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Looking Back on the Stars of the Epic 1982 Eastern Conference Finals

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIMarch 6, 2012

Looking Back on the Stars of the Epic 1982 Eastern Conference Finals

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    In 1982, the NBA Eastern Conference was a war between two teams—the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. 

    The 76ers were led by one of the NBA's elder statesmen of the time Julius Erving "Dr J."  The high flying former ABA Superstar was the greatest dunker of his era and at the time in NBA History

    The Boston Celtics were led by the league's newest superstar. Larry Bird had already teamed with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to win the 1981 NBA Title. In order to get to the Finals they had to defeat the 76ers. 

    Now in 1982 the Sixers and Celtics would matchup again in the Eastern Conference Finals with a trip to the NBA Finals and a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers awaiting the winner. 

    It was an epic conference finals with the Sixers pulling off an improbable game seven victory in the Boston Garden to advance the NBA Finals where they would eventually lose the Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    The rosters of the 1982 Sixers and Celtics are littered with Hall of Fame players and NBA legends. Thirty years later where are the key members of these two great teams and what are they up to? 

Dr J

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    Unlike some other prominent former players who participated in the 82 Eastern Conference Finals, Dr.J is not actively involved in the NBA or a specific basketball team. 

    These days Erving concentrates primarily on a number of business ventures. In an interview with nba.com last September, Erving illuminated on his numerous businesses, which include construction of cell phone towers and medical records retrieval as well as his pursuit promoting his personal brand. 

    Erving and the Sixers lost the NBA finals in 1982 but they'd go on to win it all in 1983. Erving would retire in 1987 and of course gain entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame  in his first year of eligibility 1993.

    Erving also helps promote Converse Sneakers as well as the NBA 2K12 Basketball Video Game.

    Last October a story surfaced that detailed an unpaid loan to a Georgia Bank. Erving was also in the process of setting up an auction to sell off some of his personal memorabilia. 

    Dr J is and always will be an NBA Icon. He was the man that people thought of when they thought of a "slam dunk" before Michael Jordan burst onto the scene. 

Larry Bird

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    In case you weren't aware Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics would bounce back from that loss to the Sixers. 

    It took some time though. The Celtics would eventually make it back to the NBA Finals in 1984 where they would defeat Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Bird would go on to win three league MVP Awards and his Celtics teams would become one of basketball's iconic dynasties. 

    Back injuries eventually forced Bird into retirement but he couldn't stay away from the game he loved. Bird assumed head coaching duties of the Indiana Pacers and led them to an NBA Finals matchup against his old rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers of 2000 were a powerhouse led by Shaquille O'Neal in is prime and blossoming superstar Kobe Bryant. The team was too talented for Bird's Pacers. 

    Bird moved from the sidelines to the front office, and these days he still plays an active role in the day-to-day operations of the Indiana Pacers. 

Maurice Cheeks

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    Point guards are often about as close to an on-court coach as one finds in the NBA.

    Maurice Cheeks spent his entire career as a player leading his teams on the court and directing the action from the point guard position. 

    When he retired in 1993, he immediately took those skills to the bench as a coach. 

    Cheeks first spent a year coaching in the CBA but after just one year he was hired as an assistant coach in the NBA with his old team the 76ers. 

    Cheeks was an assistant coach in Philadelphia from 1994 to the end of the 2001 season. That season the 76ers made the NBA Finals. Although they lost to the Lakers, Cheeks was hired as the new head coach of the Portland Trailblazers before the start of the 2001-02 season. 

    Cheeks spent three and a half seasons as head coach in Portland. He was let go midway through the 2004-05 season and was then hired before the start of the 2005-06 season to coach the team he had spent all of his NBA career with, the 76ers.

    Cheeks tenure in Philadelphia had some high points but ended poorly with Cheeks dismissed after a slow start to the 2008-09 season.

    These days Cheeks is an assistant coach under Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. The Thunder currently sport the league's best record and it seems likely that Cheeks will get another shot at being a head coach at some point.  

Cedric Maxwell

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    Cedric Maxwell was one of the original core pieces of what would ultimately become the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s. 

    Maxwell won Finals MVP in 1981 when the Celtics won their first ring of the decade. He also played a key role in the 1984 Finals when the Celtics beat the Lakers in an epic seven game series. 

    Maxwell was traded before the start of the 1985 season for Clippers center Bill Walton and retired in 1987 after playing for the Clippers and then the Houston Rockets. 

    These days Maxwell spends his time around the same team he spent his best basketball years with—the Boston Celtics. 

    Maxwell broadcasts games on WEEI in Boston and also makes frequent talk radio and television appearances. His number, 31, was retired in 2003. 

Andrew Toney

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    Everyone knows that Dr. J was the primary scorer on the 76ers, but it was Andrew Toney who made Philadelphia so tough to defend. Toney averaged over 20 points while shooting over 50 percent in the 1982 playoffs. With a bonafide scoring threat at the shooting guard position teams were forced to decide whether to focus their defense on Toney or Erving.

    Who benefited from that? Both of them. Both players averaged over 20 points while shooting above 50 percent. Toney was also second on the team in assists per game during the 82 playoffs with 4.9 per game.  

    Andrew Toney now lives in the Atlanta metropolitan area and spends his time following the basketball career of his son Channing who plays professionally in Poland. 

Robert Parish

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    Robert Parish played in all five of the NBA Finals the Celtics participated in during the 1980s. He was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players, had his number retired in 1998 and entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. 

    For Robert Parish, the 1982 playoffs are probably something he'd just as soon forget. It's worth noting that he was the scoring leader for the Celtics in the 1982 playoffs. He scored 21.3 points per game, corralled 11.3 rebounds and blocked nearly two shots per game. 

    These days Parish still spends his time around the Celtics. He's employed as a consultant by the Celtics and works closely with the teams' big men in a mentor type of role. 

Bobby Jones

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    The career of Bobby Jones was never one of amazing shots of jaw-dropping feats of athleticism. Jones was known for his tireless play and defensive intensity. 

    Bobby Jones was another player who came to the NBA by way of the ABA. He was a tough player who suffered from asthma but you'd never have known it if you watched how he tirelessly played defense during an era when there was plenty of scoring. 

    Jones didn't put up amazing stats in the 82 playoffs but he was still a key member of the team and that role continued in 1983 when Jones won the NBA's first Sixth Man of The Year award and the Sixers won an NBA Championship.

    The Sixers retired Jones' number, 24, in November of 1986. 

    Off the court Jones was always a deeply religious man. That's continued into his retirement. These days Jones also coaches basketball at Carmel Christian Middle School near Charlotte, N. C. 

Kevin McHale

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    Bobby Jones was the best member of the Sixers off the bench. 

    The Celtics countered with Kevin McHale. Jones won the first Sixth Man of The Year award in 1983. McHale countered by winning the next two Sixth Man awards. 

    Eventually of course McHale would earn a starting position with the Celtics. He would go on to become one of the most creative low-post offensive players in league history. Utilizing his long arms and broad shoulders McHale's arsenal featured numerous ball and head fakes all designed to get his defender off balance and open a small space for McHale to get the ball into the basket. 

    In 1982, he was the first man off the bench for Boston and was the team's third leading scorer in the postseason. 

    In retirement McHale has remained heavily involved in NBA Basketball. 

    First he returned to his home state of Minnesota and was hired by the Timberwolves as a special assistant and television analyst. 

    That eventually led to a string of promotions. McHale eventually would ascend to president of Basketball Operations. When the Timberwolves head coaching position was vacant in 2005 he stepped in as interim head coach. McHale would go back to his VP of Basketball Operations role but eventually would return to the bench as head coach for most of the 2008-09 season.

    McHale's Timberwolves teams never played great basketball. Part of that was of course limited talent. That didn't change the way that McHale was evaluated by owner Glen Taylor. Taylor let McHale go following the 2008-09 season. McHale took a job as a television analyst for TNT often appearing in the studio to offer up his insight.

    The temptation to coach in the NBA was too strong to keep McHale on the sidelines for too long. On June 1, 2011 McHale became head coach of the Houston Rockets. They currently sport a 21-17 record and in the playoffs were to begin today the Rockets would claim the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.  

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