James Ager Worthy is a retired American former professional basketball player who played for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed as "Big Game James", Worthy is a three-time NBA champion, seven-time NBA All-Star, and the 1988 NBA Finals MVP. He played his high school basketball at Gastonia, North Carolina. He led the team to a state championship game in his senior year averaging 21.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
Worthy decided to attend the University of North Carolina. In his junior year, he led the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game of a Tar Heels NCAA championship team that featured one of the greatest collections of talent in collegiate basketball history. His 28 points and 4 rebounds performance in the Finals remains a standout performance throughout the tournament earning him the Most Outstanding Player award.
Worthy was drafted as the number one pick in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. With his dazzling play above the rim, speed, and dynamic ability to score with either hand, Worthy fit Lakers' high-octane "Showtime" offense. He helped the Lakers dominate through the Western Conference Playoffs and reach the 1984 NBA Finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games. Worthy averaged 21.5 points per game on 62.2 percent shooting in the 1985 playoffs as the Lakers, looking for redemption, faced the Celtics again in the Finals. He helped the Lakers beat the Celtics scoring 23.7 points per game for the series.
In the 1986-87 season, Worthy was at the top of his game, leading the team with 23.6 points per game in the playoffs. With some vintage performances through the playoffs by him, the Lakers sprinted to another NBA title over the Celtics. In the 1987-88 season, Worthy led the Lakers in scoring in the 1988 playoffs and led the NBA in points scored during the playoffs. Worthy averaged 22 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in the series in the 1988 Finals against the Pistons. He scored a monster 36-16-10 triple-double that carried the Lakers to victory in Game 7, earning the NBA Finals MVP award.
Even on a team dominated by future NBA Hall of Famers, Worthy stood out during their years together. He always saved his best for the last and averaged 3.5 points higher per game in the playoffs than in the regular season. In the 1988-89 season, the Lakers met the Pistons again for an encore in the Finals. But with the starters out with injuries, alone Worthy was no match for the Pistons. He scored a career-high 40 points in Game 4 in a desperate attempt to avoid being swept but failed. Due to a high ankle injury in the 1991 playoffs and season-ending knee surgery in 1992, Worthy called it quits in 1994. He was voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.