When James Worthy retired before the 1994-95 season, it was fitting that Magic Johnson was there to describe Worthy’s career. Johnson, after all, was the guy passing him the ball on the fast break that set up hundreds of Worthy’s trademark one-handed swooping dunks.
“James Worthy was one of the top 10 — top five — players in playoff history,” Johnson stated at the news conference in which Worthy announced his retirement.
No one argued with that assessment. By the time he retired, Worthy owned a Most Outstanding Player Award from the 1982 NCAA Final Four and a Most Valuable Player Award from the 1988 NBA Finals. He was a member of three NBA championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers (in 1985, 1987, and 1988). His career postseason averages of 21.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game were higher than his regular-season averages of 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest.
He recorded his first triple-double in arguably the biggest game of his career: Game 7 of the 1988 Finals against Detroit, in which Worthy collected 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. He also holds the all-time record for the highest field goal percentage in a five-game playoff series, .721 in the 1985 Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
Never was a nickname better suited to a player than Worthy’s moniker of “Big Game James.”