In an era of rivalries, the 1988 NBA Playoffs featured two titans of basketball going at it. Fans were excited to watch these future Hall-of-Famers face off in a series that would ultimately determine who was the best player ever.
In 1988, Charles Barkley dominated the NBA and Larry Bird stunk. In a game where Bird scored 24 points, Barkley had 32. The result was that the “whole tribe of monkeys off my back” in 1988.
The underperforming Boston Celtics have a history of squandering big leads. They’ve given away 19-point leads in the second half twice already this season. It isn’t only the current Celtics who have blown large leads. When Larry Bird and Charles Barkley faced off in a crucial playoff duel in 1988, Boston faltered big time, and Barkley ended up with a historic triumph.
In Boston, Charles Barkley always had trouble facing Larry Bird and the Celtics.
On April 18, 1991, during an NBA game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers discusses with Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics. Studios/Getty Images | Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images
It took four years for Barkley to eventually beat Bird and the Celtics in the Boston Garden. In Boston, Sir Charles went 0-for-13 (including playoffs). The team’s 13th consecutive loss occurred on Dec. 20, 1987, and it was a humiliating defeat. Boston triumphed by 37 points, and Barkley seemed to be cursed at the Garden.
Barkley and the Sixers lost all three regular-season matchups against the Celtics on the road during his first three years in the NBA. In his debut season, he met the Celtics in the playoffs and lost all three games in Boston.
The Sixers came close a couple of times, losing a game by two points in 1985-86 and another by two points the following season. On the parquet floor, the Celtics blasted apart Barkley and the Sixers for the most part. During that period, Boston won six occasions by 11 points or more.
Then there was the 25th of March, 1988. The Celtics grabbed command once again, this time creating a 30-point advantage. In the second half, Barkley stepped it up a level and ultimately won that elusive victory.
As the Celtics wasted a large lead, Charles Barkley dominated while Larry Bird struggled.
In late March 1988, the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics were competing for a playoff spot. The Celtics were vying for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, while the Sixers were vying for the last berth. The Boston Celtics had advanced to the NBA Finals in each of the previous four seasons, but the Detroit Pistons were gaining ground on them in the East.
The game began much like many past Sixers games against the Celtics, with Boston dominating. At halftime, Boston was up 64-37. The Celtics had a 30-point lead at one point. In the third quarter, the Sixers outscored the Celtics 30-20, and then blasted them out in the fourth, 30-9.
In the last 12 minutes, Barkley took over, scoring 22 of his 29 points. Bird battled the whole game, scoring 21 points while missing 21 of his 29 attempts from the field. The Sixers came back to win 97-93, claiming sole ownership of the eighth playoff place in the process.
According to United Press International, Barkley added, “Even if we lost, it didn’t matter; I was just glad to be a Sixer tonight.” “I’m relieved that whole tribe of monkeys is no longer on my back.”
The Boston Celtics were booed off the field during their home game.
Dr. J is outraged, Charles Barkley is being attacked from behind, and I believe Larry Bird has just been awarded the Million Dollar Dream. The NBA in the 1980s at its best. pic.twitter.com/V7ucXH3eOG
— October 3, 2021, Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports)
The Celtics’ collapse was so severe that their supporters booed them as they walked off the floor in the dying seconds. It was one of the most devastating house fires in recent history.
Boston guard Danny Ainge stated, “We were basically unbeatable in the first half and very much perished in the second.” “It’s absurd and should never have occurred.”
“It’s extremely humiliating to go off the floor and hear your own fans boo you. We, on the other hand, earned it. It was a pathetic attempt.”
Despite Barkley’s performance, the Sixers concluded the season 36-46 and missed out on the last playoff slot.
The Celtics won the most games in the East with 57, but were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the second-seeded Pistons in six games.
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Charles Barkley is an American retired professional basketball player who has played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and Orlando Magic. He was a member of the 1992 United States Olympic team that won a gold medal in Barcelona, Spain. Charles Barkley dominated his opponents on the court with his physicality and aggressive style of play. In 1988, he led the Philadelphia 76ers to their first NBA championship since 1983 and became one of only three players in NBA history to win an MVP award before turning 30 years old. Reference: charles barkley age.
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