Everyone has favorites or fav's these days. Here's my fav athlete of all time-
1. Magic Johnson...greatest passer, greatest point guard, greatest winner of all time. Yes I know other athletes won more championships and others have better talent. But you have to look at his body of work. He won an NCAA championship game that set the table for the annual event we call March Madness. Michigan State vs Indiana State is one of the top three NCAA finals of all time and not due to the excitement. It set the table for Bird v Magic. Lakers v Celtics and as I mentioned, March Madness. The other 2 championship games would be NC State v Houston (Jimmy V running around looking for someone to hug) and West Texas (UTEP) v Kentucky with Coach Haskins team beating Coach Rupp's Wildcats with an all African American lineup. Back to Magic-he became one of the faces of the NBA in its heyday. He won with joy and lost with courage. And whole body of work you say...he has handled HIV as well as could imagine and his post NBA resume' is right up there with his business prowess. Now if he leads a charge for an NFL team to LA, then he will reach even higher than the stratosphere. What I remember best about Magic was his jump hook against the Celtics that won the game. The smile, the charm, the competitive desire, the courage, and the talent made him magic, but his big heart made him Ervin "Magic" Johnson.
I remember the jump hook the best but my favorite, determining Magic moment is when he announced he had HIV. I was on my way home from a conference near LAX. I actually pulled over and cried a little. Not because the Lakers would possibly begin losing, but because a true sports hero was hurting. He handled it with class and integrity or at least as much as he could. Let's understand that while we don't know all the ins and outs of his lifestyle pre announcement, we do know that he did not always use protection. Since that announcement, Magic has shown that a condition doesn't define a man, but how he responds to that condition defines him. Again, the words that come to mind are integrity, class, and with Magic-joy-always joy.
When you think of him as a basketball player there was never anyone like him before or after him. Nobody really has become Michael Jordan or possibly was like him, but when you think of MJ, you can compare Kobe, Elgin Baylor, and others. With offensive centers like Kareem, you may think Hakeem. With Wilt you think Shaq. With Bill Russell, you think Tim Duncan. LeBron falls into the Elgin Baylor category and besides neither of them won a championship. Larry Bird may be close because there was not a forward that big who could shoot and pass like him. You may think Manu, Gervin, Havlicek, Dolph Schayes, or Bob Pettit. With Magic, you can't think traditional point guard because they are too short. Big O, Oscar Robertson-I don't think so. Magic was 6'9 and played point, rebounded like a forward and could guard anyone. Remember game 6 in his rookie year when he played center against the 76ers? No one like him, ever...period.
When I watch a sporting event, I seem to always hearken back to Magic and compare whether or not the players in the games handle winning and losing like he did. He won with joy, competed with hear, and lost with integrity. Again, no one like him, ever...period. Thanks Magic.