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When the Finals got hot before: Game 5, 1984, Bird vs. Magic in “heat game”

Jun 6, 2014, 10:48 AM EST

SAN ANTONIO — It was hot, temperatures above 90 degrees, in the AT&T Center for Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals. LeBron James cramped up, the Heat players wilted and San Antonio went on a 26-9 run to end the game and win Game 1.

It was wild — but it was not unprecedented.

Thirty years ago almost to the day, June 8, 1984, the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers in what became known as “the heat game.” It was reportedly 97 degrees in the old Boston Garden— a building that didn’t have air conditioning in it (why would you need that in an arena also used for hockey?). Boston was suffering through a heat wave and that made the building sweltering, more so that what the Heat and Spurs faced Thursday night.

The enduring image of 2014’s Game 1 is LeBron James being carried off the court with cramps. The enduring image out of  1984 comes at the 3:44 mark of the video above: a 37-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the oxygen mask over his face, sucking in air as he tries to get rested and back on the court.

“I suggest,” Abdul-Jabbar said after the game (via NBA.com), “that you go to a local steam bath, do 100 pushups with all your clothes on, then try to run back and forth for 48 minutes. The game was in slow motion. It was like we were running in mud.”

It was so hot referee Hugh Evans had to stop at halftime due to dehydration, reported Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe.

The 1984 NBA Finals was the one everyone had been waiting for, finally Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were going to square off on the NBA’s biggest stage (it was David Stern’s first Finals as commissioner, he certainly lucked into a lot of things early in his tenure). The series didn’t disappoint, going seven games (with Bird and the Celtics ultimately prevailing, the first salvo in the great rivalry of the 1980s).

Bird owned Game 5 — 34 points on 15-of-20 shooting, plus grabbing 17 boards. And like the Spurs after Game 1 this year (with Tony Parker saying it felt like a European gym and Tim Duncan saying it was like the Virgin Islands where he grew up) Bird said after the game he was used to this.

“I play in this stuff all the time back home. It’s like this all summer.”

(As a side note pointed out by my boss Rick Cordella, maybe the most classic part of the above video is near the end, at the 6:15 mark, when a guy just lights up a cigarette in the building as the fans celebrate, Mad Men style. That was just a different era.)

Stuff happens in an NBA Finals. Unexpected stuff. What matters is who adapts, who adjusts, who just finds a way to play through that and win.

In 1984 that was Larry Bird and the Celtics.

Thirty years later round one goes to the Spurs.

  1. sportsfan18 - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    if LBJ would have played in the 80’s, he would have had a hard time averaging 30 min’s a game…

    it was hot, it was physical…

    put on your big boy pants LeBron…

    • BrandonTheoD - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Clown comment bro.

    • BrandonTheoD - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      Clown comment bro

    • jpstyles314 - Jun 6, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      When the Heat win, this site is filled with Heat fans.
      When the heat lose, this site is filled with Heat haters.

      When I say haters I don’t mean regular NBA fans, but people who would diss Lebron/Wade/The entire Heat organization even if they saved a bus full of children and gave them all a billion dollars in a recession while curing cancer on a Monday.

  2. urodaddy07 - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Are there any Laker highlights in this clip?

    • drewzducks - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      Yeah, Kareem sucking on an oxygen tank.

    • urodaddy07 - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      I find the thumbs-downs to my question, which was really an observation, funny and baffling at the same time

  3. hojo20 - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Love the old videos. Great to see the blue collar fans going nuts on floor level back then, before the corporate/rich people took over those seats.

  4. loubearkane - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Now we know why they wore such short shorts

  5. zukny1 - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Bird was a god damn monster.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:06 PM

      Amen to that!

      Like Magic Johnson said at Bird’s retirement ceremony at the Garden… “There will never ever, ever be another Larry Bird”

  6. asimonetti88 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    A bummer that the Celtics won, but this was one of the all-time classic series.

  7. bball242322 - Jun 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Damn so the conclusion is simple, Bird is just flat out tougher than LBJ. Bird playing in more intense conditions still doesn’t need to go out for the rest of the game. What a true legend

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:08 PM

      correct sir…

      He’s called and known as “Larry Legend” for a reason you know…

  8. bball242322 - Jun 6, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Lebron – Take some notes from Larry the Legend

  9. drewzducks - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Hate to sound like an old bastard, but the NBA was so much tougher back then. You had the Lakers with Magic, Kareem and Worthy, arguably 2 of which could be considered in the Top 5 players in NBA history. The Celtics with Bird, McHale and Parish, with Bird being in the Top 5 of all time and the others being in the Top 50. You had the Sixers with Dr. J, eventually Moses, both in the Top 15 of all time, with great role players like Cheeks, the Jones’, Darryl (early on) etc. Also the Bucks, who unfortunately for them are often overlooked cuz they could never get by Bos/Phi. They were loaded with Lanier, Moncrief, Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, and eventually Terry Cummings and averaged over 55 wins a year. They would have been a regular NBA Finalist in today’s era. God I’m getting old.

    • zukny1 - Jun 6, 2014 at 8:32 PM

      Some dude told me the other day:
      “Lebron is the greatest to ever live. Who did Jordan have to go up against? He didn’t have nearly the same competition.”

      I mentioned Bird

      He said, Bird isn’t even half the man Dirk Norwitzki is.

      That’s pretty much when I walked away, because I ready ready to slap him across the face.

      • zukny1 - Jun 6, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        *because I “was” ready to slap him across the face..

        Can’t edit my own comments on here.

      • drewzducks - Jun 7, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        Dirk is a upgraded version of Jack Sikma, with a little better range. Never will he enter the rarified air of Larry Joe Bird. You have my permission to commence slapping next time you see that clown, LOL.

      • drewzducks - Jun 7, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Also, noticing the NY in your name, I’m gonna assume you may have seen the unstoppable force known as Bernard King. He was a one man wrecking crew. They don’t make players like that anymore.

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