How Well Do You Know the Best NBA Players of the 1980s?



By: Gavin Thagard

5 Min Quiz

Image: Steven Carter from Northern New England, USA

About This Quiz

There was a lot going on in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, Cold War tension still hung over the world, the first WrestleMania took place and Madonna was on her rise to stardom with albums such as LIke a Virgin and True Blue. Yes, it certainly was a fun decade. 

Basketball was on the rise as well in the 1980s, as the sport moved on from a low point in the '70s where interest dwindled because teams failed to entertain. That changed in the '80s in part because of the introduction of the three-point line in 1979, but also because of the high-flying, slam dunks and physicality that was introduced on the court, which would carry over into the 1990s. 

Players in the 1980s benefited from the change of play. As they put on more entertaining performances, a player's star power rose, and with the rise of cable television, these stars could be seen around the country. This helped amplify the Magic and Bird rivalry, displayed the sky walking ability of Dr. J, and pushed Michael Jordan to the forefront of American culture. 

How well do you know the NBA players of the 1980s? Do you know who rose to stardom during the era? Here's your chance to find out!

What was Earvin Johnson Jr.'s nickname?

Magic Johnson spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He played point guard for the team and was known for his magical passing ability​.


Which team did Larry Bird spend his entire playing career with?

Larry Bird was drafted with the sixth pick in the 1978 NBA draft. He played with the Celtics until 1992, when he retired.


What number did Larry Bird wear?

Larry Bird was one of the greatest Celtics to ever step on the court, winning three titles and three NBA MVP awards. His jersey number was retired in 1993, a year after he stopped playing.


What position did Isiah Thomas play?

With over 9,000 career assists, Isiah Thomas is regarded as one of the greatest point guards the game has produced. His ability sent him to 12 NBA All-Star games.


Which team did Moses Malone join in 1982?

Moses Malone played basketball in the ABA before it merged with the NBA in 1976. His first NBA team was the Buffalo Braves.


From 1981 until 1985, what did Moses Malone lead the league in?

The NBA all-time leader in rebounds is Wilt Chamberlain. During his career, he racked up 23,924 rebounds.


Where did Hakeem Olajuwon play college basketball?

Hakeem Olajuwon came from Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston. When he entered the draft in 1984, Olajuwon was taken by the Houston Rockets, allowing him to stay in Texas.


What position did Charles Barkley play?

Charles Barkley spent three years at Auburn University before joining the NBA. In 1984, his final year in college, Barkley was named the SEC Player of the Year.


Which NBA legend retired in 1989?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a career that spanned three decades. He set multiple records over the course of his career, which included becoming the NBA all-time leading scorer.


What number did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wear?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played center for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. For his achievements, which included becoming the NBA all-time leading scorer, both teams retired Kareem's number.


Which team did Robert Parish join in 1980?

Robert Parish played the center position for the Celtics as they won three titles throughout the '80s. He was also named to seven straight NBA All-Star games.


What position did Patrick Ewing play?

Despite being one of the greatest centers in NBA history, Patrick Ewing never won an NBA title. He did make it to the Finals in 1994 but lost to the Houston Rockets.


Who was named the NBA MVP in 1981?

Julius Erving played in the ABA before joining the NBA in 1976. He is the only player to win MVP awards in both leagues.


Which team retired Julius Erving's number 6?

Julius Erving was selected to 11 NBA All-Star games during his career. He was the MVP of two of those games, in 1977 and 1983.


What did Michael Jordan win in 1987?

Michael Jordan won back-to-back Slam Dunk Contests in 1987 and 1988. The 1988 contest against Dominique Wilkins was one of the closest competitions in NBA history.


Where did Michael Jordan play college basketball?

The Tar Heels won the NBA championship in 1982. That same year, Jordan was named the ACC Player of the Year.


What number did Clyde Drexler wear?

Clyde Drexler was part of the "Phi Slama Jama" basketball team at the University of Houston. The team also included Larry Micheaux and Hakeem Olajuwon.


What position did Kevin McHale play?

Kevin McHale was a dominant post-up player for the Boston Celtics. His offensive tactics became known as the "Torture Chamber."


What was Dominique Wilkins named in 1986?

During the 1985-86 season, Dominique Wilkins averaged 30.3 points per game. It was the second highest regular season total of his career.


What year did Dominique Wilkins win the Slam Dunk Contest​?

Dominique Wilkins was an outstanding dunker, even during games. This talent earned him the nickname "The Human Highlight Film."


Who was the first pick in the 1982 NBA draft?

James Worthy spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, playing alongside Magic Johnson. In 1988, he was named the Finals MVP after the Lakers defeated the Pistons.


Who was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1986?

Patrick Ewing exploded onto the NBA scene in the 1980s. His rookie season, he averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.


When did Michael Jordan win his first NBA MVP award?

Michael Jordan averaged 35 points during the 1987-88 season. That was only his second-highest regular season total during his career.


When did Isiah Thomas win his first NBA championship?

The Pistons swept the Lakers in the 1989 NBA Finals. Much of the Pistons' success was due to Magic Johnson missing part of the series with a hamstring injury.


How many titles did Magic Johnson win?

Magic Johnson won his first NBA title during his rookie season. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went down with an injury in game 5 of the Finals, Johnson stepped in to replace him, earning Finals' MVP as well.


Which team drafted Dominique Wilkins in 1982?

Dominique Wilkins never played a game with the Jazz. Instead, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks where he spent most of his career.


How many points did James Worthy average in the 1988 NBA Finals?

James Worthy went to seven straight NBA All-Star games from 1986 until 1992. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2003.


When did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar win his last NBA MVP award?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had only won a single NBA title prior to the 1980s. Throughout the '80s, he won five titles with the Lakers.


When was Charles Barkley named the NBA rebounding leader?

Charles Barkley was a small player for his position, so he had to hustle to get rebounds from other players. His physicality and hustle earned him the nickname "The Round Mound of Rebound."


Who was taken first in the 1984 NBA draft?

The 1984 NBA draft was one of the most stacked drafts in NBA history. It included many great players, including Michael Jordan, who was taken with the third pick.


Which pick was Isiah Thomas in the 1981 NBA draft?

Isiah Thomas played college basketball at Indiana University. Before being drafted in 1981, he led the Hoosiers to win the 1981 NCAA Basketball championship.


When did Magic Johnson and Larry Bird first meet in the NBA Finals?

The rivalry between Magic and Bird helped popularize basketball in the 1980s. Bird led the Celtics past Magic and the Lakers in their first Finals meeting, but Magic got his revenge in 1985.


How many NBA Finals MVP awards did Larry Bird win?

Larry Bird won his first NBA title in 1981, as the Celtics defeated the Rockets in the Finals 4-2. Cedric Maxwell was named the MVP of the series, though Bird put up some spectacular numbers as well.


Which team retired Moses Malone's number?

Moses Malone was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2001. It was his first year of eligibility.


When did Magic Johnson win his first NBA MVP award?

During the 1986-87 season, Magic Johnson was named the player of the month twice, in December and March. During the regular season, Johnson averaged 23.9 points per game and over 12 assists per game.


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