Magic Johnson’s a Hall of Fame point guard. He’s a 12-time All-Star. A five-time NBA champion.
Magic turns 60 today – 14th August 2019 – but his image in the modern NBA world isn’t all about his standing as a basketball player. His mixed time involved with the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office and the subsequent fall out has seen Johnson’s decision making questioned. TV appearances trying to clear the air have been ultra-analysed.
There’s good reason for many of the questions about Johnson in the front office. Roster construction was messy, the organisation wasn’t running smoothly. A larger than life character, and a superstar in his own right, being part of the machine wasn’t a natural fit. The individualism that made Johnson such a magical point guard (pardon the pun) doesn’t suit being a well-oiled front office – and that’s okay.
The front office episode of Magic’s basketball career is over. He’s free to tweet as much as he likes now (something he supposedly missed while working for Jeanie Buss’ Lakers). Those tweets are met with a bucket load of responses as anyone would expect. No longer a basketball executive, Johnson is one of the biggest names in basketball, and that alone is job itself.
A former first overall pick, Magic Johnson was a cut above his peers on the court from college through to his retirement. His personality is ideal for being the best player on the team, the most respected person in the room. That’s his life now, and it’s a role he thrives in. Much like his Hollywood playmaking, Johnson is an entertainer off the court too.
While he’s been making headlines over the last couple of years for all manner of questionable decisions (discarding D’Angelo Russell and not trading for Paul George come to mind), Magic Johnson’s 60th birthday is an opportunity to remember his majesty on the court. People aren’t necessarily forgetting just how great he was, but it’s always enjoyable to reflect and appreciate true greatness.
Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson and John Stockton all stake a claim as the greatest ever point guard. In truth, though, Johnson is the standard that every player in that discussion is held to. His combination of size, unrivalled vision and scoring made him a unique player, and one we may never see again.
The circus around Magic’s front office tenure will barely feature in the history books. His playing career, meanwhile, is as significant as any in the league past or present.
Whatever Magic does from now, hopefully he enjoys it as much as NBA fans enjoyed his play.