The NBA's 65th All-Star Game will take place tonight on foreign soil, in Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
Leading up to the league's midseason extravaganza, which features an astounding collection of talent headlined by Steph Curry, LeBron, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, KD, Melo, D Wade, and of course, Kobe Bryant in his farewell All-Star appearance, we've shared some of our most memorable reflections and recollections of one of American sports' premier showcases.
Today, we look at one of the greatest players and global ambassadors that the game of basketball has ever known, the inimitable Magic Johnson.
Before we dive into it, we have to set things up for those who might not be educated on just how much of a phenomenal basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson was, and why his scintillating performance in the 1992 NBA All-Star game has added a galaxy’s worth of heft to his already infinitely stellar resume.
Drafted out of Michigan State University as a sophomore with the 1st overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft after leading his team to the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship over Larry Bird's Indiana State team in the most watched game in the history of college basketball, Magic quickly became known as the NBA’s ultimate Swiss Army knife.
He had an innate ability to mesh and mold himself to fit just about any cog, crevice or fissure that may have otherwise prevented his team from winning. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Johnson could play every position on the floor with All-Star proficiency and skill.
Every time someone drools over the versatility and triple-double magnificence of LeBron James and Draymond Green, or even a no-look pass thrown by Stephen Curry, Magic comes to mind.
Rookie phenomenon? He damn near averaged a triple-double straight out the box with 18 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game! It is a sin that the circumstances surrounding his NBA Finals performance in place of an injured Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals has never been made into a film.
Heck, not even an ABC After School Special. Magic, as a rookie, carried the Lakers on his back with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists against the Philadelphia 76ers in the pivotal Game 6, but some of y’all will sit here with a straight face and claim that LeBron James is better? Stop it!!!
The mythical arc of Johnson’s career seemed to come to a tragic end when he was diagnosed with HI, and was seemingly retired from the game before the start of the 1991-1992 season. But Hollywood loves a comeback story.
Johnson was voted in by fans as a started in the 1992 NBA All-Star game.
He never lost his signature smile during these trying times. Going up against an Eastern Conference All-Star squad of all-time greats like Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Scottie Pippen, and Patrick Ewing, Johnson would turn in one of the most memorable performances in the history of the All-Star game with 25 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds.
It was not only a big deal basketball-wise, but from a human perspective as well. After hitting the game-ending shot on a three-pointer late in the game, players from both teams swarmed the court in congratulating him.
In a time when phobias and misinformation still ruled the conversation around AIDS and HIV, Magic's performance and the love he continued to get from the majority of his contemporaries showed the potential for increased understanding and love toward those afflicted with the disease in society at large.
Magic would go on to help lead the NBA's first Olympic Dream Team and walked away from the game as a five-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, three-time NBA MVP, two-time All-Star MVP, 12-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA assist leader, two-time NBA steals leader, and the NBA Rookie of the Year.
But if you needed one encapsulating moment of his brilliance, impact and effervescence, the 1992 All-Star game will suffice.