Magic Johnson and the Lineage of NBA Youngsters' Idols Growing Up
The father of three generations of idols.
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There is a lineage of players idolizing one another stretching over three generations, but all of them originate at Magic Johnson.
There have been far too many to pay homage to Michael Jordan, and though M.J. was the idol of all idols, it is interesting taking note of the lineage of players that spawned off of Magic's game.
Primarily because these guys are in the top tier of all-time players as well.
Magic's game was transcendental, and it led to many different positions of players desiring to develop his strong pass-first instinct with the pure mentality of a scorer. Magic brought a delicate balance to the point guard position and did indeed play many other positions.
There's just something to be said for being a versatile and freak-of-nature point guard. Magic's size made him an ideal role model for big men who thought they had more to offer than playing just around the basket. He had the size of a 4-man with the skill set of a guard, and KG often shows signs of that.
Kobe, meanwhile, just adopted a little of all the greats, but he said his primary influence was Magic.
Magic Johnson Generation 1A -> Kevin Garnett
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"The Big Ticket" Kevin Garnett is a first generation Magic idolator. Garnett modeled his versatile nature after Magic.
Garnett's game did eventually show hints of Magic's. He averaged over five assists per game for six consecutive seasons, even averaging six a game in 2002-03. KG never explicitly played point guard like Magic did, but it was evident as a youngster that he yearned to be a perimeter player.
Instead, we were left with a 6'11" point forward. Garnett's game spawned a next generation in the idolization chain of Magic.
Magic had this to say about KG's game:
“His know-how for the game, his feel for the game—that’s something you can’t teach. You either got it or you don’t. He’s got it.”
Generation 1B: Kevin Garnett ->Dwight Howard
Dwight Idolized KG growing up, but now doesn't.
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Funny how things change once players get older and actually get to know the guys that they thought were so great as youngsters. Either way, there isn't much of a hint of Garnett in Howard's game. KG was always more versatile, more perimeter oriented and flat out more Magic-like. There is a slight regression from second to third generations here, but generation three is a Dwight Howard idolator.
Generation 1C: Dwight Howard -> Andre Drummond
Drummond wore No. 12 at UConn because of Dwight.
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Andre Drummond wore No. 12 at UConn in honor of his idol Dwight Howard.
It's weird to think someone like Howard, who is just 27, has a generation looking up to him, but Andre Drummond is just 19. When Howard came in the league, Drummond was 11 years old. So, we are met with yet another indirect descendant in the line of Magic's progeny.
Drummond is nothing like Magic, but Magic did things that Drummond does, namely play aggressive in the post. Magic didn't spend a lot of time playing power forward and center, but when he did, he did it well. Interesting to have followed this lineage, from generation one of Magic. Next, generation line two of Magic Johnson.
Generation 2A: Magic Johnson -> Kobe Bryant
Is Kobe more Magic than MJ?
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So many people think that Kobe Bryant's idol growing up was Michael Jordan, but that is a huge misconception—it was actually Magic Johnson.
Kobe's game seems so Jordan-esque, but apparently he derived that MJ-swagger years later as he was already playing in the NBA. As a youngster, he wanted to be like Magic. One very notable NBA star chose to model his game after Kobe, making him the next generation in the line of Magic Generation Two.
Magic has spoken strongly in support of Kobe and his celebrated NBA career.
"When Kobe gets that next one (championship), he'll be the man, he'll be the greatest Laker," Magic said to ESPN.
It must be nice to have the endorsement of the guy you grew up wanting to be.
Generation 2B: Kobe Bryant -> LeBron James
LBJ admitted to having looked up to Kobe.
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[Kobe] was someone when I was in high school I looked up to. [Kobe] going straight out of high school and seeing the success he had, I looked up to him. Like I said, its always a pleasure and honor to be out on the same court with one of the greatest.”
“Its never been between me and Kobe, even-though we get all the press and all the limelight we try to do whatever it takes to help our team win…I don’t need to prove anything to Kobe, and he of course does not need to prove anything to me.”
LeBron James is the next in the second line of Magic generations here. His game really isn't a lot like Kobe's, other than that they are both very dominant players.
Kobe Bryant has a lot of elements as a player that James is still trying to culture in his own game, namely, a killer instinct and the mentality to sense blood in an opponent. Either way, James becomes the next generation to have youngsters trying to be like him.
"King James" has already been chanted by guys entering the league today, since LBJ has now been around in the Association since 2003-04.
Generation 2C: LeBron James -> Blake Griffin
How many people are idolizing Griffin now?
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You know, I obviously watched Michael Jordan. Watched, you know growing up, Shaq, Vince Carter, and all those guys. As I got a little older, in high school and stuff, you know guys like LeBron, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and all those guys. Kobe obviously. - Blake Griffin to B/R
While Blake Griffin has quite a few idols, the "Kobe obviously" statement stands out at the end, doesn't it? Griffin's athleticism would have to have found union in watching a guy like Kobe in his prime, when he could still elevate just about anyone in the league. But he also idolized LeBron James, who idolized Kobe. It all starts to get muddled.
The next thing to look for will be in a few seasons, to see if players come in who have idolized Blake Griffin.
Griffin has created a number of show-stopping highlights and posters in his NBA career, and Griffin didn't grow up idolizing Magic Johnson, but the players he watched did. He's the end of Generation Two of Magic Johnson descendants in a line of many more to come.