Looking at James Worthy’s stats in a vacuum can give off the impression that he wasn’t that good of a basketball player. His career average in points was 17.6. Not bad by any means, but it’s not going to blow you away. The field goal percentage of 52.1% is pretty notable and piques one’s interest. Cut to the postseason, however, and Worthy’s numbers bump to 21.1 points a game on 54.4% shooting.
I suppose that’s why they call him Big Game James.
Worthy was absolutely dynamite when the heat was on in the playoffs. Here are some stats of his from series-clinching games from the 1988 postseason:
Round 1, Game 3: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists
Round 2, Game 7: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals
Western Conference Finals, Game 7: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists
NBA Finals, Game 7: 36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists
Getting a triple double in a Game 7 of the Finals certainly qualifies as a big game and the performance earned Worthy the Finals MVP of the 1988.
The genius of Worthy’s game was very simple: he possessed perhaps the quickest first step in the history of basketball. After leaving opponents in the dust, he would finish at the rim with either a patented one-hand slam or do some Connie Hawkins’ type moves where he would swing the ball around and around before releasing a layup.
The Showtime Lakers cabal surely had a hand in making Worthy the success he was in the NBA, but his presence helped keep Showtime as well. He was the first acquisition in the 2nd Showtime wave that included players like Byron Scott, A.C. Green, and Mychal Thompson, which kept Los Angeles a contender through 1991.
And whenever the big games rolled around, you can believe James was ready to roll.
Seasons Played: 1983 – 1994
3x Champion (1985, 1987-’88), Finals MVP (1988)
2x All-NBA 3rd Team (1990-’91), All-Rookie 1st Team (1983)
7x All-Star (1986-’92)
NBA - 926 Games
17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 52.1% FG, 76.9% FT