#58 Magic Johnson

OK, let’s see where did I leave off?  SSOMG has taken about a two week break as a result of moving out of my office and out to Pauma Valley and then back again to host Eli and Fox, and it has been just a good time to concentrate on other things that are happening or are not happening.  As we complete four months of Our Weird New World, it is not getting much easier; But, on to a story about Magic…

If you were wondering how Magic Johnson was overlooked for this collection, he wasn’t. 

Magic Johnson had an unbelievable career.  His performance and his records are legend.  Magic is now 61 years old and has gone on to even greater things in his life after the NBA.  During his career Johnson’s career achievements included three NBA MVP awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game, at 11.2.  Johnson was a member of the 1992 US Olympic Basketball team (“The Dream Team”), which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. 

But of all of Magic’s fabulous achievements and awards and stories, my favorite moment to recall was a game and a career moment that was truly was Magic.

So, what if the headline of tomorrow’s newspaper read “Kershaw injures ankle and will be replaced as starting pitcher for Game #7 by center-fielder Cody Bellinger”?  Or the headlines read “Tom Brady injures his elbow; Tight end Rob Gronkowski is named as starting Quarterback for the Superbowl”?  Yikes.  Now those would be shocking stories. 

In 1980, during Magic’s rookie season, the Lakers compiled a 60–22 record in the regular season and reached the NBA Finals in which they faced the Philadelphia 76’ers led by Julius Irving.  The Lakers took a 3–2 lead in the series, but Laker teammate and Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had averaged 33 points a game in the series, sprained his ankle in Game 5 and could not play in Game 6.  Coach Paul Westhead made the momentous decision to start Johnson at center in Game 6.  Magic, a 6’ 9” rookie, playing so far out of position, was up to the challenge.  Johnson recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in an unbelievable 123–107 win.  Magic played guard, forward, and center at different times during the game. To the surprise of no one, Johnson was named the first rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP award, and his clutch performance is still regarded as one of the finest in NBA history.   After all, who needs to be 7’1” tall or have 20 years of experience playing center?  They probably could have blindfolded Magic, and the outcome would have been the same!

Magic Johnson has gone on to record many other magical accomplishments in the sports and business world since that 1980 championship.  After 13 great seasons with the Lakers, Johnson abruptly retired after testing positive for HIV.  Magic has been able to successfully manage the disease and after a couple of comebacks with the Lakers in the late 1990’s he has gone on to head up Magic Johnson Enterprise, valued at over $1 Billion.  Among his financial interests is partial ownership of the LA Dodgers.  In addition, Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation, an organization to help combat the AIDS virus.   Magic was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.   ESPN ranked Johnson #17 in their “50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century” and in 2006, ESPN rated Johnson the greatest point guard of all time.  SSOMG still considers Magic to be the greatest NBA guard of all time….except of course on those rare occasions when he changes hats and becomes one of the greatest NBA centers of all time….

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