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Yes Magic, you would team up with other superstars. In fact you did.

Jul 22, 2010, 10:13 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for magic-johnson.jpgMagic Johnson has done what we all do — we remember ourselves as better and more noble than we really were. We rewrite our personal histories to fit those better selves.

Remember how Magic Johnson agreed with Michael Jordan? How he said the two would never have teamed up with other superstars because they were so competitive? “We didn’t think about it ’cause that’s not what we were about,” was Magic’s quote.

Over at TrueHoop in a fantastic post, one reader called Magic out on that, referencing a 1991 interview in the Los Angeles Times where Magic recalls how he came out of college and to the Lakers.

Magic Johnson would have returned to Michigan State rather than play for the Chicago Bulls.

“I’d have stayed in school,” he said here Tuesday, standing alone outside Gate 3 1/2 of Chicago Stadium, the house that could have been his. “A coin toss changed the course of my whole life.” Chicago called heads in a 1979 coin flip with Los Angeles for the No. 1 pick in the NBA college draft. It came up tails.

Johnson signed with the Lakers after his sophomore year of college and proceeded to win five championships. The Bulls picked second, took UCLA’s David Greenwood and have won no championships.

“I wouldn’t have played here,” Johnson said on the eve of Game 2 of the NBA finals between his team and the team that could have been his. “The only reason I came out was to play with Kareem and the Lakers.”

Magic didn’t have to go looking for good running mates, because he came onto a loaded team. He helped put them over the top — his Game 6 of the 1980 finals is legendary — but that was Kareem’s team. The Lakers only got the top pick via a lopsided trade, they had won 47 games the year before and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Magic is fiercely competitive, he wanted to win. But no, he never teamed up with other free agents to forma superteam. He didn’t have to — he did it coming out of college.

  1. TL - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    There’s a difference between a kid coming out of school and a manchild who has failed to win after 7 years even when he’s been on teams with excellent records.
    LA had more potential than the Bulls back then but they were picking at the top of the draft for a reason.

  2. Nonsense - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Kareem was traded to the Lakers… Magic made his teammates better players. Magic didn’t leave voluntarily to team up with stars. Not the same, Kurt. Rediculious comparison.

  3. hnirobert - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    I guess LeBron should have just gone to college for 1 year instead of coming right out of high school. Would that have made it any better? All these old timers are pissed because they never had the power to do what Lebron did.

  4. JB - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Horrible opinion Kurt. He didn’t leave his team to go join other big names. Plus Magic, Kareem, and Worthy weren’t all huge scorers, they had a role on the team.
    Players back then didn’t cry for a trade after having a couple of bad years i.e. Chris Paul. Players now need to realize that just because they are a superstar doesn’t mean they are supposed to win a title every year

  5. jeff - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    “you know who else didn’t go to business school? lebron james, tracy mcgrady….kobe bryant… so, its not the same thing”

  6. PK - Jul 22, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    TL,the Lakers got that pick via trade. They were a playoff team the year before. They went 47-35,same as last years Heat team. And to Nonsense,regardless of how Kareem ended up as a Laker,Magic had a choice between a good Lakers team and a bad Bulls team.
    By his own admission,he would’ve stayed in school to avoid playing for the weaker team. “The only reason I came out was to play with Kareem and the Lakers.”

  7. G - Jul 22, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    It really do not matter if Magic, Jordan or overrated Bird would have done because the bottom line they played in a different era and why is everyone is so hard on Lebron. All Lebron did was signed with a different team which is his right and because he decided to leave Cleveland it do not change the fact that he is still one of the best players in the game today. What everyone should be doing is giving Pat Riley credit for signing him and resigning Dwayne Wade. As for Chris Bosh he is so overrated and he will be just another player on the team playing his role, much like Horace Grant was with the Bulls. James and Wade are friends and there is nothing wrong with them wanting to play together. What Pat Riley should do is signed Carmello Anthony next year to really throw a monkey wrench in the mix.

  8. Female Bball Fanatic - Jul 22, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Here we go again…. the so called reader that called Magic out need to do some homework and brainstorming before running his mouth. Number one, Magic didnt jump ship from one NBA team to the other… Number two, Kareem was 33 yrs old when Magic got there… Number three… Magic got the luck of the draw (there was a coin toss and the lakers picked first). And number four, Magic the one made the Lakers better (they were 47-35 when he was drafted… Everyone keep talking about all the stars Magic played with. Magic had those players put around him (other than Kareem). Worthy wasnt there until the 82-83 season (Magic was drafted in ’79). Coop was there but averaging 8ppg. Riley didnt coach him until the 82-83 season (Magic already had two rings then). Byron Scott didnt get there until the 83-84 season. Jamaal Wilkes is the only other argument people should have other than Kareem but no one mentions him because they dont know who the heck he is. No Magic didnt have to wait as long to win a title as Lebron but dont think for a minute that he fits in Lebron’s “punkish move” category. Magic started in L.A. and finished in L.A. I’m not even a Magic and L.A. fan but I’m sick of seeing this article on all of the sports websites and magazines as if this reader is a genius. Do your homework.

  9. Manny - Jul 22, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    OK, so now there are actual Lebron apologists now? LOL!
    A couple of days ago on the Documentary Channel ‘DOC’, I watched a documentary called “Crossover.” It was basically about basketball’s worldwide influence and it showed how basketball is viewed in other countries, and the love that people have for the sport all over the world. It was a great documentary and I highly recommend it.
    Well, there was this discussion that was taking place with an interviewer, Magic Johnson and Lebron. I think Lebron was just coming into the league at the time. Well Magic was ranting on and on about Lebron. He talked about how special Lebron is and how the NBA needs those special players. Magic was talking like Lebron was going to be that kind of player that will elevate the game and win championships with a team built around him. He saw Lebron as the next Magic or Jordan. And he kinda dissed Kobe because he said that there are no players like that in the NBA right now.
    So what you are hearing is frustration from Magic and Jordan. They saw and hoped that Lebron James would be that kind of player that the NBA can rely on as being that kind of star that elevates the entire league. They wanted him to be Jordan, Magic, Bird, etc. They wanted Lebron to take the game higher than what they took it. And that’s why they are coming out against it.
    But take heart: Even though I can’t stand the man, Kobe Bryant is that next big superstar that they are talking about. He’s the guy that is taking HIS team to the championship with players that couldn’t have done anything of the sort without him.

  10. David - Jul 22, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    I don’t understand how anyone can take issue with this article.
    Magic clearly wanted to join other superstar caliber players, just like LeBron did. And he did just that.
    It baffles me that people are ok with superstars joining teams with other stars via the draft or by demanding trades, but not by free agency.
    All these old guys are just trying to protect their own legacies by bashing LeBron.

  11. Marky Mark - Jul 22, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    There are lots of reasons to knock LeBron for the way things went down. I think he should have stayed in Cleveland. That being said, though, it’s hypocritical for fans to say that winning should be the #1 goal, and then when a player tries to win, for fans to say that he’s not allowed to do it with other good players. Huh? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t get this unwritten rule. There wouldn’t have been this reaction if he’d gone to Chicago, even though Chicago has one of the best point guards in the game (Rose) and one of the best interior guys (Noah). People would have understood that he was going to the strongest situation. But when he decides to join two other great players in Miami, it’s somehow different?

  12. jeremiah919 - Jul 22, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    hilarious, freakin hilarious, please continue this, these horses thses guys are riding need to be tripped up

  13. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 22, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    “It really do not matter if Magic, Jordan or overrated Bird would have done”
    As soon as you describe Bird as “overrated” the rest of your idiotic post becomes moot.

  14. heman - Jul 22, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    i was die hard lebron fan…. but he took his name out the greatest to ever play the game…. you can say what you want…. the greats never left teams… while named mvp to years straight … this a team oriented game, there was plenty of times when he could of choose to take of the game and he didn’t… d wade did it against the mavs… why not him against the old celtic’s team….?????

  15. Ferg - Jul 22, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    MAgic joined at Lakers team that had won 47 games the year before. Kareem was 32 years old and avg’d 24.8 points per game, Jamaal Wilkes avg’d 20, Norm Nixon avg’d 17.6. MAgic went to a team with stars. Did Magic elevate their game…yes he did. He’s an all-time great. Would he have accomplished the same things with Chicago’s 1980 team of Reggie Theus and Artis Gilmore…highly unlikely.
    Magic never had to make demands for better teammates or for a trade. He played for the best team in the league his entire career.

  16. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Kurt, I’ve been a supporter of you for years back at FB&G, but this bologna. Magic was drafted to a team. Lebron left a team he was a part of for seven years, that built a team around him (attempting to do much the same thing Krause did for Michael) and – . . . forget it. It’s ridiculous to compare them. You’re wrong. You should know you’re wrong. Clearly you’re not collaborating with the same smart people you were before – I almost never disagreed with you over at FB&G.

  17. David - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    HAHAHAHA!! Yes!

  18. JJ - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Wow, what a ridiculous article. Magic Johnson first of all was the greatest player that ever played the game period. They talk about that Laker team and without Magic they wouldn’t have won one championship. Can’t say that about Jordan, Fist year he retired they won 55 games . I like lebron James as a player. I don’t like his decision he should have stayed they would get that second great player soon enough. Look at Kobe Bryant didnt do anything after Shaq, couldnt even get his team into the play offs. Then he got his man and look at them now.

  19. James - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Ah jeez… see… Magic had great players around him. Jordan eventually had great players and a great coach surround him. And Kobe, anytime he’s won anything, has always had great talent around him. So soon we forget that only a few years ago, Bryant was bashing Bynum and trying to leave the Lakers because they weren’t putting the right pieces around him. All LeBron did was ensure that he went to a place that he would have that supporting cast. You can say what you want about the way he did it, but he’s still been voted the best player in the league the last two years. Anyone with any sort of bbiq knows that LeBron, no matter what team he is on, is one of the best, he’ll be an all time great, and he’ll be a hall of famer. Will he be better than Jordan in the eyes of the sheep? Probably not. But LeBron is trying to win championships, and you can’t fault him for that. If LeBron, Wade and Bosh came to anyone of yours favorite team, you (LeBron haters) wouldn’t be saying this. Go Mavs.

  20. Ferg - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    One other thing Magic, Larry and MJ had was a big market. They played in a real city. No disrespect to Cleveland, but you’re not LA, Chicago or Boston….and you’re not Miami.
    Have any of you thought that just maybe LeBron got a little bigger than his hometown? Magic, Larry and MJ were not going to be bigger than LA, Boston or Chicago.

  21. TonyB - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Great post! Magic is such a tool. He played with great players and always did from day one. He won five titles but also lost four…The Lakers had four Hall of fame Players in their prime on the same team and Lebron had zero.
    And the Cavs were not an excellent team, their record was because of LeBron, he could not win a title with that team and neither could Magic or Michael.
    Both Magic and Michael had Hall of fame help win they won titles. They won zero titles without help. None of LeBron’s teammates from this past year are even good trade materials.
    He has a right to leave Cleveland and I am glad he did!

  22. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    Go Heat!! Beat all the hatersssss

  23. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    “Magic is such a tool.”
    Magic has done as much good out of the NBA as anyone has – and he is one of the marquee players to have ever played the game. But, a tool? I think that only Miami Heat fans (Or, zealous LBJ fans) would be the only ones to claim that. Stay classy Miami.

  24. Jim C. - Jul 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Idiotic article.
    So, Magic, having never playing a minute of NBA ball in his life and NOT having spent seven full years billing himself as the “Chosen One” or “King Magic” and saying that if he had a choice between playing with a marquee center or spending another year in college if option B is being drafted by the then NBA equivalent of the Clippers is the equivalent of…
    …a two time MVP leaving the team that TWO YEARS IN A ROW had the league’s best record just because he wants to take the route of lease resistance is at all equivalent is a load of horse droppings.
    The Cavs surrounded Lebron with enough talent to win. They had the best record in the league two years in a row. You don’t get that if you don’t have a talented roster now matter how good you are. One year, the Cavs ran into a really bad matchup against Orlando and despite Lebron’s amazing efforts they lost.
    Cleveland management responded by getting Shaq to matchup against Dwight Howard and then further doing a deal at the deadline to get a bonafide all-star (if slightly old) Antawn Jamison. The next year, he either quit or was injured depending on your interpretation of him.
    The Cavs gave Lebron what he needed to win. He basically couldn’t get it done. This is ALL on Lebron. PERIOD.
    And frankly, that’s not what I’m mad about. I have no issues with him deciding he needed even more help. The issue I have is the vast delta between what he has marketed himself as, even to the point of how he went about announcing his decision, and what his decision actually says about him as a player. And THAT is what folks like MJ and Magic have complaints over.
    You want to say you are THE MAN? You want to be the “Chosen One”, the “King” and wear MICHAEL FREAKING JORDAN’S NUMBER? Okay. That’s fine. But those are the expectations that Lebron freaking James set FOR HIMSELF. And if you can’t meet those expectations, or you don’t want the pressure that comes with it, then you don’t get to act like the future greatest player ever.
    You sure as effing **** don’t do an hour long “ode to me!” special announcing how amazing you are as you publicly stab your franchise in the back and scream for help.
    And then you do NOT get to continue to market yourself as the face of the entire freaking league after deciding you needed to assemble a roster that looks like it was constructed via a video game cheat code in order to win.

  25. Jim C. - Jul 22, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    Idiotic article.
    So, Magic, having never playing a minute of NBA ball in his life and NOT having spent seven full years billing himself as the “Chosen One” or “King Magic” and saying that if he had a choice between playing with a marquee center or spending another year in college if option B is being drafted by the then NBA equivalent of the Clippers is the equivalent of…
    …a two time MVP leaving the team that TWO YEARS IN A ROW had the league’s best record just because he wants to take the route of lease resistance is at all equivalent is a load of horse droppings.
    The Cavs surrounded Lebron with enough talent to win. They had the best record in the league two years in a row. You don’t get that if you don’t have a talented roster now matter how good you are. One year, the Cavs ran into a really bad matchup against Orlando and despite Lebron’s amazing efforts they lost.
    Cleveland management responded by getting Shaq to matchup against Dwight Howard and then further doing a deal at the deadline to get a bonafide all-star (if slightly old) Antawn Jamison. The next year, he either quit or was injured depending on your interpretation of him.
    The Cavs gave Lebron what he needed to win. He basically couldn’t get it done. This is ALL on Lebron. PERIOD.
    And frankly, that’s not what I’m mad about. I have no issues with him deciding he needed even more help. The issue I have is the vast delta between what he has marketed himself as, even to the point of how he went about announcing his decision, and what his decision actually says about him as a player. And THAT is what folks like MJ and Magic have complaints over.
    You want to say you are THE MAN? You want to be the “Chosen One”, the “King” and wear MICHAEL FREAKING JORDAN’S NUMBER? Okay. That’s fine. But those are the expectations that Lebron freaking James set FOR HIMSELF. And if you can’t meet those expectations, or you don’t want the pressure that comes with it, then you don’t get to act like the future greatest player ever.
    You sure as effing **** don’t do an hour long “ode to me!” special announcing how amazing you are as you publicly stab your franchise in the back and scream for help.
    And then you do NOT get to continue to market yourself as the face of the entire freaking league after deciding you needed to assemble a roster that looks like it was constructed via a video game cheat code in order to win.

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