Jay C. Brandriet
I was starting to gather a list of the 40 greatest NBA players of the 1990’s. Initially I looked past Earvin “Magic” Johnson. It makes sense, right? We think of Magic as an “80’s guy.” He was the player of the decade, as his Lakers won five world titles.
Consider that Earvin stepped away from the NBA November 7th, 1991.
It’s amazing how much he got done in the 1990’s.
In his first season without Kareem, Magic’s Lakers won 63 games. They lost in round two.
The following year?
To close out the West Finals versus Portland, Magic pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Up one point, Johnson grabbed the defensive rebound with 3.5 seconds left. He threw the ball backwards, over his shoulders. The basketball dribbled out the rest of the Trail Blazers season.
Leading L.A. to the 1991 NBA Finals, could be Johnson’s most underrated accomplishment.
This 58-24 team was obviously very good. It was the least talented roster he led to the championship round.
The Lakers lost to the Chicago Bulls, four games to one.
It’s true Michael Jordan hadn’t just wiped out the best version of showtime.
However, the Magic he took the torch from was in top form.
AWARDS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Johnson was the first league MVP of the nineties (1989-90).
He was the runner up in 1990-91.
He was named to the All-NBA first team in both of those campaigns.
Magic participated in three All-Star games, and was named the MVP in two of them.
In his two full seasons in the nineties, he led the NBA in triple doubles.
Magic’s ability to shoot was blossoming.
He was a 90% foul shooter in the decade.
In 1989-90 he was 5th in three pointers made, and 18th in accuracy (38.4%).
Three playoff games scoring over 40 plus points.
Three more with 20 plus assists, in 1991 alone.
Not bad for making a pit stop in this time period.
A FEEL FOR THE BIG MOMENT
This was a unique situation. A retired Johnson was voted to be included as a 1992 All-Star. There was an intense focus on him. Earning the day’s Most Valuable Player award (25 points (9-12 shooting), 9 assists, 5 rebounds) was cool. The way this fourth quarter ended was cooler. He had consecutive stops, going one on one with Isiah, and Jordan. In dramatic fashion, Magic hit three straight threes to finish things off.
DON’T FORGET THIS
Earvin will always be a starter on the group that globalized basketball….The 1992 Dream Team.
THE MID NINETIES COMEBACK
Number 32 made a brief return.
His first night back is what stands out.
January 30th, 1996. Golden State Warriors at the Los Angeles Lakers. After four years and nine months, Magic was competing in a regular season game.
He had a clean 19/10/8, in a Lakers victory.
The memorable moment was him faking Latrell Sprewell out of his jock.
Earvin delivered that familiar spark of Magic, a few more times.
Does this 6’9″ point guard deserve to be called one of the 2o greatest players of the 1990’s?
That’s probably a stretch, based on lack of time played.
That said, he’s a lock to be in my top 40.
Magic had a sneaky good impact in the 1990’s.
Jay C. Brandriet