Why this Magic Johnson history page? He’s is perhaps the most underappreciated NBA legend of all-time. How, you say, can someone who was honored in 1996 as one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History” and enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 be one of the most underappreciated NBA legends ever?
Magic Johnson deserves more. He deserves to be in the list of “the greatest player ever toplay the game.” Michael Jordan may earn more attention and players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were certainly dominant, but Earvin “Magic” Johnson completely changed the way the game was played and did so while he won – and won a lot.
Consider Magic Johnson history: Born in August of 1959, Magic had already won a state championship in high school basketball and an NCAA title by the time he reached the NBA in 1979. Magic then proceeded to average 18 points, as well as nearly 8 rebounds and 7.5 assists with a team that went 60-22 during the regular season.
However, Magic Johnson’s history, or should we say legacy, was built in theNBA Finals. The Lakers faced the Philadelphia 76ers and future NBA Hall-of-Famer Julius Erving in the 1980 Finals. The Lakers took a 3-2 lead in the series, but Abdul-Jabbar (who had averaged 33 points per game in the series) sprained his ankle in Game 5. Kareem was out for Game 6 and Lakers coach Paul Westhead was facing a major dilemma for the pivotal Game 6 – who would replace the big fella in the middle?
Most coaches would shy away from replacing their center position with a point guard, but few coaches had a 6’9 point guard. Johnson started at center in Game 6 and went on to record 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a 123-107 victory.
Magic’s brilliant performance earned him the honor of the only rookie in NBA history to win the “NBA Finals MVP” as well as one of four to win an NCAA title and NBA championship in consecutive years (Magic would go on to lead the Lakers to four more championships).
Aside from his winning habits, Magic Johnson’s history is defined by special physique. Keep in mind that a 6’9 player running the point was virtually unheard of. Players at that size were just not near as skilled as your average 6’9 player in today’s game.
Thus, Magic Johnson history will always be defined by the way he revolutionized the point guard position and that of a taller player altogether. Magic Johnson was a great all-around performer, but passing was easily his greatest attribute. Magic generally stood a good half foot or so higher than his defender, which ultimately made him a defensive nightmare.
Defend with a taller player and Magic was way too quick. Guard small, and Magic would merely back down the helpless defender. Magic could see the whole floor and combined with his incredibly athleticism – clearly made him one of the greatest passers in NBA history.
Sadly, Magic Johnson history will always be defined by something that is not related to basketball in the least. Magic retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had the HIV virus. Magic returned to play in the 1992 All-Star game (he won the MVP Award at the game) but retired shortly thereafter amidst protests from fellow players.
Johnson’s career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and SecondTeam nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists per game (11.2). Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as a philanthropist and motivational speaker.