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ISSUE 116 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/4/2002

Inside the Lines

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor


Friday, October 4, 2002

His greatness has been lost on a generation that grew up in the age of ‘His Airness.’ For a culture that has become intoxicated by the Jordan mystic, his brilliance is now a fading memory.

But for those who witnessed the 6-foot-9 point guard play, he can never be overshadowed. He was an aberration, an oddity the likes of which basketball has never seen since. His combination of power and finesse, of strength and agility, of unparalleled court vision and breathtaking play-making ability simply made him…Magic.

As the charismatic star of ‘Showtime,’ Earvin “Magic” Johnson had a knack for the spotlight. His thousand-watt smile and epic rivalry with Celtic great, Larry Bird, placed him in the epicenter of basketball’s Golden Age during the 1980’s. His downfall came, however, with the shocking announcement of his contraction of the HIV virus in 1991, turning him into the likeness of a flawed hero in a Greek tragedy. The scandal of Johnson’s disease has taken the luster off his legacy in the public’s eye, but it can’t lessen his on-court accomplishments. Five championship rings grace his fingers; three league MVP titles and three Finals MVP trophies sit upon his mantle. Yet these adornments tell only half of Magic’s unprecedented ability. To basketball purists, Magic represents the finest that the game has ever produced, playing the game with a fundamental soundness and a flare for the dramatic. Whether you were a Laker lover or a Laker hater, it did not matter. If you were a lover of basketball you couldn’t tear your eyes away from number 32. Magic had a way of making the impossible become a reality on the basketball court. Armed with a ball in his hands, Magic shredded defenses with slicing passes, showing a daring creativity like no other player has ever done. His knowledge of the game put him head-and-shoulders above the mere mortals with whom he shared the court. Jordan is rightfully regarded as the best skilled individual to ever play the game, but Magic’s unselfish greatness constitutes him as the best team player the game has ever produced. No one did more for his teammates than Magic. He could lift a team to new heights, not only with his superior talent but also by supplying his teammates with the same unwavering confidence, fiery competitiveness, and intense passion that he possessed. Last weekend Magic entered the sacred shrine of basketball’s Hall-of-Fame. A plaque commemorating his 15-year career now hangs alongside the pantheons of past talents. Magic has arrived at the promised land that every professional athlete seeks. There is a resting place for his greatness. Others who are perceived to be greater are bound to follow, but none will be as magical. As basketball’s faithful keep vigil, ever waiting for a successor to claim the "Air’s" throne, here will remain one heart hoping not for the empty talents of a high-flying superstar, but for a player with Johnson’s same eloquence and artistry…for another Magic ride.





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