Popular Basketball Players in the 80s

After the great merger of 1976 in Basketball history, people anticipated the survival of the newly constituted National Basketball Association (NBA) to be difficult. There were already well-established leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League (NFL) in its competition, but NBA dramatically gained popularity among sports enthusiasts in the 1980s.

This decade saw some cutting-edge competitions where Lakers and Celtics took eight titles out of ten and the rise of some of the great basketball stars who made scoring an easy task. Here is the catalogue of the popular basketball players in the 80s.

1. Magic Johnson

From having little knowledge of basketball at the beginning of his career to having the best basketball IQ, this man astonished everyone. Magic has proven to be the best, no matter his position in the court. He was in the Lakers club. He played ten seasons during the 80s.

His accomplishments involve five times NBA Champion, three times NBA Finals MVP, two times NBA MVP, seven times All-NBA First Team and nine times NBA All-Star. Magic retired due to suffering from HIV, but he is considered the best leader in assists of all times. His average was 19.5 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, 11.2 assists per game and 2.0 steals per game during the 80s.

2. Larry Bird

Larry, along with Magic, saved the NBA from dwindling to oblivion. They were the force and the charm that the NBA needed to gather public attention; they kept audiences engaged during the game. Bird was not the fastest man on the court, but he knew the art of scoring. He was clever enough to fool anyone with his looks, slow motions, and a nearly absurd pass of throwing the ball behind his head.

Larry was in the Celtics club. His achievements include 1980 Rookie of the Year, three times MVP, two times Finals MVP, nine times All-Star, nine times All-NBA, three times All-Defense and three times Champion. His average in this decade was 25.0 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game, 6.1 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game.

Now you know why the Lakers and Celtics won eight of the ten Championships during this decade.

3. Moses Malone

Moses played ten seasons in this entire decade. Moses’ career peak started from 1982 season with the Rockets, and it bestowed him a contract with the 76ers, which consecutively led this team to the championship of 1983. His achievements include ten times All-Star, two times MVP, one-time Finals MVP, seven times All-NBA, one-time All-Defense, five times Rebounding Leader and one-time Champion. Malone’s average during the 1980s was 24.5 points per game, 13.2 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game, 0.9 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The king of the 1970s still managed to dominate the scoreboard; he was not the best in the 80s but did not fall out of the top ten in this decade as well. No opponent could guard the ball when Abdul-Jabbar had it, nor he missed his hooks. He played ten seasons during the 1980s.

His achievements in this decade include ten times All-Star, one time MVP, one-time Finals MVP, six times All-NBA, three times All-Defense, one-time Blocks Leader and five times Champion while his average was 20.6 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game and 2.0 block per game. These numbers are evidence of his consistency and that he is an eternal champ of the NBA.

5. Michael Jordan

Jordan was selected in the third team by the Chicago Bulls in the year 1984, and within five years, he got 1988 NBA MVP, five times NBA All-Star, 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year, three times NBA Scoring Champion, 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two times All Defense and four times All NBA.

He cannot be considered the best player in this decade, but he proved to be the one in the 1990s. His average of only five seasons was 32.6 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game and 2.4 steals per game.

6. Isiah Thomas

Thomas was a determined player but was extremely tough on the field as no one could ever stand him, and he was always ready to fight with opponents. He was often seen playing injured in the court. With this attitude, he played nine seasons in the 1980s. His average was 20.3 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 9.8 assists per game, and 2.1 steals per game. While his achievements were eight times All-Star, one-time Finals MVP, five times All-NBA, one-time Assists Leader and one-time Champion.

7. Julius Erving

Yet another name from the best of the 1970s was Julius Erving, the man who made the merger possible and simultaneously managed to prove himself the much-needed player in all the clubs. While Doctor J was aging, he might not have increased the numbers on the board, but he helped the 76ers to win the title in 1983. Including that, he played eight seasons in this decade.

His achievements in the 80s aren’t as great as in the 1970s but are no less than the other stars of this decade; these include eight times All-Star, one-time Finals MVP, five times All-NBA, one-time Assists Leader and one-time Champion. His average in the 80s was 22.0 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game, and 1.6 blocks per game.

8. Dominique Wilkins

‘The Human Highlight Film’ was the nickname awarded to Dominique for his athletic ability, intelligence and dunks. On the other hand, he was also told that he was not really efficient to be called an elite or a top-notch performer. Despite such criticism, Dominique could never be underestimated during the game.

He was playing for Hawks in this decade with an average of 26.0 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game. Dominique’s achievements are four times NBA All-Star, 1986 NBA Scoring Champion, 1986 All-NBA First Team and 1985 NBA Slam Dunk Champion.

9. Kevin McHale

McHale was a hardworking player who was smart enough to know exactly where and how to put his energy. He always played for his team while opening the doors of success for many like Bird.  He was famous for his long arms as he could guard the ball even from the taller players.

His achievements in the 80s include three times NBA Champion, five times NBA All-Star, two times NBA Sixth Man of the Year and three times NBA All-Defensive First Team, while his average was 18.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game and 1.8 blocks per game.

10. Alex English

Alex was the finest scorer of the 1980s; he was the first one to score 2000 points in eight seasons while he retired with the record of shooting 50% of the time from the field. He was unfortunate to have played with Nuggets in this decade as he and the team overall were weak at defense. Some analysts say that his scores and victories would be much more than what he acquired if he had got a better team.

Alex’s achievements were eight times All-Star, three times All-NBA and one-time Scoring Champion, while his average was 25.9 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 4.4 assists per game and 1.0 steals per game. 


With these and many other popular basketball players in the 80s, NBA was much stabilized. Though it had a tough time in the initial years, it soon gained enough popularity and public support to become a major sports industry.