Another Assist From The Second Greatest Basketball Player Of All Time
Partisanship doesn’t allow me to call Earvin “Magic” Johnson the greatest basketball player of all time, but he certainly was the most unique talent of his day. At 6-foot-9, he was built like a power forward, yet he was easily the best and most exciting point guard of the 1980s and ’90s. Or maybe any decade. He won five NBA titles; was named the Finals MVP three times and the league’s MVP another three; was a twelve-time All Star; and, among other things, was the NBA’s assist leader four times.
More than all that, along with Larry Bird, who also entered the NBA in 1979, and Michael Jordan, who came in a few years later, Magic Johnson breathed life into a league that had become the pro-wrestling of major sports. And he did by doing the simplest thing possible: By actually playing basketball. As in, playing offense and defense; hustling at both ends of the court, and in between; by going after rebounds; by making free throws … by playing the entire game, not just the showy aspects of it; by doing the unglamorous things that don’t make you a star by actually help your team win games.
And, perhaps most famously, Magic Johnson made an art form of the simple assist, which might be his greatest legacy. As a lawyer friend of mine said – a Bostonian, by the way, and a rabid sports fan, as if there’s a difference – Magic Johnson made everybody on the court better, and that’s why he deserved all those MVP awards. That, coming from a person who bleeds Celtic green, means something.
That was what made Magic Johnson great: He was one of the biggest sport stars of his day, but his claim to fame was elevating everyone else around him.
It turns out, Magic Johnson is much the same in his personal life. From Huffington Post:
Magic Johnson’s gay son is going public with his romance.
Earvin Johnson III, one of Magic’s three children, stepped out hand-in-hand with his unidentified boyfriend on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip on Monday night, TMZ reports.
Although this is reportedly the first time Earvin, also known as EJ, and his boyfriend have been seen together publicly, there is nothing to suggest that he was not open about his sexuality prior to this.
EJ is a 20-year-old student at New York University and Magic and his wife, Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly, couldn’t be prouder of him. “Cookie and I love EJ and support him in every way,” Magic told TMZ. “We’re very proud of him.”
When Magic revealed he was HIV-positive in 1991, rumors about his sexuality arose. Instead of recoiling from the spotlight and the speculation, the former Los Angeles Lakers player used his celebrity to spread awareness and tolerance.
Back in 2008, Magic opposed California’s Proposition 8 – a clause that banned same-sex marriage in the state.
“Prop 8 singles out one group of Californians to be treated differently – including members of our family, our friends, and our coworkers,” he said in a recorded telephone message sent to California voters. “That is not what California is about. So this Tuesday, vote no on Proposition 8. It is unfair and wrong. Thanks.”
That right there? That’s a great, big man. And I’m not referring to the fact that he was oversized for his position.
Nice assist, Magic.
But (ahem) I’m not going to let you off the hook without reminding you of … Eddie Johnson and The Shot:
Hey, man. Once a partisan always a partisan. That’s okay; my Illini may have beaten Magic Johnson’s then-undefeated and No. 1 ranked Michigan State Spartans that night, but MSU went on to win the NCAA tournament that year. So, Magic had the last laugh.
I guess, given the kind of man he turned out to be, I can’t begrudge him that.