Happy birthday James Worthy!

James Worthy in 2007
James Worthy in 2007

James Ager Worthy (photo ©Zeke Smith) was born on February 27, 1961 in Gastonia, North Carolina.

James Worthy started showing his great basketball skills in high school, where he was an All-American playing for the Ashbrook High School in his hometown.

When James Worthy finished high school he went to play at the University of North Carolina. His first year he had bad luck and due to a fractured ankle he played only about half of the season. The next year his Tar Heels lost the NCAA tournament final. In 1982 James Worthy made up for it and, along with other famous teammates such as Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, won the NCAA tournament.

James Worthy turned pro in 1982 and became the first overall pick: thanks to the fact that this pick had been acquired in a trade by the Los Angeles Lakers they were the only team in NBA history who had just won the title to have the first overall pick.

In his first season as a pro James Worthy was unlucky again and ended it early, again due to a leg fracture. The following year he succeded in playing all the season bu in the NBA Finals he didn’t give his best, so as to raise doubts in some critics.

In the 1984-1985 season a fully fit James Worthy started showing his best skills despite an eye injury which luckily didn’t cause any big issues. As a precaution for the rest of his career imitating his teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar he wore goggles.

In the NBA Finals James Worthy helped the Los Angeles Lakers to win the title defeating their hated rivals, the Boston Celtics.

James Worthy won his next title in 1987 and the year after the Los Angeles Lakers became the first team in nearly two decades to win two consecutive titles. James Worthy played the game of his life in game 7 of the NBA Finals with a triple-double and that’s one of the reasons why he was voted MVP of the Finals.

In 1988 the Lakers went back to the finals but the injuries to Byron Scott and Magic Johnson made it impossible to give Kareem Abdul-Jabbar one last title before he retired even if James Worthy scored more than 25 points per game.

The Lakers made it to finals another time in 1991 but the legendary team of the showtime had already done his time and lost to the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, his old teammate in the North Carolina Tar Heels.

In the following years several other injuries created big problems to James Worthy: his playing style was based on his legendary speed of execution but his physical problems had now slowed him down. Worthy tried to get ready for the 1994-1995 season but persistent physical problems led him to retiring, marking the end of an era for the Los Angeles Lakers.

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After he retired James Worthy has worked occasionally as an actor, for example in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, but generally he works as a commentator and runs his own marketing consulting business.

Over the following years he was introduced in the Basketball Hall of Fame and his number 42 was retired by the Los Angeles Lakers because although he was sometimes overshadowed by other teammates who became basketball legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, James Worthy has demonstrated many times he deserved the inclusion in the 50 best NBA players of all time as well.

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