Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images /

49. James Worthy

  • Resume: 12 seasons, 3 NBA championships, 1 NBA Finals MVP Award, 2-time All-NBA selection, 7-time NBA All-Star, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, .512/.241/.769 shooting splits, 17.7 career PER, 81.2 win shares

There’s no doubt that James Worthy might have a different legacy had he not played for the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers. He had potential, to be sure, but he was definitely drafted into a winning environment. That being said, can we fault him too much for making the most of playing with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? I think not.

With Magic running the point on fast breaks, Worthy was often the one finishing them with easy dunks at the rim. But he also learned from crucial mistakes in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics early in his career and used them as fuel for a team that appeared in six Finals and won three championships.

In the 1985 NBA Playoffs, he earned his “Big Game James” nickname by averaging 21.5 points per game on 62 percent shooting before putting up 23.7 points per game in a redemption Finals series against those same Celtics. In the 1988 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Worthy picked up the slack for an aging Kareem and won Finals MVP honors on 22.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Oh, and he also notched a 36-16-10 triple-double in Game 7 to clinch the series.

Worthy could get to the rim, finish in transition and knock down jumpers, which made him a nearly unfair addition to that Lakers dynasty. He certainly benefitted from a cushy situation, but Big Game James proved time and time again in the playoffs that he never took anything for granted.