This is a picture of the Los Angeles Lakers arena. In front of the picture are the words: James Worthy's Nickname Big Game James

James Worthy’s Nickname: Why Is He Big Game James?

James Worthy’s nickname was Big Game James because he played his best in the biggest moments. Worthy led his UNC team to the 1982 NCAA title by scoring 28 points in the championship game. He won three NBA titles with the Lakers including in 1988 when he had a triple double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. 

Why Was James Worthy’s Nickname Big Game James? 

Big Game James Worthy earned his nickname through repeated clutch performances in the biggest games of his career. 

James Worthy was a great player who made the Hall of Fame. But he seemed to be at his best in the biggest moments. You can see his stats for the regular season and postseason below. 

Games PointsAssistsReboundsT/OBlocks
Regular Season
Games PointsAssistsReboundsT/OBlocks

In addition to having better postseason stats, Worthy’s best games seemed to come at the biggest moments.

For his career, Worthy played in 4 game 7s, which are win-or-go-home situations. He averaged 27 points in those games and grabbed 8 boards while shooting over 60%. 

Performances like that are one of the main reasons Worthy was selected to both the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams as one of the greatest players ever. 

The Start of Big Game James: The College Years 

James Worthy started to become known for playing his best in big games during college. Worthy played three years for the University of North Carolina from 1979-1982.

In his three college seasons, Worthy helped take the Tar Heels to the national championship game twice. 

Worthy was a starter his sophomore year for the team that made the NCAA Championship game vs Isaiah Thomas’ Indiana team. While the Tar Heels lost that game, Worthy was the third leading scorer for the team.

The next year Worthy led the team to the 1982 NCAA title. Big Game James was the leading regular season scorer on a team featuring future 1st round pick Sam Perkins and future Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. 

Worthy did some of his best work for that UNC team in their biggest game. He scored an incredible 28 points in the team’s NCAA Championship game win over Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas. 

Worthy sealed the title for the Tar Heels by intercepting an errant pass thrown by Hoya Fred Brown. 

After the championship, Worthy declared for the NBA Draft and was taken 1st overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. 

How Many NBA Titles Did James Worthy Win? 

James Worthy won three NBA titles playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Worthy got the rarest of opportunities for a 1st overall pick: the chance to join a championship team.

The Lakers had won the 1982 title behind Finals MVP Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They got the 1st pick in the draft through a trade with the Cavaliers. They chose James Worthy with the pick. 

Big Games James fit right in. He got injured his first year and was on a team that lost to the Boston Celtics in the Finals his second year. While his team lost, Worthy played well, averaging 22 points per game. 

The next year the Showtime Lakers returned to the promised land. They beat the Celtics to win the 1985 NBA title. Worthy scored 24 points per game in the finals to lead the Lakers team. 

The following season saw a disappointing loss to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. The next two years would see the Lakers atop the league again.

Worthy led the team again in scoring in the 1987 playoffs averaging 24 points per game. In the first game of the Lakers victory over the Celtics in the NBA Finals, James scored 33 points, had 10 assists and 9 rebounds.

The 1988 Finals once again saw Worthy lead the Lakers in scoring on their way to another title. You can read more about his epic game 7 performance below. 

What was James Worthy’s Biggest Game? 

In the Los Angeles Lakers 108-105 game 7 victory in the 1988 NBA Finals, James Worthy did it all. 

The Lakers were facing the Bad Boy Pistons featuring a young Dennis Rodman, Isaiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and many other excellent players. That team would go on to win two titles in the years ahead. 

But 1988 was still the Lakers time. That was mostly because of Big Game James Worthy. 

In that game 7, Worthy sat for only 4 minutes playing 44. He put his minutes to good use. 

Worthy had a triple double scoring 36 points, grabbing 16  rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. Big Game James shot 15-22 from the field and carried his Lakers squad to their 2nd consecutive NBA title. 

It was an absolutely legendary performance and forever cemented James Worthy’s nickname as Big Game James. 

Summary: James Worthy’s Nickname

Big Game James was an appropriate nickname for James Worthy. He started earning the name by scoring 28 points in the 1982 NCAA Championship game. He cemented the name in the pros winning 3 NBA titles with the Lakers. Worthy was the leading playoff scorer for 2 of those title teams. He had an incredible triple double in the 1988 NBA Finals Game 7, leading the Lakers to their 2nd straight title.

Featured Image Credit: Adapted from: “NBA Lakers Game 5” by macabrephotographer is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

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