Can You Name All These Famous NBA Players From the ’80s?

By: Gavin Thagard

Moses Malone came into the 1982-83 season as one of the best players in the league with two MVP awards under his belt. However, a championship eluded him until that point, but in his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Malone not only reached the Finals but won a title as well.

Recognized as one of the most clutch superstars in NBA history, few players could close a game like Larry Bird. One of the scariest parts of Bird's game was that he would often call a shot before he attempted it, leaving defenders mesmerized when the ball went in.

At only 6 feet tall, Isiah Thomas had to rely on his grit to win matchups against larger guards across the league. Thomas didn't mind, though, as he went toe to toe with all-time greats like Michael Jordan and Earvin "Magic" Johnson to establish himself as one of the best in the business.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came out of college at UCLA as the most highly sought after prospect of his era. Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks at number one, he went on to have one of the greatest careers of any center, playing 20 seasons over the course of four decades.

Michael Jordan's rookie season, where he averaged over 28 points and won the Rookie of the Year award, was just the beginning for this NBA great. Throughout the '80s, he led the league in scoring four times, but he wouldn't really establish a legacy until the '90s began.

After winning five titles with the Lakers throughout the '80s, Earvin "Magic" Johnson initially retired from the NBA following the 1991 season once he discovered that he was HIV positive. He returned to play one more half season in 1996 before calling it quits for good.

Julius Erving spent the early part of his professional basketball career playing in the American Basketball Association, where he was a two-time champion and three-time MVP. Once he won an NBA MVP in 1981, he became the only player to win the award in both the ABA and NBA.

Clyde Drexler made his first of ten All Star Games in 1986, his third season in the NBA. That year, "Clyde the Glide," as he was called, averaged 18.5 points per game while also dishing out 8 assists.

After entering the league in 1982, Dominique Wilkins spent the entire decade with the Atlanta Hawks. He would never win an NBA title in Atlanta, but he did make nine All Star appearances while also winning two Slam Dunk Contests.

People might remember Earvin "Magic" Johnson as the leader of the "Showtime" Lakers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the main scorer, but James Worthy was an important piece in the team's success. Worthy showed his worth in the 1988 NBA Finals when he averaged 22 points and won the series MVP.

Kevin McHale dominated defenders in the post during his time with the Boston Celtics. Known as the "Torture Chamber," McHale's offensive move set left defenders airborne or out of position while he maneuvered around them for the score.

Born in Nigeria to a family of eight children, basketball didn't seem like it was in the cards for the Hall of Fame center growing up. In fact, he never even played basketball until he was 17, but once he picked up a ball, he knew his future laid in the sport.

Artis Gilmore was never the overconfident, stylish superstar that many of his contemporaries were, but that doesn't take away from what he did on the court. The kind of player to put his head down and get the job done, Gilmore's greatest attribute was his availability, rarely missing games during his prime.

When Mark Aguirre went into coaching, he brought the same style of basketball that made him popular: fast and physical. This style of play worked for Aguirre, earning him three All Star nods and two NBA titles.

If you want to know just how explosive George Gervin was on offense, look no further than his four NBA scoring titles. Only two players, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, have more scoring titles than Gervin.

A gifted offensive weapon, Alex English's talents weren't fully realized until he joined the Denver Nuggets in 1980. Over the next decade, he reached the NBA Playoffs nine times, which included a Western Conference Finals appearance in 1985.

Charles Barkley was compared to the man he competed directly against for most of his career, Michael Jordan. Barkley was a superstar, but his accomplishments never reached that of "His Airness."

After years of being snubbed from the NBA Hall of Fame, Jack Sikma was finally elected to the halls of Springfield in 2019. The honor is well deserved considering he helped deliver the Seattle SuperSonics the only championship in the franchise's history.

Despite not being near the top of the record books, Sidney Moncrief was one of the most well rounded players to ever come through the NBA. He could do just about anything on offense, but his real talent was on the defensive side of the ball, where he never gave an inch.

After violating the NBA's substance abuse policy, Michael Ray Richardson was banned from the NBA in the middle of the 1986 season. He had the opportunity to return in 1988 but refused, as he believed the NBA used a different standard for white players.

Only 5 feet, 9 inches tall coming out of high school, Dennis Johnson had to rely on developmental skills and hard-nosed defense to get a leg up over his competition. Those skills paid off when he grew seven inches and became an NBA star who refused to be outworked on the court.

Epitomizing the "Bad Boys," Bill Laimbeer was as dirty as you could get on the court, throwing elbows and pretending to be fouled on the regular. These antics often caused conflict with opposing players, resulting in a thrown punch or two.

One of the tallest men to ever play in the NBA, Ralph Sampson was a sure thing when he was drafted with the number one pick in the 1983 NBA draft. In his rookie season, he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds, earning a trip to the All Star Game and the Rookie of the Year award.

When Marques Johnson entered the league in 1977, he helped the Milwaukee Bucks recover from the departure of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his first season with the Bucks, they reached the NBA Playoffs, which they would do five more times during his tenure.

Nicknamed "The Greyhound," Walter Davis used a speedy style of play that helped him score points on the offensive side of the court. His offensive game was so strong that he left the Phoenix Suns in 1988 as the team's all time leading scorer.

Rolando Blackman was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1981, one season after the team was founded. To honor his contributions to the franchise, the Mavericks retired his No. 22, making him only the second player in the team's history to have their number retired.

Unlike most of his teammates, Joe Dumars was recognized for his sportsmanship both on and off the court. He was even awarded the NBA Sportsmanship Award in 1996, three years before he retired.

Robert Parish played in more regular season games than any other player in the history of the sport, and as a testament to his talent, he started most of those games. His time in the NBA was split between four teams, but he will always be remembered as a Boston Celtic.

The winner of two NCAA championships, Bill Walton came into the NBA as one of the best college players to ever step on the court. He lived up to the hype until injuries forced him to take a bench role, which he excelled at considering the work load wasn't as intense.

During the prime of his career, John Stockton led the league in assists for nine straight seasons, which included an NBA record of 14.5 assists per game during the 1989-90 season. Stockton finished his career with 15,806 assists, an NBA record that still stands.

Playing on a Lakers team that was all about glamour and finesse, Jamaal Wilkes seemed like an odd fit considering he preferred a more subdued style of play. However, his ability to slide around defenders made him a perfect fit for the Lakers' up tempo offense, and he quickly became one of the team's leading scorers.

Gus Williams was a crafty player with the basketball in his hands. Not only could he get to the basket to score, but Williams was also an excellent passer off the dribble, finding teammates on behind the back passes for easy scores.

Bryon Scott went into coaching when he put his playing days behind him in 1998. After stints with teams like the New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, Scott finally found himself as the head coach of the franchise he won titles with, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Maurice Cheeks had what might be considered the best season of his career in 1982-83 while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. That year, he was named to his first All Star Game and had his first All Defensive First Team selection, but his greatest achievement was an NBA title.

Michael Cooper had one of the best performances of his career competing against the Boston Celtics in the 1987 NBA Finals. During Game 2 of the series, Cooper went six for seven from the three-point arc, setting a then-NBA record for three-pointers made in a Finals game.

During his tenure in the NBA, all with the Philadelphia 76ers, Andrew Toney had his best games against the Boston Celtics, where he became known as the "Boston Strangler." One such performance came in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where he scored 34 points to help the 76ers reach the Finals.

Starting all 82 games during his rookie season, Buck Williams won the the Rookie of the Year award by averaging 15.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He upped those totals in his sophomore season, putting up 17 points per game and 12.5 rebounds.

Reggie Theus split time between the shooting guard and point guard position during his tenure in the NBA. However, Theus was always best with the ball in his hand, as he could both make shots and set up teammates with open looks.

During his 13-year career, Kiki VanDeWeghe reached the NBA Playoffs 12 times on four different teams. His best playoff run was in the 1989-90 season when he played for the New York Knicks, helping the team reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Larry Nance achieved one of the greatest accomplishments of his career when he won the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest. He beat out Julius Erving in the Finals of the competition by a score of 134 to 122.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Wiki Commons by Jim Accordino

About This Quiz

The NBA took a hit at the end of the '70s as no true rivalry existed to give fans something to root for, but the '80s quickly made up for that as stars entered the league, two famous ones in particular, making the decade one of the best in the history of the NBA. What do you remember about the competitors whose fierce nature made the '80s so compelling to watch? Can you identify these competitors? Find out in this quiz.

The 1980s saw several teams rise to prominence, while other teams returned to it. Yes, we are looking at you, Lakers and Celtics. These teams, of course, would be nothing without the key players who turned them into championship contenders. Many of these players became superstars in this era, as their superstar status was elevated by the rise of cable television and other entertainment outlets. 

Are you familiar with these players whose faces were plastered all over television screens and magazine covers? From the "Showtime" Lakers to the "Bad Boy" Pistons, this quiz covers all of the rosters across the league, or at least the ones worth noting. 

When you're ready to reflect back on the '80s, get started and see which players you remember from the championship games and record books.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!