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On this date: Kareem scores 40 on sprained ankle in NBA Finals

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The late Kobe Bryant wasn’t the only Los Angeles Lakers great who had the chutzpah and iron-clad will to play well in big games while hurt or injured.

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In the 1980 NBA Finals, LA was engaged in a very competitive series against Julius Erving and the rough, physical Philadelphia 76ers.

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After the teams split the first four games, they returned to Southern California for the pivotal fifth game.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was the regular season MVP and considered the best player in the world that year, was utterly dominant. Whatever Sixers big men Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones did in that contest to try to contain him didn’t work.

Just past midway through the quarter third, with the game tied, the big fella scored on a finger-roll, but he landed on a Sixers player and sprained his ankle. It looked like perhaps that old Lakers jinx from decades past was haunting the team yet again at such an inopportune time.

Team physician Robert Kerlan wanted Abdul-Jabbar to head to the hospital, but the superstar wanted to keep playing.

His injured was ankle taped up tight, and he returned to the court for the start of the fourth quarter.

He was clearly in lots of pain, but Abdul-Jabbar channeled some type of almost unnatural focus and delivered like a champ.

With 33 seconds left and the score tied, he dunked on Erving for the and-1 that led to a 108-103 Lakers triumph.

After he sprained his ankle, Abdul-Jabbar had 14 points and six rebounds, and he ended the game with 40 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks.

But due to his injury, he was unable to make the trip back to Philly for Game 6. The Lakers were simply hoping that he would be able to play in a winner-take-all Game 7 back at The Forum.

As it turned it, they didn’t need him for either contest.


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