Player Focus – Magic Johnson
No one during the 80s captured the hearts of both hardcore and casual basketball fans quite like Earvin “Magic” Johnson did. His Showtime Lakers helped bring the excitement of the game to the fans and marked the golden years of the NBA. The combination of flashiness, flamboyance, and competitiveness has made Magic one of the all-time greats and even arguably the best player during the 1980s. Let’s take a look at the best aspects of Magic’s game and how he changed the way basketball is viewed.
It’s impossible to talk about Magic Johnson without mentioning passing. If you look at a highlight reel featuring the best plays of his career, almost all of them involve him passing to an open teammate. Whether fancy passes or low key passes, Johnson has mastered them all. He is not the all-time assists per game leader in NBA history for nothing. His passing ability is arguably unparalleled by anyone, in any era.
Magic’s passing excellence is actually a by-product of his uncanny court vision. Most of the time, especially on fast breaks, it seems that he has eyes behind his back as he knows where everyone is throughout the basketball court. Standing at 6’9″, his height allows him to have a better view of the court compared to the typical shorter point guard. On defense, he might not be a good defender, but he can anticipate where the action is going which results in him pushing the pace immediately upon getting the ball and get easy baskets.
When talking about the Showtime Lakers, the first thing that comes to mind is the fast breaks and flashy plays that Magic mostly instigated. Their team success almost takes a backseat to the highlight reels, and this team success wouldn’t be achieved without a capable and assertive leader such as Magic Johnson. He not only leads with his words and motivation, he does it by example also by showing his teammates just how hard he works on his game, as well as rewarding them on the court via his precise passes, giving them opportunities to contribute.
When you see Magic Johnson, the first thing you would notice is a big smile coming from his face. Part of his charm with the fans is his very outgoing personality and he comes off as this friendly fellow. What isn’t that noticeable though, even on the basketball court, is his killer instinct. He will do anything to win but and this relentlessness has made him a very competitive opponent. You do not lead your team to multiple championships, in his case 5 titles with the Lakers, without being ruthless.
Magic is one of the most well-respected athletes not just in the NBA, but in every major sport. It was just an unfortunate event when he was forced to retire early due to being HIV positive, but this has enabled him to contribute to society in more ways than an athlete could imagine. His battles with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics was the golden age of the NBA and put the league back on track as fans flocked to arenas to witness their epic battles. As colored as the history of the Lakers are, with several great players donning the purple and gold, Magic is arguably the best of them.