#1 – Magic
Earvin Johnson had just completed his first basketball masterpiece: a spellbinding 36-point, 16-rebound, 16-assist display the media couldn’t ignore. A sportswriter who witnessed Earvin’s display of basketball dominance instantly fell in love, dubbing him “Magic”.
Young Earvin was just 15 years old.
These results came as no surprise to Earvin, who had obsessively practiced since he was old enough to hold a ball. Walking to school as a youngster, he would dribble with his right hand on the entire way there and use only his left hand to dribble the whole way back. Most mornings he would be out on the blacktop refining his game at the local courts by 7:30am . With that kind of dedication, he was destined to be Magic.
Earvin’s mother, a devout Christian, didn’t care for the name. She thought calling her son Magic was blasphemous and vehemently dismissed the moniker as such. Unfortunately for Mrs. Johnson, young Earvin’s performances only got better and his new nickname wasn’t going anywhere.
His high school team finished with a 27-1 record his senior year, behind 28.8 points and 16.8 rebounds per game from the Magic Man en route to a State Title. Two years later the legend of Magic Johnson went national, as he led his Michigan State Spartans to the NCAA title game where he demoralized Larry Bird’s under matched Indiana State team.
When he was taken Number 1 overall in the NBA Draft by the Lakers, not much changed. His outgoing personality and contagious smile captured the hearts of people across Los Angeles. He brought with him a type of basketball that was beautiful and fluid, deftly blending teamwork and showmanship in what would be known as Showtime.
As a rookie his Lakers teammates called him “Young Buck”, as his enthusiasm for the game was sometimes over the top. With an unprecedented passing skill for a man his size, Magic led the Lakers to 9 NBA Finals appearances in 12 years, 5 times ending the season as NBA Champions.
In what goes down as the greatest playoff performance of all time, then 19 year old rookie point guard Magic Johnson played the deciding game of the Finals at the center position. Filling in for his injured team captain and league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic was nothing short of breathtaking. He carved up the Philadelphia 76ers and their top rated defense to the tune of 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block.
After the game, an awe inspired Julius Erving sat by stunned. “It was amazing, just amazing,” he said.
No Dr. J, it was Magic.
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you think we forgot any favorite Laker nicknames!