Top 10 Shocking Moments From They Call Me Magic

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Top 10 Shocking Moments From They Call Me Magic

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Pavlo Tull
This athlete certainly did leave his mark on history. For this list, we'll be looking at events that were surprising or unexpected as revealed in the Apple TV+ documentary centered around the life and playing career of NBA basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Do you still believe in Magic? Let us know in the comments.
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Top10 Shocking Moments From They Call Me Magic

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shocking Moments From They Call Me Magic.

For this list, we’ll be looking at events that were surprising or unexpected as revealed in the Apple TV+ documentary centered around the life and playing career of NBA basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Do you still believe in Magic? Let us know in the comments.

#10: A Coin Toss


A team having the number 1 draft pick is a pretty big deal as you get first dibs on up and coming prospects such as Magic Johnson in the 1979 draft. While most NBA fans are familiar with the lottery system in place that’s used to determine which team gets the coveted first pick, back in the ‘70s it didn’t quite work that way. The two worst teams of each conference would face off with a simple coin toss. The Los Angeles Lakers (who acquired their pick from the Jazz) won the toss against the Chicago Bulls and selected Johnson with their pick. It’s impossible to envision the Lakers without Magic, but a simple heads or tails could have changed everything.

#9: Magic Makes His Mark Early


Being the number one overall pick comes with a lot of praise and recognition but it also comes with the pressure to perform. There was no question about his talent given that he just came off winning a NCAA championship with Michigan State over rival Larry Bird but people wondered if he could perform at an NBA level. While Johnson was able to hold his own during the course of his rookie season, it helped that played with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the all-time NBA greats. Having reached the NBA finals that year, Abdul-Jabbar went down with an injury but Magic was able to take reins and guide the Lakers to victory, becoming the only rookie to win Finals MVP in the process.

#8: Big Money Leads to Big Tension


Anytime a player makes positive contributions to their team, they increase their value, not just in terms of winning but also monetarily. Lakers owner Jerry Buss decided to go all in on Magic by making him the highest paid player in sports history with a massive 25 year contract worth $25 million. Understandably this upset a few of his teammates. Additionally, a rift had formed between head coach Paul Westhead and Magic over the direction of the team leading to Johnson requesting a trade. Westhead was fired as a result and, although it’s hard to imagine, fans were not happy with Magic even going so far as to boo him during games. As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, mo’ money, mo’ problems.

#7: Racial Injustice


As the game of basketball expands globally, the NBA has generated some of the most internationally recognized sports stars such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James. This wasn’t always the case as around the time Magic Johnson joined the NBA it was uncertain whether it would still exist within five years. Part of the issue was due to how American society responded to having a professional sports league composed primarily of black players. Even later on in Magic’s career during the epic NBA Finals showdowns between the Boston Celtics and Lakers, fans were divided along racial lines. Since that time the NBA has grown rapidly and NBA players make their voices heard on issues of racial injustice.

#6: From Tragic Back to Magic


A significant hurdle for the Lakers was overcoming the Boston Celtics. Sure, since Magic had joined the team they had won 2 championships in 3 years but the Celtics were a force to be reckoned with. In their prior 7 meetings in the finals, the Lakers left empty handed. When the teams met once again in the 1984 finals, the stakes were higher as rivals Larry Bird and Johnson squared off. Would the Lakers prevail? No. The Celtics continued their dominance over the Lakers and Magic was labeled ‘Tragic Magic.’ Johnson became more determined than ever to defeat Bird and the Celtics which would happen the following season. Even when down, don’t count Magic out.

#5: Magic vs Zeke


While many basketball fans may be aware of the rivalry between Magic and Bird, fewer may be aware of the one between Magic and Detroit Piston, Isiah Thomas. The pair had known each for many years and became close friends. When Johnson lost the 1984 NBA championship to the Celtics, Thomas was there to console him. This dynamic between the two would change when in 1988 the Lakers and Pistons would meet in the NBA Finals. Many of Magic’s teammates were wary of how he would play against Thomas but Johnson showed that when it came to winning, nothing would stand in his way. Thomas would have the same attitude especially after taking a forearm to head from Johnson.

#4: Magic Gets Cold Feet


When Johnson first saw eventual wife Cookie at a party he was DJing at he just knew there was something special about her and made sure to get her number. The two would eventually date but Magic was a ladies man. This didn’t work for Cookie and they broke things off but would be in regular contact. Eventually, they would reunite and Magic asked Cookie to be his wife. Just when it seemed like he was ready to settle down, he broke off their engagement. This happened a few more times until Magic spoke with his dad and Magic agreed to make it stick with Cookie. Even on their wedding day, she still wasn’t sure if Magic would show up.

#3: 1992 All Star Game MVP


When Magic Johnson announced his retirement just prior to the beginning of the 1991-92 season, it was obviously unexpected and no one had any idea if he’d be back on an NBA court ever again. Despite not having played any games, when the 1992 NBA All-Star game was coming up, Magic was ahead in All-Star fan voting. Due to his recent HIV diagnosis, there was uncertainty and controversy if he should even be allowed to participate. David Stern, NBA commissioner at the time, made sure that Johnson would be allowed to play. Even with the league’s approval, there were still some NBA players who threatened to boycott the game. In the end Johnson put on a show and walked away All-Star MVP.It was pure Magic.

#2: Magic the Businessman


Magic Johnson is so closely tied to basketball it’s easy to overlook his business acumen. After the Rodney King Riots resulted in a lot of damage to the black community of Los Angeles, Johnson knew what business he adopted, it had to make a positive impact in black communities. One of his first ventures was to develop a chain of movie theaters reasoning that movies were an affordable option for many in minority communities. He even went so far as to meet with the Bloods and Crips to ensure there would be peace around the theaters. Despite his many successful endeavors, including being part of the ownership group of the L.A. Dodgers, he never forgot about giving back to his community.

#1: HIV Diagnosis


Unwittingly, Magic Johnson had become the face of the HIV/AIDS crisis that had been going on in the United States throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The virus, of course, still affects many all over the world but at the time not much was known about it. Many viewed it as something that only affected gays and those who used intravenous narcotics. Johnson retired due to fears around his HIV status. While he did play in the All-Star game and was part of the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics, his attempts at an NBA comeback were unsuccessful due to the lingering stigma. Johnson’s continued advocacy for people with the virus greatly helped to break the silence around HIV/AIDS.
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