Without a doubt, Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players in NBA history. His unique style of play revolutionized the game of basketball, and his personal rivalry with Larry Bird spearheaded perhaps the greatest decade of NBA basketball we’ve ever seen.
That is not debatable.
What is up for discussion however, is why NBA fans are still subjected to Magic Johnson The Analyst when watching NBA basketball on ESPN, ABC, and TNT.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years watching the league as a fan, it’s that most superstar athletes (minus Chris Webber) are awful at analyzing the game they once dominated. Ever heard Reggie Miller analyze or provide color commentary for a game? That’s what I mean.
Magic, however, is my favorite analyst to listen to, simply because he provides viewers with the rare combination of cringe-worthy communication skills and dreadful analysis.
Peter “Worst HOF speech known to man” Vecsey recently wrote that “a former player finds it unreal for Magic Johnson to go an entire Finals as an ABC analyst without offering the slightest insight whatsoever”.
Of course, Magic fired back by tweeting that Vecsey was a “low man on the totem pole” (there’s a totem pole for terrible announcing?), but even Laker fans were agreeing with “The Viper” on this one.
Nevertheless, due to my on-going fascination with why/how Magic Johnson is still allowed to analyze basketball games, I scoured the web and came across numerous gems of Johnson’s on-air analysis.
In true Off The Backboard fashion, I’ve written them down verbatim for full effect, with the videos linked for added entertainment.
On Michael Jordan:
“He’s the greatest player. [...] He not only dominated on offense AND defense, but he also dominated….there will no – never – be a basketball player, and I don’t know if there will be another athlete that make as much money on the court and off the court as Michael Jordan”
According to Magic, not only did Jordan dominate on offense, not only did he dominate on defense, but he also dominated the elusive category of “I don’t know if there will be another athlete that make as much money on the court and off the court as Michael Jordan”.
Pft, Kobe Bryant can never match that.
On the Lakers ‘ Game 4 loss in the 2009 Western Semifinals:
“That was embarrassing. The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the Laker fans.”
The Lakers lost game 4 on the road to the Rockets, allowing them to tie the series at two games apiece. As a result, they embarrassed the entire organization because, to Johnson, the Lakers are insusceptible to blowouts during a second round series.
Did I mention the Lakers won the title that year?
I don’t know if Magic was trying to imply that it was embarrassing because they were blown out, or that they were blown out by the Yao-less Rockets.
I also wonder if Magic felt that the 1985 Lakers team he starred in “embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the Laker fans” when they lost 148-114 to the Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (ba-da-bam!).
On Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom’s ejections:
In Game 4. The Los Angeles Lakers. Embarrassed the organization. By getting blown out. By the Dallas Mavericks. Classless acts. On physical AND hard fouls. By Lamar Odom. And Andrew Bynum. That should have never happened. You have to show class when you — win. And you have to s-show class. When you lose. And the Lakers. Did not show class. In Game 4.
In case you’re wondering why the quote is transcribed the way it is, prepare to be delighted:
Magic’s solitary presence and grim tone amidst a stationary background make this speech feel like a State of The Union address from George Bush. Then again, the Lakers being swept while their players dish out cheap fouls is the sports equivalent of a Bill Clinton scandal for ESPN. Dramatic speeches are a must!
Some quick thoughts though:
- Did I really need Magic Johnson to clear up that Andrew Bynum elbowing J.J. Barea was“classless”? Of course I did! Before I heard Johnson’s speech, I was all like “hell yeah! Take that you shrimp!”, but thanks to Magic, I am now aware that elbowing someone less than twice your size in mid-air is a classless thing to do. Wonderful insight.
- There are apparently differences between a “physical” foul, and a “hard” foul.
We recently learned that the real reason why Magic was running out of nouns todescribe the people he believed the Lakers were embarrassing was because ESPN cut off his mic after his passionate speech above.
However, Off The Backboard managed to get an exclusive hold of Magic’s extended, uncut, post-sweep PSA regarding the Bynum/Odom fouls.
Be warned however – he found the Lakers to be very embarrassing:
The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the fans.
They embarrassed the world.
They embarrassed our planet.
They embarrassed our universe with these classless acts of physical and hard fouls.
Fouls that were physical.
Fouls that were hard.
Fouls that were fouls.
Now that’s the type of insight to make Reggie Miller jealous.