The year of 1984 sports was marked by two great basketball battles, ones that started in college and carried over into the NBA. We saw the extension of one of the sport’s great individual rivalries into the realm of the pros, and at the college level, another one established its foundation.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson defined basketball for the 1980s, and it began with their collegiate meeting at the 1979 Final Four. It took five years in the pros, but they finally got together in the Finals, with Bird’s Celtics winning a seven-game tilt against Magic’s Lakers. Finals.
The two best centers in college basketball where Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing and Houston’s Akeem Olajuwon. Ten years down the line they would meet in a seven-game NBA Finals of their own, with the Knicks and Rockets respectively. In 1984, they went toe-to-toe for the NCAA championship. It was Ewing’s Hoyas who won the national title.
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Wayne Gretzky was another great player who would define his sport in the decade of the 1980s. In his fifth year in the league, he won his fifth MVP award. What he needed was a Stanley Cup and in 1984 he got it, as the Oilers knocked off the four-time defending champion New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Finals.
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The 1984 baseball season was marked, first and foremost, by the complete domination of the Detroit Tigers, who won 35 of their first 40 games, led wire-to-wire and then blew through the postseason with just one loss, en route to their first World Series title since 1968.
It was the National League that produced the drama, with the long-suffering Chicago Cubs getting to the brink of their first National League pennant since 1945, but coughed it up with three straight losses to the San Diego Padres. It takes nothing away from the greatness of Detroit to say that from a marquee standpoint, the loss of a Tigers-Cubs World Series matchup was a considerable disappointment.
The 1984 NFL season had a similar phenomena, of promising drama, only to rip the rug out from underneath the fans. In this case, it was that for the second straight year you had two teams—in this case, the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins—point all year at each other for a Super Bowl showdown. And they got it.
In the case of the Dolphins, it was be careful what you wish for, because a hyped quarterback battle between Dan Marino and Joe Montana crashed hard, with a 49ers rout. It was the second Super Bowl win in four years for San Francisco.
There were still some interesting sidebar stories, as Mike Ditka and John Elway began to make their mark on the NFL scene. Ditka made the playoffs for the first time with the Chicago Bears. Elway had been in the playoffs in his rookie year of 1983, but splitting time with veteran Steve DeBerg. In 1984, Elway was the undisputed starting quarterback and led his team to an AFC West title. Both Ditka and Elway had bigger wins ahead of them, but they got their start in 1984.
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1984 was a strange year in college football. There was a lot of drama throughout, with #1 teams falling at a rate that would be interesting today and was virtually unheard of in the world of 1984. It ended with BYU winning the national championship, and doing it outside the realm of the New Year’s Day major bowls.
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