Earvin "Magic" Johnson was the complete basketball player. A point guard in a power forward's body (6' 9"), Johnson could due things with a basketball that blew the minds of fans and fellow players alike. He not only played the game with exceptional skill, but also with a passion that few in any sport can match.
Johnson was born on August 14, 1959 in Lansing, Michigan. From almost the beginning he showed talent and a great love for basketball. He rarely went anywhere without his basketball, even to bed. He played high school basketball at Everett High School, and at the age of only fifteen posted his first triple-double: 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists. It was after this performance that a sports writer first dubbed Johnson "Magic." The appropriate nickname stuck with him for the rest of his career. He finished his high school career strongly, averaging 28.8 points and 16.8 rebounds per game as a senior.
Desiring to stay close to home, Johnson decided to attend and play basketball at Michigan State University. At the start, Johnson's focus was not on basketball; he wanted to graduate and become a television commentator. However, Johnson turned out to be "Magic" once again, this time at the college level. As a freshman in 1977-78, he helped lead the Spartans to the Big Ten Conference title by averaging 17 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. Johnson put up nearly identical numbers the following year (17.1 points, 8.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds per game), but this time the Spartans went to the NCAA Finals. This game was the start to one of the greatest and most storied rivalries in sports. In the 1979 championship game, Johnson faced Larry Bird for the first time. Johnson and the Spartans beat Bird and Indiana State to win the championship in 1979, but the rivalry of Magic versus Bird continued into the NBA. The rivalry they and their teams had during the '80s in the NBA is considered by some to be the greatest rivalry in sports history.
Johnson decided to leave Michigan State after only two years and entered the 1979 NBA Draft. He was drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, and he spent his entire professional career playing in L.A. He enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign, averaging 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. He was named a starter on the All-Star team, but the Rookie of the Year award went to Larry Bird. However, Johnson helped lead the Lakers to the 1980 NBA Finals where they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, and Johnson was named Finals MVP. The next eleven years passed by for Johnson in a flurry of championships, All-Star games, triple-doubles, and no-look passes. He established himself as one of the best players in the NBA with his trademark awe-inspiring passing ability, a genuine passion for the game, and an infectious smile that could light up an arena. He led the Lakers to win five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-88), was named Finals MVP three times (1980, 1982, 1987), was named NBA MVP three times (1987, 1989-90), averaged over 10 assists per game from 1982-91, averaged at least six rebounds per game 10 times, and amassed 138 triple-doubles.
Disaster struck in 1991 when Johnson announced the he had contracted HIV and he was immediately retiring. Despite the overall shock and disappointment, Johnson was still voted into the 1992 All-Star Game. He decided to return and play in the game, and he silenced his doubters by leading his team (the West) to victory and earning MVP honors. Johnson also went on to play for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men's basketball team, helping the team capture the gold medal. This was the last basketball Johnson would play until he decided to make a comeback with the Lakers during the 1995-96 season. He had bulked up to 255 pounds and left his customary position of PG to play power forward (PF). He averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game during the final 32 games of the season. He retired for the second – and last – time after the Lakers were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Johnson finished his career with averages of 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Career Highlights, Awards, and Accolades:
Recorded a triple-double in high school at age 15: 36 points, 16 rebounds, 16 assists.
Won a state title with Everett High School.
Led Michigan State to a National title in 1979.
Named to NBA All-Rookie Team in 1979-80.
Twelve-time NBA All-Star: 1979-80 and 1981-92.
Two-time All-Star Game MVP: 1989-90 and 1991-92.
Five-time NBA champion: 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.
Three-time Finals MVP: 1980, 1982, and 1987.
Three-time NBA MVP: 1986-87, 1988-89, and 1989-90.
Nine-time All-NBA First Team: 1983-91.
Led NBA in assists per game four times: 1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86, and 1986-1987.
Led NBA in steals per game two times: 1980-81 and 1981-82.
Ranks third all-time in NBA history with 10,141 career assists.
Ranks first all-time in NBA history with a career 11.2 assists per game average.
Ranks first all-time in NBA playoff history with 2,346 career assists.
Ranks second all-time in NBA history with 138 career triple-doubles.
Won a gold medal with the U.S. Men's basketball team, the "Dream Team," at the 1992 Olympic Games.
Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Magic is my favorite player and athlete. Most people will say Michael Jordan is the best player ever. But, to me, it's Magic. Here, I'm going to write up why I say Magic was the best player in the NBA: He was the most athletic basketball player to me. Jordan was quicker and could jump higher. Magic was faster, taller, stronger, more coordinated and could do more from all over the court. Magic played in a more athletic era. The NBA was more of a running game … more