Known to all of his friends as “Buck” Magic Johnson burst upon the NBA in 1979 after winning the NCAA championship the year before and calmly led the Los Angles Lakers to an NBA championship, filling in at the center position for someone named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was injured in game five.
Johnson became the first play since Elvin Hayes to start the all star game as a rookie, something that Magic would go on to do 11 more times as well as being named to the all NBA first team 9 times.
Just how great a basketball player was Johnson? So great, perhaps, that future generations of hoop fans may wish they had entered the world years earlier—just so they could have seen Magic play in person instead of watching him only on highlight reels.
At 6 foot 9 inches he is the tallest player to ever play the point guard position. From the time Magic first stepped onto an NBA court, people wondered how a man his size could do so many thing with a basketball, it was “Magic”.
During his 12-plus year career (he played the last part of a 13-year 4 years after retiring), he was a member of five championship teams. He won the Most Valuable Player Award and the Finals MVP Award three times each.
He broke Oscar Robertson’s record for career for assists (later passed by Stockton), and “oh yea” just for kicks, he was the starting point guard on the 1992 Dream Team that won the Gold Medal in the Olympics.
The greatest aspect of Magic’s game was his passing—he could thread an “alley-opp” pass from mid-court to a teammate for a dunk, thread a no-look pass to a cutter to the basket for a lay-up or spinning feeds and overhead bullet passes were always the norm for Magic.
In his 13 NBA seasons Johnson compiled 17,707 points (19.5 ppg), 6,559 rebounds (7.2 rpg) and 10,141 assists (11.2 per game) in addition to 1,724 steals, good for ninth place on the all-time list. He also holds the top marks for most All-Star Game assists (127) and three-point baskets (10).
Magic was named one of the 50 greatest players of all time. Was he the greatest player ever? Here’s what one long-time rival had to say: "Magic is head-and-shoulders above everybody else," Larry Bird once observed in the Chicago Sun-Times. "I've never seen [anybody] as good as him."
As far as players trying to crack this listing. Well Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are two that are on the verge of cracking this list, but in this writers opinion, it will take some NBA titles in order to pass any one of these greats as each, except for Stockton led their team to at least one title.
So unless they can win one or break Stockton's records, I still can't put them into the top five. Chris Paul is a third of the current generation who merits a mention also, but again a title or NBA record needs to be put up by him.