The 1980s Sports: Headline Makers
The 1980s Sports: Headline MakersLarry Bird
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Larry Bird (1957–) Larry Bird helped revive professional basketball in America. In 1980, his rookie season, he helped the Boston Celtics win thirty-two more games than they won the previous season. For his effort, he won Rookie of the Year honors. The following season, he led the Celtics to the first of three NBA championships the team would win in the 1980s. In two of those championship games, 1985 and 1986, he was named MVP. For three consecutive seasons, from 1984 to 1986, Bird was voted the league's MVP.
Wayne Gretzky (1961–) Wayne Gretzky dominated professional hockey as no other individual dominated his or her sport in the 1980s. From 1980 to 1988, he scored 583 goals and handed out 1,086 assists. For six of those years, he averaged 73 goals and 130 assists a season; no one else in the history of the NHL had managed to score 200 points in a season. He won eight MVP awards and led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships. In 1989, he broke the NHL's all-time scoring record of 1,850 points and won the MVP award yet again.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson (1958–) Earvin "Magic" Johnson helped make professional basketball the most popular sport in the United States in the 1980s. His relentless passion for the game made him one of the most popular players in basketball. Johnson had a great scoring touch, superb ball-handling skills, and the ability always to find an open teammate with a bullet pass. He led the Los Angeles Lakers to eight of the decade's ten NBA championship games, helping the team win five of those games. In 1987, he won both the regular season and the finals MVP awards.
Michael Jordan (1963–) Michael Jordan became one of the highest-paid and certainly one of the best-known athletes in the history of organized sports after he became a professional basketball player in 1984. He quickly set the standard for athletic creativity and earned a special place in basketball history. In his third season as a professional, Jordan scored over three thousand points, only the second player in NBA history to reach that mark. The intensely competitive guard for the Chicago Bulls dominated professional basketball—offensively, defensively, and aesthetically—during the latter part of the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962–) Jackie Joyner-Kersee has been described as the greatest multi-event track and field athlete of all time and the world's greatest female athlete. A participant in both the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, Joyner-Kersee became the first American woman ever to win a gold medal in the long jump and the first woman in history to earn more than seven thousand points in the grueling seven-event heptathlon. Between her Olympic appearances, she won each of the nine heptathlons she entered and made the world record in that event her personal domain.
Joe Montana (1956–) Quarterback Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in four appearances (1982, 1985, 1989, and 1990), and he became the only player to be awarded the championship game's MVP trophy three times. In those four bowl games, he completing 83 of 122 passes (68 percent) for 1,142 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Montana's true worth as a quarterback lay in his ability to bring his team back from the edge of defeat in the final minutes of play, an ability perhaps unmatched in the history of the NFL.
Martina Navratilova (1956–) Martina Navratilova redefined the game of women's tennis. Noted for her remarkable speed, strength, and power (her left-handed first serve was timed at 93 miles per hour), Navratilova brought an attack mentality to the sport. Throughout much of the decade, other players on the tour were unable to keep up with her serve-and-volley style of play. From 1982 to 1986, she was the top-ranked women's tennis player. By the time Navratilova retired in 1993, she had won 167 tournament titles and 55 Gland Slam titles, more than any other male or female professional tennis player. Photo reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.
Mike Tyson (1966–) In 1986, Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight world champion in history. He captivated the imagination of the public in a way no prizefighter had since Muhammad Ali. Tyson was known primarily for his powerful punching ability, his gladiatorlike temperament, and his aura of invincibility. Unbeaten as a professional in the 1980s, Tyson completely dominated his weight division: all but four of his thirty-six fights ended in knockouts. By the end of the 1980s, however, his personal life began to spin out of control, and it would fall apart in the next decade.