Magic Johnson: Pioneer Point Guard
Our rundown of the greatest basketball players in NBA History. This week, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson - Pioneer in the Point Guard position
The word greatest is used far too often, particularly when referring to the greatest players of all time in sports, especially in basketball. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Bill Russell, and John Stockton, are the best of the best in many basketball circles.
But what makes them the “greatest”? Is it the number of championships? How many points per game that they scored? Is it their dominance over the competition throughout their prospective careers? What about their influence and impact on the sport? This will be the benchmark as far as criteria go for the title of “greatest” in this article.
In a series of articles beginning with this one, a legitimate, irrefutable, case will be made for who the are the greatest NBA players of all time are. In no particular order (which is unique to the usual direction that these discussions surrounding who the greatest NBA player ever was), this article will justify the claim of who are the 10 Greatest Players In NBA History.
Earvin Johnson - he’s magic
Johnson was first dubbed "Magic" as a 15-year-old sophomore playing for Everett High School, when he recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists.
Fred Stabley Jr., a sportswriter for the Lansing State Journal gave him the name that would eventually be synonymous with his signature smile, and precision passing.
Magic did not average the most points per game, he hardly ever dunked the basketball, and Johnson would have much rather assisted on a basket with a flashy no-look pass, than score 50 points in a night. Hence why he goes down as one of the greatest passers in NBA history.
Magic was much more than a stat-stuffer, piling up triple-doubles as if they were stocks and bonds. Magic was a pioneer at his position (point guard) and in the game of basketball. Johnson played on a team that pushed the pace of the game with an up-tempo offense, and had a flashy flare for the dramatic (fast-breaks, and no-look passes).
Later that style of ball would be dubbed “Showtime”, which would proceed the Phoenix Suns high-octane offense in the 2000’s, where the Suns aimed to score the basketball 7 seconds into the 24-seconds shot-clock, and the later 2000’s, where the Golden State Warriors perfected Showtime basketball, winning 3 championships in the process. Both teams need to pay homage, and copyright royalties to Magic’s Lakers, and then head coach, Pat Reilly.
With no disrespect or omission of Oscar Robertson’s influence on the game of professional basketball, not many who discuss the greatest players of all time, will mention Robertson ahead or anywhere near Magic Johnson’s name or ranking on that “list”. Why not?
Robertson played in an era that quite frankly, did not have the exposure that a player of his skill-set should have. Magic had plenty of exposure, but it was even before he arrived in Los Angeles.
Magic Johnson - High School and College Career
Johnson was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, and he was determined to play for Michigan State. This was no more obvious than after Magic turned down UCLA, and Indiana, two powerful, well-known schools frantically pursuing his talents.
Magic nearly averaged a triple-double (17 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, and 7.4 assists per game), and led his Michigan State Spartans to a loss in the Elite Eight, to the eventual National Champions, the Kentucky Wildcats. In his sophomore season, Johnson led the Spartans to a berth against Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores. Magic and his Spartans defeated Bird’s Sycamores 75-64 to capture the 1978 NCAA championship.
Magic Johnson - Career Statistics
So you say you are interested in numbers? Magic did very well for himself during his 13 year career, all with the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. Johnson averaged 19.5 PPG (Points Per Game), 11.2 APG (Assists Per Game), and had 7.2 RPG (Rebounds Per Game). Not satisfied yet?
Let us go through the long laundry list of Magic’s career stats in the NBA.
Johnson was a 5-time NBA Champion, winning the Finals MVP award in 3 of those 5 championships. Magic was the NBA regular-season MVP 3 times, and made the NBA All-Star Team 12 times, including a special selection during his first retirement due to contracting the HIV virus (and players in the league expressing a disinterest in playing with Johnson out of fear for their own safety). Magic was the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game twice, was selected to the All-NBA First Team 9 times in his career.
Magic Johnson and HIV
The legend of Magic spread across borders, and extended beyond Sports. After the world learned of Johnson’s diagnosis of having the HIV virus, he instantly became the face of HIV, and the movement to find a cure.
Johnson admitted to the whole world that he had contracted the virus through promiscuous sexual activity. Magic sought out to dispel the myth and falsehoods about how the disease was contracted, and show that not everyone who has HIV, is gay, or a dirty drug-addict.
Magic proved, through testing positive himself, that everyone is vulnerable, and that minorities are at a particularly higher risk. The majority of new cases were in the African American and Latino communities — and that 50 percent of those who got tested did not return for their results.
Once Johnson’s face was identified internationally with the HIV virus and the fight to prevent and cure the disease, he truly became an international star.
Magic Johnson and the Dream Team
Johnson represented his native United States of America in the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics. Magic led a dominating performance by some of the greatest players to ever lace up basketball shoes.
The Dream Team, as they were named because of the NBA talent on the team ( names such as; Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and many others on our list of the 10 Greatest Players In NBA HIstory). The Dream Team won the gold easily, winning every game, going 8-0, beating their opponents by an average of almost 45 points per game.
Make no mistake about, Magic Johnson is one of the 10 Greatest Players In NBA History. His style of play, stats, and influence over the game, make him an obvious selection to our list of greats. Where he ranks among the Greatest, is a debate that will rage on for many years to come.