Starting Lineups: Remembering Magic's Hook Shot, 25 Years Later

There are certain moments that come to mind that clearly define an NBA Finals series.

The Flu Game...

Nick Anderson's missed free throws...

The push-off...

The Iverson step-over...

Olajuwon's teaching lesson on Shaq...

Just to name a few.

Who knows if we'll get one of those in this NBA Finals series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. It'd be nice to bet on, but you can't predict when magic is going to happen. Well, unless your name is Magic Johnson. Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the Boston Celtics 2-1 in the series, and the Celtics were up 106-105 at home in the Boston Garden with under 10 seconds remaining. Then Magic Johnson happened.

What followed was another play for the ages. Kevin McHale guarding Magic. Twenty feet from the basket. Magic drove into the key and lofted a hook shot that just cleared the fingertips of both McHale and Robert Parish. Swish. Lakers win 107-106.

SI's David Halberstam reflected after the series ended, the growth of Magic, and how Magic grew the nerve to shoot that hook shot in such dire straights. Who knew that it evolved from a game of horse?

Magic Johnson, too, has gotten better every year. By and large he did exceptionally well in controlling his ego as he adjusted his play to accommodate Kareem's. He has refined his own game, improving his outside shot, and he won the critical fourth game of the finals with a moving hook shot over the entire Boston front line. It was an additional shot he knew he needed in his repertoire, and he had picked it up from Abdul-Jabbar, playing H-O-R-S-E with him. In the often dour world of professional sports he has made the game seem a pleasure. It is quite possible that until this year we had not seen the full range of what he could do and did not realize that he is the rarest of professional basketball players—someone who can dominate the game and lead his team in scoring while playing guard.

Maybe Kevin Durant will give us a hook shot for the ages. Or that other guy who wears No. 6 for Miami. Or some personal variation on the moment and their greatness. Things worth remembering indeed. Happy Friday to you all; here is your pertinent reading material for the day.

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