The 1984 NBA Finals was one of the lowest points in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. That was supposed to be the year the Lakers finally took down their longtime rivals, the Boston Celtics. But the Lakers lost in seven games due in large part to some terrible mistakes from the legendary Magic Johnson.
His performance led to some nicknaming him ‘Tragic’ Johnson, and questions remained about whether he would be able to turn the Lakers around following two straight NBA Finals defeats. But while Magic was distraught about the 1984 Finals, it also motivated him.
He spoke about this on an appearance of the Renaissance Man with Jalen Rose, saying that he cried all summer long but also used that loss to self-evaluate himself and put in all the necessary work to come back even better the following year:
“This was the first time I made critical mistakes for us to lose that championship. So I cried Jalen, for three months all summer I cried because I let my teammates down, I was the reason why we lost the championship. But the first thing I had to do Jalen was identify and say to myself, ‘I’m not as good as I thought I was. I gotta go back to the lab. I gotta go back to work.’ Self-evaluation is the hardest thing you had to do. Any person has to judge themself and be honest with themself and if you can do that, then you can improve. So basically, I was doing a S.W.O.T. of myself. What is that? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. So when I did the S.W.O.T. Jalen I said, ‘Uh oh, I gotta go to work.’
I gotta get my jump shot better, I had to work on that. I gotta make sure that I don’t make critical mistakes ever again. And so I improved over that summer. I started shooting a little sky hook, I worked on it every single day. I was working out every single day. I was working out three times a day. Early in the morning, come back get a little nap, in the afternoon, then Isiah [Thomas] and I was working out at night, at 12 midnight. We were putting it in. So God would have it that I would turn around in 1985, play the Celtics again, and we end up beating them because I got better and I didn’t make critical mistakes.”
Magic did exactly that, leading the Lakers to 62 wins and the best record in the Western Conference. They blew through the playoffs and met up with the Celtics in the Finals again, where the Lakers would finally defeat their rivals for the first time in franchise history.
Sometimes loss is needed in order to turn things around, and Magic responded to disappointment in the right way. Using it as motivation for greater joy down the line and the best accomplishment possible.
Lamar Odom explains why he hates the Celtics and their fans to this day
The hatred of the Celtics extends to any Lakers players, especially those who faced them in the Finals, and former Lakers forward Lamar Odom had a story of his own to explain why he hates that franchise.
Odom recalled the 2008 Finals, where the Lakers came up short, and remembered how after the series loss, Celtics fans surrounded the team bus and began shaking it. It is a moment he has never forgotten but made the moment of defeating Boston in 2010 that much sweeter.