You may remember couple of months ago I wrote a post about who I believed is the best starting 5 comprised of all players that played in the 1990s. You can read that here. Here, we're going to go ten years before the 90s, and look at the best players that graced the hardwood during the 1980s. For this list, I'm not including guys who made it in the 90s post (sorry Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon). Let's get started.
PG- Magic Johnson
Who would’ve thought arguably the best point guard of all time and best of the Eighties would’ve been a guy who stands at a whopping 6'9". He spawned a whole new generation of bigger ball handlers that has become the expectation nowadays. He also dominated the game in virtually every way. His playmaking ability was second-to-none, and he wasn’t a slouch as a scorer, rebounder, and defender either. He’s got the hardware to back his greatness too. Johnson was the defacto leader of what he called the Showtime Lakers. His trophy case consists of five NBA championships, three Finals MVPs, and two regular season MVPs, not too bad I'd say. His impact on the game is undeniable, and most certainly puts him as the decade's best PG.
SG- Larry Bird
Yes, I know Larry Bird is really a SF but there’s somebody else that NEEDS to be on this list later down the line. There really isn’t much to say about how great Bird was as a basketball player. Where Magic was the playmaker of the generation, Bird was the scorer. For most games, it felt like there wasn’t a shot Bird couldn’t make. Between Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish, the Celtics had possibly the greatest frontcourt in NBA history. Bird was so good he won three CONSECUTIVE MVP awards from 1984-1986 and in the '86 NBA Finals, Bird was a couple of rebounds away from becoming the only player to average a triple-double in the Finals. During both of his Finals victories, he was named Finals MVP. His impact on the game of basketball was undeniable, making him our starting SG.
SF- Julius Erving
The man they dubbed Dr.J was one of the NBA’s most influential and important players to ever lace up. You can thank him for all the memorable dunks we see in games today, because he was the first player to realize the advantages of playing above the rim. Not only did he popularize the style, but he still to this day remains regarded as one of the best dunkers to ever play 40 years later. While he may have gotten to the NBA later in his career, he still was able to make his mark with his signature style of play. His ability to dominate the game throughout the better part of both the 70s and 80s, eventually leading him to an MVP award in 1981. Unlike many others, he was able to finish his career with an NBA championship in his final season. He is personally one of my favorite players of all time, and a starter for this all-80s team.
PF- Moses Malone
We’re going a little out of position here too, mainly because Moses Malone was too good to leave him off this list. This man was a double-double machine, thanks in part to his crazy athletic abilities which was his signature style of play. His rebounding ability was impeccable as a result of this athletic prowess, demonstrated by leading the entire league in rebounding six times throughout the course of his career. Like Erving, he too dominated both the NBA and ABA, but still has the NBA hardware to prove he was a winner. He won the MVP award twice, while winning both the NBA championship and Finals MVP award in 1983. He was the “glue guy” for the Sixers while also putting up massive scoring numbers, which is uncommon in today's NBA. Not only was he one of the game’s best athletes, but also is probably the most underrated star to ever play.
C- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Now this guy sure had a legendary career. Being dubbed as the greatest player of all-time by stars such as Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, and coach Pat Riley means a ton. He became one of the best scorers to ever grace the league through the use of the trademark “skyhook” shot which was revolutionary back then. He just simply dominated throughout the entirety of his career, only getting better with age. While he received a ton of help playing with multiple legends on the Showtime Lakers, there is no doubt that he would’ve been just fine had they not been there. You’d think the all-time leader in points would be a guard or forward, it’s actually Kareem who has a 2,000-point lead on Karl Malone (the #2 spot). He’s got the championships too (five to be exact) and two MVP awards. If that doesn’t deserve a spot on this list, I’m not sure what does.
6th man- Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas is synonymous with toughness and grit. He was never the tallest or biggest guy, listed at a measly 6’1” and 180 pounds, but he exemplified what it meant to be a Piston in the Eighties. These Pistons, called the “Bad Boys”, were the league’s top team during the late 1980s that dominated through physical play. If it weren’t for Thomas leading the team, there’s no way that the Pistons would’ve had the same success. He was a complete PG, almost averaging a double-double in points and assists over the whole decade. There’s no better example of this then when Thomas severely sprained his ankle in game 6 of the 1988 Finals and dropped 25 points in a single quarter, which happened to be NBA Finals record. While they didn’t win that Finals, they later went on to win consecutive titles in 1989 and 1990, with Thomas leading the way. Maybe not a fan favorite outside of Detroit, Thomas still deserves a seat among the best players in the 1980s.