Kareem Overcomes Migraine
May 27, 1984
When he awoke yesterday, the pain was starting.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knew the feeling all too well because, over the years, recurring migraine headaches probably have done more than opposing players to hamper him.
But because Los Angeles Lakers trainer Jack Curran was able to snap Abdul Jabbar's neck back into alignment - the condition is spinal in nature - this migraine was stopped before the 7-foot, 4-inch, 37-year-old center was crippled by the pain.
Because of the headache, Abdul-Jabbar skipped a 9 a.m. team meeting. However, not only was he able to play, but he scored a game-high 32 points and dominated the floor in a stunning 115-109 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Championship Series.
The Celtics' loss ended their streak of consecutive home-court playoff victories this season at nine and erased their home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Shocking a packed house of 14,890 fans at Boston Garden, Abdul-Jabbar poured in 23 first-half points. Behind his hot shooting, the Lakers - who were coming off a tough sixth-game victory over the Suns in the Western Conference finals Friday night and a flight from Phoenix on Saturday - raced to an 18 point first-quarter lead and a 19-point lead in the third period.
After Boston center Robert Parish, who had vainly been trying to control him, fouled out of the game midway through the final period, Abdul-Jabbar anchored a tough defense that choked off the Celts when they made made a final, abortive charge.
"I'm a professional," Abdul-Jabbar said later, when asked about his having played despite his migraine. "This is what I do for a living, and even under adverse circumstances, I try to do a good job, and I usually do."
His numbers, in this case, spoke for themselves.
In addition to his 32 points and 12-for-17 shooting from the floor, he made five assists, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, made two steals - one of them a crucial one on Boston guard Dennis Johnson late in the game - and blocked a pair of shots.
Combined with James Worthy's 20 points and Magic Johnson's 18 points and 10 assists, Abdul-Jabbar's performance was enough to offset a 25-point effort by Boston's Kevin McHale and a deceiving 24-point, five-assist outing by the Celtics' Larry Bird, who struggled for much of the afternoon.
"The man was on fire," Parish said afterward. "I'd like to say I could have played him differently, but he hasn't scored all those points in his career accidentally."
Still, there many of Abdul-Jabbar's efforts were pale in comparison to his H-bombing of the Celtics yesterday.
After the Lakers had spotted Boston a 2-0 lead to start the game, Magic Johnson connected on a pass to Abdul-Jabbar for a layup that became a three point play after Parish committed his first foul.
That was the story of the whole first quarter, because with that play, the Lakers were off and flying. After allowing the Celts to take a 4-3 lead - their last lead of the day - Los Angeles embarked on a 19-3 spree that not only resulted in a 22-7 lead, but also took the fire out of the zealots in the stands, who had turned the ancient and un-air-conditioned Garden into an oven even before the game had begun.
By the end of the first period, the Celts were down 34-22, had been on the short end of two 18-point margins and had seen the Lakers bury them with the fast break.
And, of course, they had witnessed the wrath of Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 13 points in the quarter as the Lakers shot an awesome 72.7 percent.
By the half, the Lakers had increased their lead by a point, to 65-52.
"They played a near-perfect half of basketball," said Parish, who had to sit down in the second quarter, after picking up his third personal foul.
"When we shoot the ball really well like that," Abdul-Jabbar said, "it's hard to beat us because we have so many versatile players."
Which is why, in the third period, no one should have been surprised when the Lakers went up by 19 points for the first time at 73-54. They were to lead by that many on three more occasions, the last at 83-64 with 5 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Parish, by that time, had four fouls, and the Celtics had to go with McHale, who is far more effective at forward, in the middle.
The Celtics tried to come back. Their 24-9 period-ending rush cut the Los Angeles lead to 92-88, the final points coming on a three-point field goal by Bird at the buzzer.
"That Larry Bird three-pointer at the end of the quarter was like a dagger in the heart," L.A. coach Pat Riley said.
But the Celtics, despite creeping to within four points three more times - the last at 105-101 with 5:05 to go - could get no closer.
For a very good reason.
Parish, who ended the game with only 13 points, fouled out with 7:23 left, and Abdul-Jabbar reasserted himself. With time running out and the Lakers up by 111-105, Dennis Johnson went streaking downcourt on a break. Abdul-Jabbar stood in his way and then, on the fly-by, calmly plucked the ball out of
And that was that - a triumphant ending to a day that began in pain.
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