From the moment he first stepped on the court in Lakers purple and gold, Magic Johnson exuded greatness. His 13 years in the NBA yielded 11 All-Star appearances, 5 NBA Championships, 3 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, and 3 Finals MVP Awards. The number “32” hangs in the rafters of the Staples Center as a testament to his legacy as a Lakers icon.
Having pulled off a brilliant trade in order to acquire the 1st pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, the Lakers were primed to select a star college player to win more championships. Even though an underclassman had never before been selected first overall, they knew Magic Johnson was the right choice. Sure enough, their decision proved to be a wise one right away, as Magic pulled off arguably the greatest rookie season in NBA history. With the Lakers winning 60 regular season games, Magic took home the Rookie of the Year Award, an All-Star game nod, and the Finals MVP as the Lakers won the championship.
After fighting through a knee injury that derailed his second season, Magic Johnson returned with a vengeance for his third season. Having signed a whopping 25-year, $25 million contracts in the offseason, he had officially unseated star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the face of the Lakers. He backed it up on the court, as the Lakers won their second championship in three years, with Magic delivering a triple-double in the deciding Game 6 en route to his second Finals MVP Award.
Over the next two seasons, the Lakers once again reached the NBA Finals but came up short. The second time, Magic fell victim to his old college rival, Celtics legendary forward Larry Bird. But the following year, in the 1984-85 season, the Lakers and Magic Johnson each got their revenge on the Celtics and Bird, respectively. Magic averaged a double-double on 18.3 points per game and 14 assists per game en route to his third NBA title.
After averaging a stellar 18.8 PPG and 12.6 APG the next season, Magic Johnson compiled a legendary 1986-87 season. His career-high 23.9 PPG earned him his first NBA regular season MVP Award, and the Lakers again defeated the Celtics for Magic’s fourth NBA title and third Finals MVP Award. The following season, Magic starred yet again as the Lakers repeated as NBA champions, garnering his fifth NBA championship.
While that would be Magic Johnson’s final NBA championship as a player, his performance was still tremendous. Over the next three seasons, Magic averaged a double-double in all of them, winning back-to-back MVP Awards in 1989 and 1990. After another great season in 1990-91, he announced his retirement at only 31 years old after being diagnosed with HIV. But Magic wasn’t done quite yet, and he returned at age 36 for the end of the 1995-96 regular season as a bench player, averaging 14.6 PPG and 6.9 APG.
In many ways, Magic Johnson was the epitome of a Los Angeles Lakers. Incredibly skilled and a winner, he was certainly fit to be a star in Los Angeles. He paved the way for the likes of Kobe Bryant to come in and be star guards for the Lakers. For all that and more, Magic Johnson will always be a Lakers icon.