Los Angeles Lakers: Magic Johnson and the 40 greatest L.A. sports athletes

Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images) /
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Number One: Magic Johnson

If all you know about Earvin “Magic” Johnson is his post-playing days as a business executive in the commercial and sports industries then you have missed watching one of the greatest to play in NBA.

From the time Magic took the court as a 20-year old rookie in 1979 until his sudden retirement due to the HIV virus in November of 1991, there was no greater athlete in my eyes than Magic Johnson.

Consider this before Magic arrived with the Lakers they made one NBA Finals in their previous seven years. Over Magic’s next 12 seasons the Lakers went to nine NBA Finals and won five titles, becoming the most dominant team of the 1980s. The Lakers would not return to the NBA Finals for the nine years after Magic retired.

In his career, Magic helped not only revitalize the Lakers but as part of a new generation the NBA as well. In 1980 Magic capped off his rookie season by helping the Lakers win the NBA title, Magic played center in the deciding game when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured. Magic scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out seven assists, winning the Finals MVP. If you lived anywhere except Philadelphia and Los Angeles you probably missed Magic’s performance because back then the NBA Finals was on tape delay instead of on primetime television.

By the time Magic’s career was over, the NBA was second only to the NFL in popularity and basketball was now a global sport. The league no longer was pushed off the television but instead commands popularity that continues to this day.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers are kings in this town, thanks to those glory days when Magic ran on the Forum floor and ushered in the Showtime Era. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Magic Johnson.