This was the third Finals meeting in four years between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers won the first two meetings in 1980 and 1982 with Magic Johnson earning Finals MVP awards each time. But Johnson wasn't the only problem the 76ers faced. While Julius Erving played superbly in both series, their frontcourt of Darryl Dawkins, Caldwell Jones and Bobby Jones couldn't neutralize Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So in the off-season, the 76ers acquired Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets in an effort to solve Kareem, in addition to providing some offense and rebounding to the team. They parted ways with Caldwell Jones, Dawkins, and Lionel Hollins before the season, while giving greater responsibility to high-scoring guard Andrew Toney and backup playmaker Clint Richardson, and adding forwards Clemon Johnson and rookie Marc Iavaroni.
Malone's acquisition paid dividends, as the 76ers won 65 games in the 1982–83 NBA season. Prior to the playoffs, Malone predicted a clean playoff sweep for the 76ers, ending it with the statement Fo, Fo, Fo. The 76ers would steamroll through the playoffs, sweeping the New York Knicks 4–0 in the conference semifinals, before overcoming the Milwaukee Bucks in five games of the conference finals, thereby denying Malone's infamous prediction. Nevertheless, the 76ers were heading into the Finals as confident as ever.
The Lakers earned the top pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, becoming the only defending champion to earn the top overall pick in the same season. This was the result of the Ted Stepien-owned Cleveland Cavaliers trading their first round pick and Butch Lee to the Lakers for Don Ford and draft pick Chad Kinch three years earlier. Because the Cavaliers earned the worst record at 15–67, they would have earned the top overall pick via a coin toss with the 17–65 San Diego Clippers. Instead, the Lakers would earn the top pick and ultimately selected future Hall of Famer James Worthy first overall.
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