Posts Tagged ‘Magic Johnson’


Of all the worthless ways to spend time on Twitter, few are as pointless as when I engage the site’s search function and seek out people who believe there are basketball players who were, or now are, better passers than Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Whenever Lebron James pulls off a fancy assist someone claims he’s a better passer than Magic. Not surprisingly some say Pistol Pete Maravich was a superior disher. Jason Williams fans still champion their king of the elbow pass. Even Ben Simmons supporters believe that one day, the former LSU product will prove superior to Magic as a passer.

On some level, I understand it’s senseless to get upset or annoyed over any of these opinions from strangers. And yet, each time I torture myself by searching out these beliefs I want to no-look-pass my computer across the living room.

There’s never been a better passer than Magic Johnson. Not LeBron, not Pistol, not White Chocolate, not John Stockton, not Larry Bird, not Chris Paul, not Bob Cousy, not Steve Nash, not Jason Kidd, not anyone. It’s ultimately all subjective, of course, but in the same way a consensus has formed around the idea Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter of all-time — despite that being an equally abstract title — any list about the best passer in the game’s history should always start with Magic.

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Forget about this current NBA draft, the real one. It’s a bunch of guys you watched for a year or have never heard of and the most excited people are South Dakotans and St. Cloud residents eager to see one of their own picked late in the first round or early in the second. We won’t know who’s good for a year or two and there’s no guarantee any of them will be great.

Instead, let’s visit an alternative universe. The bad suits remain, and David Stern will again announce every selection. We’re holding it in New York and people will boo. Who’s eligible? Everyone. Everyone who’s ever played in the NBA. When teams are considering who to take, they should evaluate the player’s entire career. So yes Bill Walton will be injury-prone. Yes, Magic retires after 12 seasons. Does Michael Jordan go first or do you go with a big man, the type of strategy that didn’t work for the Blazers in 1984 but has been great throughout NBA history — unless you want to argue against the resumes of Russell, Wilt, Kareem, and Duncan. Do older guys make the cut? In this fake world the teams — with their new legends — will play with their current guys (yes, things will get confusing). Could Mikan dominate or even compete?

Draft order was easy. No lottery, no conspiracies, unless teams have been tanking for 50 years in order to pick first. Worst all-time winning percentage picks first and on down the line. That means the Charlotte Bobcats own the first pick, the Lakers the last.  And these percentages take into account all of the teams that make up a franchise — the Brooklyn Nets’ record includes the New Jersey days, the Thunder were the Sonics and the Kings have been a well-traveled franchise.

And it looks like David Stern is making his way to the podium…

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That dude wearing a Golden State Warriors jersey is super psyched right now because the Miami Heat on Thursday night defended their NBA crown by besting the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of The Finals.

Oy. Neither TV nor Fury really want to relive it given our proclivity for hating the Heat, but … we’re going to discuss it anyway. Because we’re pros like that.

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The Fury household in Janesville always holds some surprises. Old science papers, bizarre medical books, magazines that are a century old, records with Cheech & Chong skits that my parents pretend they never listened to.

On my current trip I discovered another relic — and another example of my nonexistent art skills. In my old bedroom, sitting under some printing paper and scrap paper — which was underneath a red clothes hanger — was a scrapbook I created in 1987 and finished in 1991. It was my Lakers scrapbook and contained clippings that heralded their 1987 title and run through the 1989 playoffs. It ends in 1991 because Magic Johnson’s career ended in 1991.

But let’s start at the beginning.

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Editor’s note: The first in an ongoing series (well, hopefully) that will look at the final games of sports legends. Everyone remembers their careers and great moments but the end is usually mundane, forgettable, if not difficult to watch. The player is usually slower, tired and well past their prime. Their whole careers — and most of their lives — have been spent practicing or playing games. All those passes and free throws and catches and hits and pitches. And then, finally, it’s over. There’s one last basket, one last touchdown, one last game. It ends. It’s not the most memorable chapter in their careers but it is an important one — because it’s the final one. Today: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood above everyone else from the time he stepped onto a basketball court as an unusually tall Manhattan schoolboy. He was the best high school player in the country, perhaps the greatest college basketball player ever (depending on your views of Bill Walton) and the most prolific scorer in NBA history. He dominated from his days at Power Memorial in New York to his legendary first game on the UCLA freshmen team, when he led the first-year players to a rout over the varsity Bruins, who happened to be the defending national champs. He arrived in Milwaukee and led the Bucks to a title in his second year. He won five championships with the Lakers and even at the age of 38 he won the Finals MVP in a six-game victory over the Celtics in 1985. At 39, he was voted first-team all-NBA, in a league that included a young Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. In 1987 — now 40 but looking fierce with a newly shaved head — he scored 32 points in the clinching Game 6 of the Finals. The next year, as the Lakers saw their attempt at becoming the first repeat champion since Russell’s Celtics slipping away in the final seconds of Game 6 against the Pistons, the Lakers dumped the ball to him on the right block as they trailed by 1. Kareem went up for the hook for the millionth time in his life, drew a questionable foul on Bill Laimbeer and drained the two free throws. They repeated in Game 7. He was always The Man, from the time he was a boy until he was the oldest man in the league.

Then came the 1989 season.

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Ricky Rubio’s made three more jump shots than I have this season, and his team remains below-average. He’s still recovering from his torn ACL, and it might not be until next season when he’s back to feeling fully comfortable on the court.

But he remains one of my favorite players to watch in the league. It remains thrilling to watch Rubio with the ball in his hands because you never know how he’s going to get it in the hands of a teammate. He’s fundamentally sound so it could be a simple chest pass to a man beyond the 3-point line. Just as likely? Rubio will effortlessly flick an alley-oop pass or bounce a pass between his legs — or an opponent’s — for an easy layup. Sunday against Golden State — in another one of those frustrating Wolves losses that sees them break out to a double-digit lead before giving it up and falling short in the fourth quarter — Rubio had numerous highlight-reel passes, the types of plays that lift you off the couch or have you saying “wow” in an empty apartment.

Rubio provides nightly reminders that in a game of jumpers, dunks, steals and blocks there’s still nothing that captures the beauty of the game like a perfect pass.

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Talk bad about Minnesota.

Belittle Janesville.

Make jokes about Hay Daze and the Doll in the Window.

Ridicule Saint John’s football. (Actually, no, don’t do that one. I’ll weep).

I can take a lot. But warning to former NBA players, current NBA writers, old NBA broadcasters and young NBA bloggers: Do not ridicule Magic Johnson’s playing career.

To be more accurate, don’t ridicule Magic’s playing ability while completely misrepresenting reality. Don’t be Clyde Drexler.

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Time to watch The Tapes, our weekly review of stories that are worth your time:

* The self-promotion department asked that we bring your attention to the piece that TV wrote about Tim Miles, small-town South Dakotan turned Big Ten basketball coach. We’re not sure if Big Red will turn things around or not, but it won’t lack for personality. Miles is as charasmatic as they get.

* The Jerry Sandusky trial began this week. And we already can’t wait for it to end. The details are brutal, especially when coming from the alleged victims on the stand. Yes, this is America and everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but we think that, if found guilty, Sandusky should be brought up on additional charges for making people relive the alleged crimes. Of course, no decent person would commit these sort of alleged crimes to begin with, so for us to ask that he act reasonably and fess up in order to prevent further pain and suffering is non-sensical.
If you can stomach the coverage, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! has been all over the trial.

* It was (another) depressing week in journalism, as three Southern papers announced debilitating cuts. A former New Orleans reporter gave her account on cut day based on what went on in the newsroom.
TV got a very, very small taste of this during his trip to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association awards weekend. He met a writer from Alabama. the reigning state sportswriter of the year. What’s his beat? He’s not sure anymore. The cuts caught everyone off guard in Birmingham. He traveled to North Carolina with his two children, and had no idea what to expect upon returning to work. This is the uncertainty facing even some of the finest in our field on a daily basis.

* NBA TV premiered an outstanding documentary about the 1992 Dream Team and you should definitely check it out if your cable provider has the channel. If they don’t, write a letter. Meanwhile, GQ had an oral history of the team. And next month, longtime SI writer Jack McCallum has a book coming out on the squad. My one quibble with one Dream Team member. Everyone knows Michael Jordan went to extremes to find motivation — witness his bizarre and uncomfortable Hall of Fame speech – but there’s a ridiculous statement in the documentary. Jordan says that as the Dream Team gathered, there were still many people saying, yeah, Jordan’s good, but he’ll never be Magic Johnson. No one was saying this in 1992. Magic had retired the year before and Jordan had just won two straight titles. People were already talking about him being the best ever. MJ used it as motivation as he battled Magic for alpha dog status, but I wanted my complaint noted.

* This piece is a few weeks old but I really enjoyed it and in light of the Rome-Stern conspiracy throwdown, worth a link. Patrick Hruby goes inside the world of sports conspiracy theorists. From the 1985 NBA Lottery to Game 6 of the 2002 to Super Bowl III.


What am I thankful for? That Thanksgiving is over. Not to sound like a Scrooge or anything, but it’s sort of an overrated holiday – especially the food. If I could choose any food on which to center a feast, turkey – even the fried kind – would be no higher than eighth.

Plus, I’m bitter that my attempts to start a new holiday joke – pretending to confuse tryptophan (the stuff in turkey that makes you sleepy) with propofol (the sleeping drug linked to Michael Jackson’s death) – were rebuffed. Come on, man!

Now, The Tapes …

* No, I did not partake in any early morning shopping on this blackest of Fridays. But I thought about it. Why? Because the madness started at midnight this year, and I’m usually awake then, anyway. In fact, that’s when I do most of my grocery shopping. It’s not as terrible as you might think, although there are usually a few assorted characters either shopping or working at those times.
In case you do plan to partake, here’s Yahoo’s list of the best deals of the day.

Nothing says Merry Christmas like running over chumps at 5 a.m. to buy a new gun.

* The story of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky continues to grow more sordid as new allegations have come out. There’s so much coverage that it’s hard to sift through. So let me help: This timeline – yes, timeline – offers new insight and helps organize some of what has gone on in chronological order. It’s an effective use of non-linear journalism.
Plus, it proves that I do occasionally read stories that are more than 15 inches long and devoid of drawings.

* And now let’s restore some normalcy by linking to a bit about Kelly Osbourne throwing a raging birthday party – replete with unicorn – for her new BFF and fellow second-generation star Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus. I hope – nay, demand – my daughters grow up to be just like them.

* Fury here. If you missed Patrick Reusse’s annual, beloved Turkey of the Year column, here you go. I’ll admit, the inclusion of a certain football coach at St. John’s stung. The winner’s a bit of an upset.

* New York Magazine put together a couple of insane packages on Saturday Night Live. They watched every episode since 1975 – 7,798 sketches – for a research project that took more than a year. They figured out the 25 most repeated characters on the show and present it in slideshow form. The magazine also tried figuring out the most original season. In other words, when did they rely the least on recurring characters. Here’s the PDF with the results.

* I’m going to share perhaps my favorite YouTube video of all time, which just happens to also be a piece of Lakers propaganda. This is a mix put together by a guy who goes by the moniker nonplayerzealot. He’s a Lakers fan I’ve emailed with occasionally and he has an amazing collection of old Lakers games. He took those, sifted through them, and edited the following video, which is the definitive Magic Johnson mix on the Internet (that praise can be on the poster). And it all has the original broadcasts from Chick Hearn. For too long, fans of 1980s basketball have only been able to see the same Magic highlights we’ve seen so often through the years. Some of those are here – like the famous winning shots against the Celtics. But many of these have never been online before.

It’s a long video. But it’s 15 minutes of basketball perfection, especially the first eight or nine minutes, which include his best passes.