Earvin “Magic” Johnson is one of the most accomplished and beloved players in the history of basketball. Magic was a trailblazer, changing the look of what a point guard could be with his size and versatility. He was also part of some historic teams as the heart of the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s.
Though not the most prolific scorer, he was one of the most enjoyable players to watch throughout his career due to his incredible court vision, passing, and flair for the dramatic.
Big Time Spartan
Though Michigan State Spartan basketball is a big brand today, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, you can make a case that Magic Johnson helped launch it to the heights we know today. He was only in East Lansing for a couple of seasons, but his impact was huge. Statistically, he gave the basketball world a preview of what was to come as a pro, averaging 17ppg, 7.6rpg and 7.9apg. That all-around game helped the Spartans win their first National Championship against the Indiana State Sycamores in 1979. This tilt may still be the most watched NCAA Final of all time, and was the first of what would be many showdowns between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
The Favorite Laker
Magic Johnson is one of the most decorated players in the history of the NBA. He was drafted with the first pick in the 1979 NBA Draft and proved his worth time and time again. He did not waste any time getting started, playing a pivotal role on the Lakers’ championship team as a rookie, including perhaps the best playoff game ever in a series clincher that season.
Magic was the engine of one of the most talented, successful and entertaining teams in the history of the NBA, the Showtime Lakers. Coached by Pat Riley and playing with Hall of Famers like center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and forward James Worthy, the Lakers won five titles in the 1980s, competing for a few others along the way.
Johnson was “Magic” because he seemed to have a sixth sense for where everyone was on the court. That elite vision enabled him to lead the league in assists four times, dazzling teammates and opponents with his passing. Everybody loved Magic, which is why it was so disheartening when he announced that he had HIV and had to suddenly retire from the league in 1991. His sharing of his condition helped open the eyes of many to the disease, raising awareness and normalizing its presence in men and women everywhere.
He did eventually play one final season in 1995-96, and thankfully, he was still a member of the 1992 US Olympic “Dream Team”. This team is considered by many as the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled, and it would have been a shame for Magic not to have been involved.
Hall of Famer
With so much individual and team success, Magic Johnson was guaranteed to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. A quick rundown of his accolades include 12 All-Star game appearances, 10 All-NBA teams, a Rookie of the Year award and three Most Valuable Player awards. He was also the NBA FInals MVP another three times.
Those Lakers teams were super successful and a joy to watch, and Magic was their conductor, on the floor. Like so many of the greats, he not only produced and succeeded, but changed the game. When teams today talk about position-less basketball, it is Magic Johnson, with his ability to impact the game in so many ways, that is the ideal prototype.
The only thing detractors ever pointed to was that he was not an elite defender or outside shooter. That may be true, but he did the lead the league in steals a couple of times, and always hit big shots when it mattered. Magic always got it done, and always did it with style and grace.