Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers have retired number 24 in honor of the legendary Kobe Bryant. However, long before Kobe wore 24, another all-time Lakers great had his jersey – number 42 – lifted to the rafters. On November 9, 1995, James Worthy‘s #42 jersey was retired by the franchise after a dominant career as part of the Showtime era.
Worthy‘s Rise to Stardom at UNC
Before becoming a Showtime cornerstone and seeing his jersey retired, James Worthy first emerged as a standout at the University of North Carolina. Playing under the legendary Dean Smith from 1979-1982, Worthy helped lead the Tar Heels to two national championship appearances.
As a junior, Worthy exploded onto the national scene by averaging 15.6 points on an incredible .623 shooting percentage, earning consensus First Team All-American honors. This set the stage for the Los Angeles Lakers to select Worthy first overall in the 1982 NBA draft.
|Years at UNC||1979-1982|
|UNC Stats||14.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 APG|
|Accolades||NCAA Champion (1982), Consensus First Team All-American (1982)|
Early Lakers Career Alongside Magic and Kareem
The Lakers were coming off an NBA finals appearance in 1982, so the pressure was on the 21-year old Worthy to produce right away. He joined a talented squad featuring Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Norm Nixon.
As a rookie, Worthy proved a versatile contributor at small forward, averaging 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting .572 from the field. The Lakers advanced to the NBA finals again, where they were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers. But Worthy established himself as a building block for Showtime.
In his 2nd season, Worthy bumped his scoring up to 17.6 points per game while still shooting an excellent .579 percentage. His athletic dunks and transition play thrived next to Magic‘s passing. But the Lakers fell short again in the Finals, this time to the Boston Celtics in a crushing 7-game series.
|1982-83 Stats||13.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.7 APG on .572 FG%|
|1983-84 Stats||17.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.5 APG on .579 FG%|
Becoming ‘Big Game James‘ and Winning First Title
The 1984-85 season marked the true arrival of "Big Game James" Worthy. He averaged 18.3 points during the regular season then kicked it up a notch in the playoffs. Worthy scored 21.5 points per game in the postseason as the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games, claiming his first NBA title.
Worthy produced his signature playoff moment in Game 7 of the 1988 NBA finals. With the Lakers trailing the Pistons in the 4th, Worthy erupted for 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to will the Lakers to the championship and Finals MVP honors.
|1984-85 Stats||18.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, .570 FG% (NBA Champion)|
|1987-88 Stats||19.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG .574 FG% (Finals MVP)|
Dominant Peak and Retirement
From 1986-1991, Worthy cemented himself as one of the league‘s elite forwards by averaging 20+ points and nearly 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He shot a blistering .559 from the field during this six-year peak. Worthy earned 7 straight All Star selections from 1986 to 1992.
Worthy‘s dominance started to decline in 1992 as injuries took their toll. He retired following the 1993-94 season at age 33. For his career, Worthy averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting an excellent .521/.721/.769 shooting split.
|Career Per Game Averages||17.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, .521 FG%|
|Total Lakers Stats||16,320 PTS, 4,708 REB, 2,791 AST|
|Career Accolades||7x All-Star, 3x NBA Champion, 1988 Finals MVP|
A Fitting Jersey Retirement Ceremony
On November 9, 1995, four days after Magic‘s emotional return, the Lakers held a special jersey retirement ceremony for James Worthy. His #42 jersey took its rightful place high up on the wall of the Great Western Forum alongside fellow Lakers legends.
Worthy addressed the roaring crowd to thank his teammates, coaches, fans and family. Fittingly, several teammates from the Showtime era like Kareem, Magic and Bob McAdoo were in attendance to celebrate Worthy‘s career.
The jersey retirement honored Worthy‘s contributions during a glorious era of Lakers basketball. His clutch playoff performances embodied the spirit of Showtime that delivered three titles. For all his big game heroics, Worthy remained a team-first guy, deflecting praise to his teammates.
"I‘m up here representing all my teammates through the years, because they are the ones who really retired this jersey tonight." – James Worthy
Worthy‘s Lasting Lakers Legacy
While Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O‘Neal have since joined Worthy in the rafters, his mythical "#42" still holds a special place in Lakers lore. Worthy‘s retired jersey represents the franchise‘s rich history of all-time greats who made their biggest moments under the bright lights.
For over 20 years after his retirement, James Worthy served the Lakers organization as an analyst. He shared perspective and stories from Showtime era with newer generations of fans. Worthy‘s #42 may now be retired from the court, but his Lakers legacy lives on vividly in the mind of fans who were lucky enough to witness "Big Game James" soar for Showtime.