Earvin “Magic” Johnson turns 57 today and I can’t help but imagine that the long-time face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise isn’t somewhere smiling.
Magic was a dominant force in the NBA with a knack for delivering amazing passes and doing a little bit of everything on the court. He was a constant triple-double threat and visited the NBA Finals nine times with the NBA’s golden franchise.
Everything about the six-foot-nine point guard gleamed with an aura of winning and fun while he donned the purple and gold. He was instrumental in developing the identity of the team’s “Showtime” era.
Fastbreaks in the Fabulous Forum were never the same after he was drafted in 1979.
Here are the magical point guard’s five best NBA performances:
5) The Debut – Magic’s First Game
Johnson was highly touted coming out of Michigan State and he had a lot to prove in his rookie season. His first game was a closely contested matchup against the Clippers.
The game came down to the final possession when Magic passed the ball to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a game winning sky hook.
The rookie ran over to The Captain and wrapped the lanky center in an excited embrace. This game would signal things to come over his career as he always let his joy for the game show through in his performances.
4) Playoff Record 24 Assists – 1984 WCF, Game 3
The Lakeshow crushed Phoenix 118-106 in this one but, the real story is how their point guard dominated the game. He didn’t have a ton of points or rebounds. Instead, he racked up 24 assists which is still an NBA Playoffs record to this day.
This was a game that illustrated how he could control a game without having to go out and get 40. He could carve the opposition apart with his passing and that willingness to share was his greatest strength.
3) Magic wins All-Star MVP in 1992
The world was shocked when the former Spartan announced that he had contracted the HIV virus. He left the game for a while to seek treatment. But, he was voted in as a starter for the 1992 Western Conference All-Stars in Orlando.
He brought home an MVP award and reconnected with some of his longtime rivals and closest friends in Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. He posted 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds during the contest. It was one for the ages.
2) Magic starts at center – 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6
After their All-Star center went down with an ankle sprain, Johnson was inserted at center by his coach and performed beyond all reasonable expectations.
He delivered 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in a Lakers victory. This game is something of a legend now because of the unique circumstances at play. We might never see the need for such a substitution in a crucial moment again.
1) The Baby Sky Hook – 1987 NBA Finals, Game 4
Magic delivered the signature moment of his career in this game when he sunk a running hook shot over the Celtics’ center. He used his teammates’ signature shot to decisively beat Los Angeles’ bitter rival in a must win game.
Hopefully the Lakers can get some of the magic back this coming season.