I first remember playing against Ervin “Magic” Johnson in 1979 at the Far West Classic basketball tournament in Portland, Oregon. I remember him being so exuberant, full of energy and excitement even back then as a freshman. He had a way of getting his teammates all caught up in the excitement of playing a game that’s “supposed to be fun.”
Never has there been a player who brought as much fun to the game and had as much talent and fan appeal as Magic Johnson. With his effervescent smile and magnificent ball handling and passing skills, he was “Mr. Showtime.” He was usually the difference maker out there on the court when his team went against yours. On any given night, he was capable of putting up a “triple double,” but I truly believe he derived much more pleasure helping his teammates to be better than they ever thought they could be… and he played against pretty darned good players!
Magic was all about “Winning” and having fun as he would say. He was a tremendous leader on the court and getting his players where he wanted them to be most effective and to enhance their odds of winning. I think people forget how truly talented Magic Johnson was because he played with so many incredibly talented players throughout his career. His Showtime Lakers teams of the Eighties were some of the most star-studded teams ever to grace the NBA.
Just look at the awesome lineup they were able to put on the floor throughout that decade with Jabbar, Worthy, Scott, Cooper, Nixon and others! As always, I had my hands full with Jabbar and I think Magic would “rub it in” from time to time by calling the play that was set for Jabbar “fist down.” I used to just cringe and say “here we go again” as Jabbar would get himself into position and Magic would dribble on over and dump it down into the post for Jabbar to do his thing. Whether Jabbar scored or not, that play alone had a way of tying our defense into knots and putting us back on our heels.
You gotta take your hat off to Magic Johnson because he goes down in the history books not only as one of the all-time greats (top five in my book), but also the greatest at making his teammates better… and having a whole heck of a lot of fun doing it.
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