The ﬁrst time that I saw Magic Johnson play basketball was in the televised game between Michigan State and Indiana State Universities. It was the most anticipated game of the year, since it featured two of of the brightest stars in the collegiate world. Magic Johnson was playing for Michigan State opposite Larry Bird, who was playing for Indiana State.
If I recall correctly, both teams were undefeated at that time. My friends and I left work early, since the games were being televised locally at 5 PM. We settled down to watch the contest. It was more exciting than we could have expected. Magic Johnson was the ﬁrst basketball star that I had ever seen, who preferred to pass the ball to one of his teammates, so that they could score. Unbelievable!
He could look in one direction, then throw the ball in another. It was if he had eyes in the back of his head. He could also throw the ball in the direction of the hoop, and one of his teammates could catch it, and simultaneously score with it. Later, when he replicated that with the Lakers Michael Cooper, it was called “Coop-A-Loop”.
His opponent, Larry Bird, was as tough as an old piece of rawhide and he was a scoring machine. Make no mistake about it, at that time Larry Bird was a real bad dude!. However, in the end, Magic’s team won that game, and he established himself as the Nation’s Premier Basketball Player. The Lakers, under the leadership of the brilliant Jerry Buss, had the ﬁ rst draft choice that year and they used it to select the Magic Man.
He brought us Showtime and multiple championships. The fans here loved both his style and his smile. Since then, he has started and run many successful businesses, but his relationship with the Lakers always seemed to have his highest priority. That relationship seemed to continue even after the death of Dr. Buss. When he was alive, he had given Magic a 25 year contract. The details of that deal were not clear, but it was an indication that Dr. Jerry Buss was extremely fond of Magic Johnson.
Without Dr. Buss, and later without Jerry West, the once proud Los Angeles Lakers became just another bottom feeding team. Various Buss family members tried to run the team, but they all failed. In their desperation, they brought in Magic Johnson to try to right the ship. Jeannie Buss selected him to be president of the Lakers, and Rob Pelinka was chosen to be his vice president.
Magic recently shocked and saddened the majority of the Lakers fans when he suddenly resigned. He said, among other things that “Pelinka had stabbed him in the back”. So, as it was with Caesar, Magic was ﬁnished. In life, there are many things that you may or may not know. However, if you are unfortunate enough to be stabbed in the back, then you will immediately know it without any question.
The irony here is that the Lakers may have unintentionally done Magic a big favor. The Buss family members are hopelessly confused. They do have LeBron James under contract, but in addition to being one of the best basketball players in the world, he is also a consummate businessman. If he feels that this new Lakers management team is not capable of producing winners, then he is likely to force them to immediately trade him to another team. In addition, and while he is with them, he will keep his back to the wall.
[John Randolph Rogers/Sports Editor, Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley Journal News. Email: Journal@ PasadenaJpurnal.com, Jorrogers@aol.com]