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Lakers Moments: Magic Johnson wows Los Angeles

April 7, 2011 |  4:50 pm

Do you believe in magic?
: Lakers Earvin "Magic" Johnson drives to the basket for one of his 22 points during a victory over the Utah Jazz on January 26, 1988.

Few people have had more impact on the Lakers and the NBA than Magic Johnson, who along with the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird, is widely credited with reviving the league and setting the stage for Michael Jordan to take the game to unprecedented heights.

Using his 6-foot-9 frame and superior passing skills, Johnson directed the Lakers' "Showtime" era that dominated the NBA in the 1980s. From his rookie season in 1979-80 to his final full season (1990-91), Johnson helped the Lakers win five NBA championships and nine conference titles.

After helping Michigan State win the 1979 NCAA title (against Bird's Indiana State team), Johnson, the top pick in the draft, immediately transformed the Lakers into contenders. When the league’s most valuable player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was hurt and couldn’t play in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Philadelphia, Johnson filled in at center and had one of the greatest games in history. He scored 42 points and had 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers won their first championship since 1972. Johnson was voted MVP of the Finals, his first of three such awards.

That game showed how Johnson could control a game by scoring, but it was his ability to get teammates involved that made him the best point guard in history.

The Lakers won titles in 1982 and 1985 with Abdul-Jabbar as the No. 1 option on offense, but with Johnson as the team's leader.

Read more about Magic Johnson and his five championships in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

Join the Lakers at L.A. Times Facebook page.

-- Hans Tesselaar and Sarah Ardalani

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times