Julius Erving wrote the final glorious chapter himself tonight.
The man for whom the Philadelphia 76ers said they wanted to win the National Basketball Association championship won it for himself and his team. Erving scored seven straight points in a 90-second span late in the game, the last two on an 18-foot jump shot with 24 seconds left, to lead the 76ers to a 115-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and the 1983 championship with an improbable four-game sweep of the defending champions.
A steal and driving dunk by Erving tied the score at 106 with two minutes to play and his fast-break three-point play with 59 seconds left gave the 76ers a 109-107 advantage, a lead they never lost in bringing Erving, who has two American Basketball Association titles to his credit, his first NBA championship.
"It was Doc's game," said teammate Bobby Jones. "He said he was taking over and he did. It was his game and it's in his back pocket now."
The 76ers trailed by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter, but rallied behind the offense of Erving, the rebounding of series most valuable player Moses Malone and the same relentless second-half pressure they showed throughout this series. The result was their first title since 1967, after being runners-up three of the previous six seasons.
This Philadelphia 76ers team proved it deserves to be remembered as one of the best in NBA history. After breezing through the regular season with a league-best 65-17 record, they won 12 of 13 playoff games, setting a record, and exuded the aura that they couldn't be beaten.
They made believers of the Lakers.
"I never thought any team could beat us four straight," said Magic Johnson, "but you saw it. I've never seen a team like that in my life."
This was only the fourth time in league history a team has been swept in the final and was the first time since 1975, when the Golden State Warriors did it to the Washington Bullets.
"They're a great, great team," said Lakers Coach Pat Riley, "one of the great teams of all time."
Tonight's game had a script similar to that of the first three of the series. The Lakers took a big lead early, then simply were worn down and faded at the end. The 76ers had too much size, too much speed, too much depth and too much Malone.
When 76ers owner Harold Katz paid the free agent $13.2 million ($2.2 million a year), he was buying a championship as well.
Erving shined brightest when the game was on the line, but it was Malone who did the work in the trenches to make it all possible.
He had 24 points and 23 rebounds, and was the 76ers' leading scorer and rebounder in all four games of the final. In their 13 playoff games, he led them in scoring nine times and was the game's leading rebounder in all 13.
In this series, he averaged 25.8 points and 18 rebounds.
Eving tonight had 21 points and six assists, Andrew Toney had 23 points and Maurice Cheeks scored 20 as the 76ers' four all-stars accounted for 88 points.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 28 points and Johnson, playing all 48 minutes, had 27, plus 13 assists and seven rebounds. But he also committed nine turnovers.
The Lakers, with starting guard Norm Nixon on the bench with a partially separated left shoulder and a strained tendon in his left knee, and with high-scoring reserve center/forward Bob McAdoo out with a pulled thigh muscle, ran out of gas. They were outscored, 33-15, in the final quarter.
Los Angeles led, 93-82, going into that period, but the 76ers came on with a 10-2 rally at the outset, four of the points by Malone and four by reserve guard Clint Richardson.
The Lakers brought the lead back to seven on a three-point play by Abdul-Jabbar with 7:45 remaining, but the 76ers kept coming. Malone grabbed three straight offensive rebounds and kept putting the ball back up until it went in.
Jones, who made six of seven shots and had four steals, then intercepted Johnson's pass and fed Cheeks for a breakaway layup that reduced the Lakers' advantage to 100-97 with 6:13 to play.
After two scoreless exchanges of possession, Johnson fouled Toney and the 76ers' guard made two free thows to put his team within a point.
The Lakers kept the lead for three more minutes, and were on top, 106-103, after a layup by Abdul-Jabbar. But Cheeks made one of two free throws after he was fouled by Michael Cooper and the rest of the game was Erving's.
He stole an Abdul-Jabbar pass intended for Cooper near the foul line and raced three-quarters the length of the floor for a dunk that tied the score at 106.
Johnson made one of two free throws after he was fouled by Jones, putting the Lakers back ahead, 107-106. But after a 24-second violation against the 76ers, Abdul-Jabbar missed a short sky hook, Malone rebounded it and got the outlet pass to Cheeks, who bounced the ball to Erving, who slipped by Johnson and scooped in a layup as he was fouled. His free throw put Philadelphia on top, 109-107, with 59 seconds left.
Abdul-Jabbar was fouled by Cheeks 17 seconds later, but made only one of two free throws to cut the lead to one point.
Erving, without hesitating, and with six seconds on the 24-second clock, then swished a 17-footer.
The Lakers never scored again and Malone and Cheeks scored on fast breaks for the winners.
"I thought this was a picturebook story ending," said Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham. "Doc has worked so hard and has come so close--now it's ours. I can't think of anything else but to enjoy this."