James Worthy

©UNC Athletics James Worthy's nickname was "Big Game James." His average during playoff games was higher than regular season games. See more pictures of basketball.

Position: Forward

James Worthy had the privilege of claiming Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson as teammates. Their collaborations resulted in one college and three professional championships. "Big Game James" was a money player who compared favorably with greats such as Maurice Cheeks and Jo Jo White for his ability to rise to the occasion. His career scoring average in the playoffs was 21.1 points a game, compared with 17.6 in the regular season.


A speedy 6'9", 225-pound forward, Worthy played a dozen seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers when they were the dominant team of the 1980s. Worthy didn't seek the spotlight, and on a team with Kareem and Magic -- and coach Pat Riley -- his willingness to sublimate his ego was seen as a blessing. Swooping drives to the basket were Worthy's trademark, made possible by his lightning first step and huge stride. He was an accurate shooter from 15-20 feet and a strong defender at small forward.

Born February 27, 1961, in Gastonia, North Carolina, Worthy attended the University of North Carolina, where he was coached by Dean Smith and played alongside Jordan and future Lakers teammate Sam Perkins. According to myth, Jordan was the star of the 1982 NCAA Tournament, clinching the national championship with a last-gasp shot against Georgetown, but it was Worthy who scored 28 points in that game and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Worthy joined the Lakers as the first pick in the 1982 NBA draft and was a unanimous choice for the NBA All-Rookie Team. The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the 1985 NBA Finals, which Worthy later called his greatest moment as a pro, and followed with back-to-back titles in 1987 (over the Celtics) and 1988 (over Detroit). He was brilliant against the Pistons, amassing 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists in Game 7 of the Finals for his first triple-double as a professional. In 1992-93, he joined Kareem, Magic, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor as the only Lakers with 15,000 points.

The last link to the Lakers' championship era, Worthy played through 1994 before retiring because of arthritic knees. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

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