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1988–89 NBA season
League National Basketball Association
Sport Basketball
TV partner/s CBS, TBS, TNT
Regular season
Season MVP Magic Johnson (L.A. Lakers)
Top scorer Michael Jordan (Chicago)
Playoffs
Eastern champions Detroit Pistons
Eastern runners-up Chicago Bulls
Western champions Los Angeles Lakers
Western runners-up Phoenix Suns
Finals
Finals champions Detroit Pistons
Runners-up Los Angeles Lakers
Finals MVP Joe Dumars (Detroit)

The 1988–89 NBA season was the 43rd season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Detroit Pistons winning the NBA Championship, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 0 in the NBA Finals.


Notable occurrences

  • The NBA adopts the three-official system used in college basketball permanently. The league experimented with three officials per game in 1978–79, but went back to two officials per game for the next nine seasons, although they actually have three with the inclusion of an alternate referee for all playoff games and selected regular season games.
  • The Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets enter the NBA as the league's 24th and 25th franchises. Because of this the Sacramento Kings move to the Pacific Division. The Heat, however, began their season as a member of the Western Conference despite its geographical position, enduring its longest road trips when playing Western Conference teams. They also started the season 0–17, at the time the worst start in NBA history, eventually finishing at 15–67. The Hornets finished a little better at 20–62.
  • The 1989 NBA All-Star Game was played at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, with the West defeating the East 143–134. Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz takes home the game's MVP award.
  • The Detroit Pistons play their first game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Palace would start a trend of new arenas complete with revenue-increasing luxury boxes and club seating, which other teams soon follow.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks play their first game at the Bradley Center.
  • The Sacramento Kings play their first game at ARCO Arena.
  • TNT begins airing NBA games. They share the cable broadcast rights with sister network TBS.
  • Michael Jordan records ten triple-doubles in eleven games near the end of the season.
  • Prior to the season, the first-year Hornets announce that they choose teal as their primary color, which caused a buzz. In the next decade, expansion teams in the other professional sports leagues (most notably the San Jose Sharks of the NHL, the Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball's NL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL) further popularized the use of the color.
  • The Chicago Bulls started a playoff tradition by wearing black sneakers. Prior to that, the Boston Celtics were the only team to wear black sneakers. Following the Bulls' unlikely playoff run, other teams began adopting the style, beginning with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1990.
  • The season marks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's last, after 20 seasons. All NBA teams paid tribute to Kareem by staging special events to honor him.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers became the first team to sweep a seven-game playoff series, and then be swept in the next, courtesy of the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals.
  • Larry Bird played in only six games for the Celtics (the first six games) due to heel spurs. Bird was in the prime of his career, having finished no worse than third in NBA MVP balloting over the previous 6 seasons, winning three MVP's over the span. The Celtics, who had won no fewer than 57 games over the previous 9 seasons, won only 42. This season marked the first time that Larry Bird did not win the all-star weekend three-point shootout contest (Bird had won the first three shootouts).

Final standings

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Team W L PCT. GB
New York Knicks 52 30 .634 -
Philadelphia 76ers 46 36 .561 6
Boston Celtics 42 40 .512 10
Washington Bullets 40 42 .488 12
New Jersey Nets 26 56 .317 26
Charlotte Hornets 20 62 .244 32
Central Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Detroit Pistons C 63 19 .768 -
Cleveland Cavaliers 57 25 .695 6
Atlanta Hawks 52 30 .634 11
Milwaukee Bucks 49 33 .598 14
Chicago Bulls 47 35 .573 16
Indiana Pacers 28 54 .341 35

Western Conference

Midwest Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Utah Jazz 51 31 .622 -
Houston Rockets 45 37 .549 6
Denver Nuggets 44 38 .537 7
Dallas Mavericks 38 44 .463 13
San Antonio Spurs 21 61 .256 30
Miami Heat 15 67 .183 36
Pacific Division
Team W L PCT. GB
Los Angeles Lakers 57 25 .695 -
Phoenix Suns 55 27 .671 2
Seattle SuperSonics 47 35 .573 10
Golden State Warriors 43 39 .524 14
Portland Trail Blazers 39 43 .476 18
Sacramento Kings 27 55 .329 30
Los Angeles Clippers 21 61 .256 36

C - NBA Champions

Statistics leaders

Category Player Team Stat
Points per game Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls 32.5
Rebounds per game Akeem Olajuwon Houston Rockets 13.5
Assists per game John Stockton Utah Jazz 13.6
Steals per game John Stockton Utah Jazz 3.2
Blocks per game Manute Bol Golden State Warriors 4.3
FG% Dennis Rodman Detroit Pistons 59.5
FT% Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers 91.1
3FG% Jon Sundvold Miami Heat 52.2

NBA awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Rookie of the Year: Mitch Richmond, Golden State Warriors
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Eddie Johnson, Phoenix Suns
  • Most Improved Player: Kevin Johnson, Phoenix Suns
  • Coach of the Year: Cotton Fitzsimmons, Phoenix Suns
  • All-NBA First Team:
    • F - Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
    • F - Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers
    • C - Akeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
    • G - Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
    • G - Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • All-NBA Second Team:
    • F - Tom Chambers, Phoenix Suns
    • F - Chris Mullin, Golden State Warriors
    • C - Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks
    • G - John Stockton, Utah Jazz
    • G - Kevin Johnson, Phoenix Suns
  • All-NBA Third Team:
    • F - Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
    • F - Terry Cummings, Milwaukee Bucks
    • C - Robert Parish, Boston Celtics
    • G - Dale Ellis, Seattle SuperSonics
    • G - Mark Price, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • All-NBA Rookie Team:
    • Rik Smits, Indiana Pacers
    • Willie Anderson, San Antonio Spurs
    • Mitch Richmond, Golden State Warriors
    • Charles D. Smith, Los Angeles Clippers
    • Hersey Hawkins, Philadelphia 76ers
  • NBA All-Defensive First Team:
    • Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons
    • Larry Nance, Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz
    • Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
    • Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team:
    • Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics
    • A. C. Green, Los Angeles Lakers
    • Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks
    • John Stockton, Utah Jazz
    • Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs

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