBA Title at the end of the decade, along with a Finals MVP award. He would also be named an All Star 8 times during the 80s and make the All-NBA team 5 times, earning him the distinction of being one of the greatest to do it during the decade.

*Julius Erving

-Dr. J was one of the symbols of what an athlete should be during his career. He would be a force in the 80s, helping to lead the 76ers to a NBA Title, delighting fans with his high flying moves and dunks along the way. He would garner 8 All Star trips, win one MVP award, and make the All-NBA team a total of 5 times during the 80s, making this one a pretty easy selection for the list, and if this was ranked (which it shouldn't be anyways, but if it was), he would likely be right there in the top 5.

*Michael Jordan

-The greatest player ever and the No. 1 player of the 90s was also one of the top players in the 80s. This is the beginning of prime Jordan, as he returned after a broken leg injury to become something unlike anything we've ever seen before. During the 80s, he averaged 32.6 PPG, won a MVP award, Defensive Player Of The Year award (same year he won the MVP), was 2X All Defensive First Team, the NBA Steals Champion, and of course, 3 scoring titles, in addition to 5 All Star trips and 4 All-NBA appearances. It's crazy looking back at his seasons from 1986-1989, because they were out of this world.

*Kareem Abdul Jabbar

-One of the greatest centers to ever play the game had an amazing decade. He was great in the 70's as well, but his work in the 80s ended up winning him another MVP award, a Finals MVP, 5 NBA Titles, as well as 10 All Star appearances, 6 All-NBA team appearances, and 3 appearances on the All Defensive team. What a decade for someone who was no longer in their "prime". Kareem is probably the most consistent player in the history of the game for being able to adapt to his role as the years went by and still win.

*Moses Malone

-They don't come more deadly than Moses. Moses Malone was really one of the most solid players and probably top 3 of this era, helping to lead the 76ers to a title, and gaining a Finals MVP. He would also win 2 MVPs during the decade, be a 2 time rebounds leader, a 10 time All Star, make the All Defensive team, and have 7 appearances on the All-NBA team, which makes his accolades not only some of the best of the 80s, but in NBA history period. Moses was a beast.

*Magic Johnson

-The 80s were seen as the decade of Bird and Magic, but I've always thought it was Magic who truly defined the decade as a player. Magic is one of my all time favorite players to watch period and during the 80s, he excelled beyond belief. Magic is not only the greatest point guard to play the game, he's also one of the best ever in the history of the game, and with accolades like these, how could you deny him: 3 time MVP, 3 Finals MVP awards, 9 time All Star, 8 All-NBA appearances, 5 NBA Titles, 4 time assists champion and a 2 time steals champion. There's nothing more to say. Magic is the BEST player of the 80s and dare I say, a top 5 player to ever play the game. Simple as that.


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