March 14, 2010
Video: Magic Johnson - The greatest invidual performance ever
This game goes down in basketball and NBA myth, spoken in reverence amongst hoops fans over the past 30 years. There has never been a single invidual performance in a basketball game like the one Earvin "Magic" Johnson produced on May 16, 1980. It was only Magic's rookie year, and he played his greatest game ever. The Lakers had league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had led them into the finals along with the help of Magic. In the finals, the Lakers faced off against the 76ers, led by 'Dr J.' Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins.
Lakers took a 3-2 lead in the first five games of the NBA finals, but Kareem hurt his ankle in Game 5, and the series was returning to Philadelphia without him. It was at this point that the rookie Magic, a natural point guard, stepped up to start at Centre and play ALL FIVE POSITIONS in the game, finishing with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. The Lakers won the game 123-107 and became the 1979-80 NBA champions. Magic won the finals MVP, and proceeded to win four more NBA championships.
He's the first (and only) rookie to have won Finals MVP - Magic at 6'9" was a freak of nature, capable of doing things few others could. I was inspired to look up this video and write this article when I read the SLAM article "Which MJ was the Greatest?" by Vincent Thomas. Now, Thomas wasn't able to convince me that Magic was better than Michael, but he does put up a compelling argument. Magic to me was the second best basketball player of all time, and on that May night nearly 30 years ago, he put up a show that no one else could ever match.
I rate this game greater than Wilt's 100, Kobe's 81, Jordan's 63 against the Celtics, or any other performance ever. Not only was this the championship clinching game, Magic was also only a rookie, and did I say that he played FIVE positions?
What do you think this was the greatest individual performance ever?