Magic Johnson: Hoops Wizard

By: Nathan Chandler
Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

With his dazzling smile and equally brilliant on-court performance, Magic Johnson took the NBA and the entire country by storm. How much do you know about this Lakers basketball magician?

Magic Johnson played his entire NBA career with the L.A. Lakers.

It's true. The Lakers picked Johnson in the NBA draft, and he was with the team for his entire professional career. The partnership worked out very, very well.

For which college team did Johnson play?

Magic was a Spartan; he played for Michigan State. He played college ball for just two years.

Johnson really didn't intend to play professional basketball. When he started college, he wanted to pursue which career?

Johnson has a dynamic and engaging personality. He wanted to study communications, with the ultimate goal of becoming an on-air TV commentator. Since his NBA career, he's been a part of many TV broadcasts.

What's Magic's real first name?

He is Earvin "Magic" Johnson. But his nickname has, for all real purposes, become his real name.

How did Magic get his nickname?

After one particularly phenomenal high school performance, a local journalist called him "magic." The name stuck, even though Johnson's mother wasn't particularly fond of it.

Johnson was the overall No. 1 pick of the 1979 NBA draft.

After just two years of college basketball, Johnson proved himself capable of spectacular performances. He was the No. 1 pick in the entire draft in spite of his limited university experience.

Johnson played in the 1979 NCAA championship game. He faced off against what other future NBA star?

The Spartans faced off against Indiana State, which was led by an awkward-looking guy named Larry Bird. Michigan State won the game, and it was just the beginning of a legendary sports rivalry.

How did the Lakers fare during Magic's rookie season in 1980?

In his very first season, the Lakers made it all the way to the Finals. There, they played against megastar Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers.

During Game 6 of the 1980 Finals, Magic unexpectedly had to play which position?

The Lakers' star center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was injured. The situation was dire, forcing the 6-foot 9-inch tall Johnson to play a position normally reserved for taller players. Abdul-Jabbar, for comparison, is 7 feet 2 inches tall.

Johnson was forced to play center intermittently during that memorable Game 6. How did the Lakers do?

Magic was on fire. He played all over the floor -- including center -- en route to 42 points. The Lakers won the game and the NBA title, and Johnson became the only rookie ever to win Finals MVP.

Johnson missed much of the 1980-81 season for what reason?

As the early season unfolded Magic suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him for more than 40 games. He finally returned, but to no avail -- the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs.

During his days with the Lakers, Johnson was a dynamic scorer. What was his best season average for points per game?

In terms of points per game average, his best season was 1986-87, when he averaged 23.9 points per game. That same season, Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game.

In 1981 and 1982, Johnson led the NBA in which statistical category?

Magic is famous for his offensive playmaking ability, but he was wily on defense, too. He led the league in steals in both 1981 and 1982.

Johnson played 13 seasons in the NBA. How many times did he reach the NBA Finals?

Talk about being spoiled with success. Most players never make it to the Finals even once. Johnson led his team to an incredible nine Finals appearances.

Magic's jersey number is iconic. What number did he wear?

For the duration of his career, Johnson wore No. 32. Michael Jordan, of course, made No. 23 even more famous.

Johnson was a master of helping other players score. How many seasons did he lead the NBA in assists?

In five of his 13 seasons, he led the league in assists. He's still the all-time postseason assists leader.

Which team did Johnson and the Lakers beat in the 1988 Finals?

The Lakers clashed with the Detroit Pistons in the '88 Finals. The Pistons pushed the Lakers to a seventh and final winner-take-all game.

The Lakers won the 1988 Finals against the Pistons. By how many points did they win that fateful Game 7?

The Lakers squeaked out a three-point win to seal their championship. It turned out to be the last championship of Magic's magical career.

At the end of the 1991 season, the Lakers again made it to the Finals thanks in large part to Magic's leadership. Which team did they play?

Magic and the Lakers squared off against Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The aging Johnson couldn't will his team to victory. The Bulls pummeled the Lakers in a lopsided 4-1 series.

In 1991, Johnson called a press conference to make what announcement?

Johnson announced that he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He immediately retired from professional basketball to get a handle on his health.

Before the 1992 season, Johnson decided to return to the NBA. Then what happened?

Johnson retired, un-retired and then immediately retired again because active players were worried that they might catch the virus from him during a game.

Johnson gave up the NBA but opted to play for the Olympic "Dream Team" in spite of his HIV status. How did fans receive Johnson?

In the early 90s, HIV was even scarier than it was now, and there were many misconceptions about the disease. But Olympics fans never wavered. When Johnson stepped onto the floor to chase the gold medal, they cheered.

In 1994, Johnson returned to the Lakers in what capacity?

Johnson loved the Lakers and wanted to be a part of the team. In 1994 he returned as head coach. He coached fewer than 20 games, and the team lost 10 consecutive games during that span.

In 1996, a restless Johnson decided that he was going to play again, no matter what other players said. How old was he at that point?

At the age of 36, and infected with HIV, Johnson mounted a final comeback. He rejoined his team hoping to help them win a championship.

After the layoff of several years, how did Johnson perform on the court?

They call him "Magic" for a reason. Johnson averaged double-digit scoring and helped the Lakers win 22 games. The team eventually lost to Houston in the playoffs and Johnson retired for good.

Johnson's first season was 1979-80. When did he meet Larry Bird for the first time in the Finals?

Four years into his NBA career, Johnson faced off with his Boston rival in the Finals. The Celtics won the series in a wild seven-game series.

Johnson announced his HIV-positive status in 1991. He later revealed that he is a homosexual.

After his HIV announcement, the nasty rumors started, including one that twisted his sexual identity. Magic is heterosexual.

How many NBA championship rings does Magic own?

Magic played 13 seasons in the NBA. During that time, he appeared in the Finals nine times … and he won five titles.

Magic led the Lakers to five NBA titles. How many times was he named Finals MVP?

Johnson shared the floor with some other terrific Lakers players, but in the biggest games, he was extraordinary. He won the MVP in three of his five Finals appearances.

Johnson made his No. 32 jersey famous during his Lakers days. What number did he wear in college?

He wore No. 33 at Michigan State. Coincidentally, 33 was Larry Bird's number when he played for the Celtics.

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