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1985–86 NBA season

1985–86 NBA season

The 1985–86 NBA season was the 40th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Boston Celtics winning their third championship of the decade, beating the Houston Rockets 4 games to 2 in the NBA Finals.

1985–86 NBA season
LeagueNational Basketball Association
DurationOct 25, 1985 – Apr 13, 1986
Apr 17 – May 21, 1986 (Playoffs)
May 26 – Jun 8, 1986 (Finals)
Number of teams23
TV partner(s)CBS, TBS
Top draft pickPatrick Ewing
Picked byNew York Knicks
Regular season
Top seedBoston Celtics
Season MVPLarry Bird (Boston)
Top scorerDominique Wilkins (Atlanta)
Eastern championsBoston Celtics
  Eastern runners-upMilwaukee Bucks
Western championsHouston Rockets
  Western runners-upLos Angeles Lakers
ChampionsBoston Celtics
  Runners-upHouston Rockets
Finals MVPLarry Bird (Boston)

Notable occurrences

Coaching changes
Team1984–85 coach1985–86 coach
Philadelphia 76ersBilly CunninghamMatt Guokas
Chicago BullsKevin LougheryStan Albeck
New Jersey NetsStan AlbeckDave Wohl
Seattle SuperSonicsLenny WilkensBernie Bickerstaff
TeamOutgoing coachIncoming coach
Washington BulletsGene ShueKevin Loughery
Cleveland CavaliersGeorge KarlGene Littles
  • The 1986 NBA All-Star Game was played at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas, with the East defeating the West 139–132. Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons wins the game's MVP award. To add to the All-Star Weekend festivities, 5-foot-7-inch Spud Webb of the Atlanta Hawks wins the slam-dunk competition. The first three-point shootout was also held, won by Larry Bird (his first of three consecutive).

  • The Kings relocate from Kansas City, Missouri to Sacramento, California. They played their home games at ARCO Arena I for three seasons while ARCO Arena II was under construction.

  • The Chicago Bulls are the last Eastern Conference team in NBA history to lose 50 or more games in a season and still make the playoffs.

  • The Boston Celtics post an impressive 40–1 (.976) record at home. Their only regular-season home loss occurred on December 6, 1985, to the Portland Trail Blazers, by the score of 121–103. The record would be tied by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2015–16 season. The Celtics would also win all 10 of their home games in the postseason.

  • This season marks the first time the NBA hands out a Most Improved Player award at the end of a season. Alvin Robertson of the San Antonio Spurs is the first to win the award. Robertson would also set the record for consecutive games with a steal (105), which stood for 22 years.

  • In the third game of the season, Chicago Bulls sensation Michael Jordan suffered a broken left foot and missed the next 64 games. In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round series, Jordan scored 63 points against Boston, an NBA playoff record, but his Chicago Bulls would lose in double overtime.

  • The first NBA draft of the Lottery Era was conducted at the Felt Forum of Madison Square Garden in New York City. Patrick Ewing was selected as the first overall pick by the New York Knicks. Ewing, the winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year Award that season, set the record for most games missed (32) for a Rookie of the Year winner.

  • Ralph Sampson's off-balanced buzzer-beating shot in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals sent the Houston Rockets to their second NBA Finals, defeating the erstwhile defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 4-1. This marked the second and last time in the 1980s a team other than the Lakers represented the West in the NBA Finals (1981, also by the Rockets). The Rockets fell in six games to the Boston Celtics, a similar result to their previous meeting five years earlier.

  • Detlef Schrempf became the first German player to enter the NBA. He would later become the first European-born player to be named an All-Star in 1993 and had the most number of seasons played for a European player.

  • New Jersey Nets guard Micheal Ray Richardson was banned for life by the NBA for his third violation of the league's anti-drug policy. Houston Rockets guard John Lucas was also suspended by the team for a similar violation; had he not been suspended, he would've played in the NBA Finals for the first time.

  • On Wednesday, October 30, 1985, forward Georgi Glouchkov arrived in the U.S. from Bulgaria to play for the Phoenix Suns.[1] He was the first player from a former Eastern Bloc country to play in the NBA.[2] He would make his debut on Wednesday, November 6 against the Atlanta Hawks.

  • The Los Angeles Clippers surprised the league by starting the season 5-0.[3] The Denver Nuggets were the last undefeated team, starting the season 6-0. The New York Knicks started the season 0-8 in the midst of a 20-game losing streak. The Knicks' last victory was March 22, 1985.[4] The Phoenix Suns were the last winless team, starting the season 0-9.

  • On Saturday, November 30, 1985, Cleveland Cavalier World B. Free scored his 16,000th career point.[5]

  • On Wednesday, December 4, 1985, Maurice Lucas of the Los Angeles Lakers made a 60-foot shot at the regulation buzzer to send the game into overtime. The Lakers would go on to defeat the Utah Jazz 131-127.[6]

  • On Tuesday, December 10, 1985, the Indiana Pacers scored only 64 points in a 64-82 loss to the New York Knicks. It was the fewest points scored by a team in 13 years – since an October 21, 1972 game in which the Buffalo Braves managed only 63 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Indiana's 64 was the fourth lowest total since the NBA implemented the 24-second shot clock in 1954–55.[7]

  • The Los Angeles Lakers started the season 19-2.[8]

  • On Wednesday, December 25, 1985, in a matchup of one of the worst teams in the league (New York Knicks, 10-19) against one of the best (Boston Celtics, 21-7), the Knicks defeated Boston in double overtime, 113-104. Rookie Patrick Ewing had 32 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks.[9]

  • On Tuesday, January 14, 1986, the Utah Jazz snapped the Houston Rockets' 20-game home winning streak with a 105-102 victory. Both Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson foul out of the game.[10]

  • On Wednesday, January 15, 1986, the Golden State Warriors scored 150 points in a 150-104 regulation victory over the Utah Jazz. None of Golden State's starters played in the fourth quarter. Eight Golden State players scored in double figures.[11]

  • On Wednesday, January 22, 1986, the Boston Celtics (31-8) defeated the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (32-8) 110-95 in a matchup of the league's two best teams.[12]

  • On Friday, January 24, 1986, the Boston Celtics (32-8) overtook the Los Angeles Lakers (32-9) as the team with the best record in the NBA. The Celtics maintained the league's best record for the remainder of the season.

  • On Thursday, February 6, 1986, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 46 points in a game against the Houston Rockets, his highest single-game total since a 48-point performance against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 26, 1975. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 117-95.[13]

  • On Sunday, February 16, 1986, in the season's second matchup between the Celtics and Lakers, Boston won again, 105-99.[14]

  • On Tuesday, February 18, 1986, Alvin Robertson of the San Antonio Spurs recorded the second quadruple-double in NBA history. He scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished 10 assists and stole the ball 10 times in a 114-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

  • On Sunday, April 6, 1986, the Houston Rockets (50-29) set a franchise record for wins in a season with a 109-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. It was also the Rockets' first victory over the Lakers at The Summit (Houston's home arena) since a 107-104 victory on November 12, 1980.[15]

  • Backboard height is shortened 6 in (15.2 cm) to the present 42 in (1.067 m).

Final standings

By division

Atlantic DivisionWLPCTGBHomeRoadDiv
y-Boston Celtics6715.81740–127–1418–6
x-Philadelphia 76ers5428.6591331–1023–1815–9
x-Washington Bullets3943.4762826–1513–2811–13
x-New Jersey Nets3943.4762826–1513–2811–13
New York Knicks2359.2804415–268–335–19
Central DivisionWLPCTGBHomeRoadDiv
y-Milwaukee Bucks5725.69533–824–1721–9
x-Atlanta Hawks5032.610734–716–2521–9
x-Detroit Pistons4636.5611131–1015–2618–12
x-Chicago Bulls3052.3662722–198–3310–20
Cleveland Cavaliers2953.3542816–2513–2810–19
Indiana Pacers2656.3173119–227–349–20
Midwest DivisionWLPCTGBHomeRoadDiv
y-Houston Rockets5131.62236–515–2620–10
x-Denver Nuggets4735.573434–713–2815–15
x-Dallas Mavericks4438.537726–1518–2316–14
x-Utah Jazz4240.512927–1415–2615–15
x-Sacramento Kings3745.4511425–1612–2915–15
x-San Antonio Spurs3547.4271621–2014–279–21
Pacific DivisionWLPCTGBHomeRoadDiv
y-Los Angeles Lakers6220.75635–627–1423–7
x-Portland Trail Blazers4042.4882227–1413–2818–12
Phoenix Suns3250.3903023–189–3216–14
Los Angeles Clippers3250.3903022–1910–3110–20
Seattle SuperSonics3151.3783124–177–3411–19
Golden State Warriors3052.3663224–176–3512–18

By conference

Eastern Conference
1z-Boston Celtics6715.817
2y-Milwaukee Bucks5725.69510
3x-Philadelphia 76ers5428.65913
4x-Atlanta Hawks5032.61017
5x-Detroit Pistons4636.56121
6x-Washington Bullets3943.47628
7x-New Jersey Nets3943.47628
8x-Chicago Bulls3052.36637
9Cleveland Cavaliers2953.35438
10Indiana Pacers2656.31741
11New York Knicks2359.28044

Western Conference
1c-Los Angeles Lakers6220.756
2y-Houston Rockets5131.62211
3x-Denver Nuggets4735.57315
4x-Dallas Mavericks4438.53718
5x-Utah Jazz4240.51220
6x-Portland Trail Blazers4042.48822
7x-Sacramento Kings3745.45125
8x-San Antonio Spurs3547.42727
9Phoenix Suns3250.39030
10Los Angeles Clippers3250.39030
11Seattle SuperSonics3151.37831
12Golden State Warriors3052.36632


  • z – Clinched home court advantage for the entire playoffs

  • c – Clinched home court advantage for the conference playoffs

  • y – Clinched division title

  • x – Clinched playoff spot


Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.

First RoundConference SemifinalsConference FinalsNBA Finals
1L.A. Lakers3
8San Antonio0
1L.A. Lakers4
1L.A. Lakers1
Western Conference
Eastern Conference
7New Jersey0

Statistics leaders

Points per gameDominique WilkinsAtlanta Hawks30.3
Rebounds per gameBill LaimbeerDetroit Pistons13.1
Assists per gameMagic JohnsonLos Angeles Lakers12.6
Steals per gameAlvin RobertsonSan Antonio Spurs3.67
Blocks per gameManute BolWashington Bullets4.96
FG%Steve JohnsonSan Antonio Spurs.632
FT%Larry BirdBoston Celtics.896
3FG%Craig HodgesMilwaukee Bucks.451

NBA awards

Yearly awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Larry Bird, Boston Celtics

  • Rookie of the Year: Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks

  • Defensive Player of the Year: Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs

  • Sixth Man of the Year: Bill Walton, Boston Celtics

  • Most Improved Player: Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs

  • Coach of the Year: Mike Fratello, Atlanta Hawks

  • All-NBA First Team: F – Larry Bird, Boston Celtics F – Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers G – Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons G – Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

  • All-NBA Second Team: F – Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers F – Alex English, Denver Nuggets C – Akeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets G – Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks G – Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs

  • All-NBA Rookie Team: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons Charles Oakley, Chicago Bulls Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks Xavier McDaniel, Seattle SuperSonics Karl Malone, Utah Jazz

  • NBA All-Defensive Team:

  • First Team: Paul Pressey, Milwaukee Bucks Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 76ers

  • Second Team: Michael Cooper, Los Angeles Lakers Bill Hanzlik, Denver Nuggets Manute Bol, Washington Bullets Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs Dennis Johnson, Boston Celtics

*Note: All information on this page were obtained on the History section on NBA.com [18] *

Player of the week

The following players were named NBA Player of the Week.

Oct. 25 – Nov. 3Derek Smith (Los Angeles Clippers)
Nov. 4 – Nov. 10Buck Williams (New Jersey Nets)
Nov. 11 – Nov. 17Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks)
Nov. 17 – Nov. 24Alex English (Denver Nuggets)
Nov. 25 – Dec. 1Larry Bird (Boston Celtics)
Dec. 2 – Dec. 8Jeff Ruland (Washington Bullets)
Dec. 9 – Dec. 15Alvin Robertson (San Antonio Spurs)
Dec. 16 – Dec. 22Larry Nance (Phoenix Suns)
Dec. 23 – Dec. 29Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)
Dec. 30 – Jan. 5Clyde Drexler (Portland Trail Blazers)
Jan. 6 – Jan. 12Calvin Natt (Denver Nuggets)
Jan. 13 – Jan. 19Larry Bird (Boston Celtics)
Jan. 20 – Jan. 26Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers)
Jan. 27 – Feb. 2Alex English (Denver Nuggets)
Feb. 3 – Feb. 16Larry Bird (Boston Celtics)
Feb. 17 – Feb. 23Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks)
Feb. 24 – Mar. 2Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers)
Mar. 3 – Mar. 9Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers)
Mar. 10 – Mar. 16Larry Bird (Boston Celtics)
Mar. 17 – Mar. 23Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz)
Mar. 24 – Mar. 30Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers)
Mar. 31 – Apr. 6Herb Williams (Indiana Pacers)
Apr. 7 – Apr. 13Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)

Player of the month

The following players were named NBA Player of the Month.

NovemberAkeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets)
DecemberAlvin Robertson (San Antonio Spurs)
JanuaryDominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)
FebruaryLarry Bird (Boston Celtics)
MarchLarry Bird (Boston Celtics)

Rookie of the month

The following players were named NBA Rookie of the Month.

NovemberPatrick Ewing (New York Knicks)
DecemberKarl Malone (Utah Jazz)
JanuaryPatrick Ewing (New York Knicks)
FebruaryCharles Oakley (Chicago Bulls)
MarchBenoit Benjamin (Los Angeles Clippers)

Coach of the month

The following coaches were named NBA Coach of the Month.

NovemberPat Riley (Los Angeles Lakers)
DecemberCotton Fitzsimmons (San Antonio Spurs)
JanuaryMike Fratello (Atlanta Hawks)
FebruaryChuck Daly (Detroit Pistons)
MarchK.C. Jones (Boston Celtics)


Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Glouchkov arrives". USA Today. November 1, 1985.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Official NBA Encyclopedia. Doubleday. 2000. p. 299. ISBN 0385501307.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Three still unbeaten". USA Today. November 4, 1985.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Knicks fall to 0-7 with 92-88 defeat". USA Today. November 8, 1985. p. 7C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (December 2, 1985). "7-foot rookie at center of Clippers' problems". USA Today. p. 8C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"60-foot shot sets up Lakers' win, 131-127". USA Today. December 5, 1985. p. 8C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Pacers' 64 an NBA 13-year low". USA Today. December 11, 1985. p. 1C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Lakers win 127-102 to run record to 19-2". USA Today. December 13, 1985. p. 6C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (December 26, 1985). "Knicks beat Celtics in 2 OTs 113-104". USA Today. p. 1C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Rockets' home streak ends at 20 as Jazz win 105-102". USA Today. January 15, 1986.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Golden State romps 150-104 over Utah". USA Today. January 16, 1986. p. 4C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (January 23, 1986). "Boston break keeps Lakers reeling 110-95". USA Today. p. 1C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (February 7, 1986). "Abdul-Jabbar scores 46; L.A. romps 117-95". USA Today. p. 4C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (February 17, 1986). "Celtics put Lakers in pace 105-99". USA Today. p. 1C.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgDuPree, David (April 7, 1986). "Rockets junk jinx, finally top Los Angeles 109-103". USA Today.
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkwww.basketball-reference.com1985–86 NBA season at Basketball Reference
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkwww.nba.com1985–86 NBA season summary at NBA.com
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkwww.nba.comNBA.com
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkwww.basketball-reference.com1985–86 NBA season at Basketball Reference
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM
Citation Linkwww.nba.com1985–86 NBA season summary at NBA.com
Sep 24, 2019, 11:00 PM