ProHoopsHistory HOF: Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson (ESPN)

Easily one of the greatest point guard in NBA history, Magic Johnson is also a prime candidate for weirdest point guard ever.

Standing 6’8″ tall, Magic certainly leaves an impression at first sight. Other players that tall had proven capable of being good passers and handling the ball, but they weren’t the point guard. Magic’s size and height would have been meaningless without the requisite tools to command from the point guard spot, though. His court-vision was second to none. That natural gift of sight was amplified by his height as he towered over opponents. He could find angles and discern paths that others simply never have the opportunity to discover.

When the path was laid out, Magic whizzed remarkable passes to through their trail. Johnson would realize teammates were open before they themselves realized it. His passes came via a variety of methods: wrap-around, behind-the-back, off-the-dribble, no-look, one-handed, bounced-between-the-leg, and over-the-head just to name a few.

Perhaps most integral to Magic’s eventual success was that he was allowed to maturate on a team of stars. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar manned the middle. Forwards Jamaal Wilkes and Michael Cooper flanked the wings to ease the offensive burden. Norm Nixon was an all-star point guard already on the roster furthering easing pressure on Johnson. By the mid-and-late 1980s, Johnson assumed further and eventual complete control of the Lakers working his way to 3x-MVP status.

Johnson had become not just a sensational passer, but a dangerous scorer. His size allowed him to post up smaller players. He had that famous baby hook shot. By the end of his career he became an automatic free throw shooter and also possessed a competent set-shot three-pointer.

It’s a testament to his ability that Magic played in the NBA Finals 10 times in his 12 full seasons. Another testament is that in 1982, he averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game. The best testament though is how he raised the effectiveness of his teammates:

Player:  FG% w/ Magic – FG% w/o Magic

Kurt Rambis 0.553 0.511
Byron Scott 0.5 0.444
James Worthy 0.546 0.435
Jamaal Wilkes 0.525 0.468

That kind of impact is the hallmark of a damn good point guard.

Seasons Played: 1980 – 1991, 1996

Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers

Accolades

NBA -
5x Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987-’88)
3x Finals MVP (1980, 1982, 1987)
3x MVP (1987, 1989-’90)
9x All-NBA 1st Team (1983-’91)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1982)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1980)
12x All-Star (1980, 1982-’92)
2x All-Star Game MVP (1990, 1992)

Statistics

NBA - 906 Games
19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 52.0% FG, 30.3% 3PT, 84.8% FT
4x APG Leader (1983-’84, 1986-’87)
2x SPG Leader (1981-’82), FT% Leader (1989)

1st All-Time APG, 15th All-Time SPG
5th All-Time Assists, 17th All-Time Steals, 31st All-Time FTs

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