The greatest Laker of all-time really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Earvin “Magic” Johnson is widely considered a top five player in NBA history, and the best point guard of all-time. Magic could wow you on just about every possession, whether it be with a flashy pass, or his mini hook-shot. Magic was, and still is, just as awesome off the court as he was on. Someone as talented and as lovable as Magic was has to be the best Laker of all-time.
Thanks to his size, Magic was able to put all kinds of crazy stats, putting him near, or at the top, of quite a few all-time Lakers statistical categories. Magic is fourth in free throws, fourth in offensive rebounds, third in defensive rebounds, first in assists, second in steals, fifth in points, sixth in free throw percentage, third in PER, first in true shooting percentage, first in offensive rating, and fourth in win shares. Yeah, Magic Johnson was pretty good.
Along with being near the top on most of the Lakers all-time leaders list, he also has quite a few personal achievements. Magic appeared in 12 All-Star games (winning two MVPs), he won five NBA Championships, three of which he was the Finals MVP, and then add three NBA regular season MVPs to that. Magic made the NBA All-Rookie First Team, one All-NBA Second Team, and nine All-NBA First Teams. We aren’t done yet. Mr. Johnson led the league in assists per game four times, free throw percentage once, steals per game twice, and offensive win shares once.
The NBA has seen many great point guards pass through time: John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Steve Nash, and even Chris Paul. However, Magic Johnson stands out among them all — not just because he was 6’9. Magic was a maestro on the court; he did, after all, he did lead the Showtime Lakers. Magic had an arsenal of passes; he could drop a forty-foot overhand bounce pass like it was nothing, hit his teammate with a beautiful no-look pass, throw a half-court alley-oop, or even make the defender look silly with a behind-the-back pass. Magic was, dare I say, a magician with the ball.
Earvin Johnson Jr. wasn’t just flashy passes; thanks to his height, he was so versatile that he was capable of playing, and guarding, every position on the floor. For example, in Magic’s rookie season, he filled in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabaar at center and put up 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists. To make that even more impressive, it was Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Oh yeah, it also won the Lakers the Championship. His versatility is also shown in his stats. For his career, Magic averaged 7.2 rebounds a game as a point guard. Factor in his 11.2 assists per game, and Johnson could do it all.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird rivalry. The Lakers/Celtics rivalry has always been one of the best in sports, but the rivalry was on another level during the Magic and Bird era. The two teams met in the Finals three times in four years, with the Celtics winning two out of the three. Not only was the rivalry entertaining, but it may have also saved the NBA from going bankrupt. The league was struggling with drug abuse, among other things, so the competitive nature of Magic and Bird was able to draw in a different crowd of fans.
The career of Earvin Johnson was cut short by Human Immunodeficiency Virus, however. On November 7, 1991, Johnson announced that he was going to retire from the NBA immediately. After only 11 seasons in the NBA, the best point guard of all-time would never play again…or would he?
In 1992, Magic Johnson was voted in as an All-Star. Many players were upset about this, including Karl Malone. The players were afraid they would be contaminated if Magic suffered an injury that caused him to bleed during the game. Magic ended up, not only playing in the game, but leading the West All-Stars to a victory and earning himself the MVP of the game.
After the 1992 season, Johnson played in the 1992 Olympics on the Dream Team. He helped lead the team to a gold medal averaging eight points and 5.5 assists. Magic made a comeback in 1996, but only played in 32 games, and started in just nine of them.
After his first retirement, Magic decided to try out coaching; however, his coaching career didn’t last long. Magic coached the 1993-94 Lakers for 16 games, going 5-11.
In 1994, Magic Johnson bought part of the Lakers for $10 million and had the title of Team Vice President. In 2010, Johnson sold his share of the Lakers to a surgeon so he could buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It takes a lot to be the greatest player of any franchise, but being the best Laker of all-time is an even greater honor considering the greatness that has passed through the Lakers locker rooms. If you were going to pick someone to be the embodiment of your franchise, I don’t think anyone could be better than Earvin Johnson. The way he played on the court and his charismatic personality off of the court is exactly what you want in a player. There is no greater Laker than Earvin “Magic” Johnson.