Magic Johnson Had Passing Skills

Darius Soriano —  March 12, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, the Lakers beat the Celtics. Then a bit later I watched the fantastic Magic Johsnon documentary “The Announcement” (a must watch for any basketball fan). After all that, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. So, you can only imagine how great I’m feeling after seeing that Beckley Mason (of HoopSpeak and the great Hoop Idea series at TrueHoop) posted a link to this video on twitter. It’s aptly titled, Magic Johnson – Passing Skills. Enjoy.

Darius Soriano

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to Magic Johnson Had Passing Skills

  1. he didnt make one left handed pass in this whole video. crazy how he was all righthand and people still couldnt sniff stopping him


  2. I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to make 30 ft bounce passes between 2 or 3 defenders to a moving target. And yet there were 5 or 6 passes like that in that video.


  3. Fantastic, basketbeautiful stuff.

    The pass as 2:37-2:40, while far from the most amazing in the collection, seems to be a perfect microcosm of the 80s Lakers: Kareem outlet to Magic, who passes to streaking Worthy for the finish. Memories of (aesthetic) Lakers dominance.


  4. Good post Darius. With regard to Magic, he won titles in three diffeent eras. 1) The end of the 70’s/early 80’s brand of individual basketball (think Sixers). 2) The Magic/Bird Era (the peak of the NBA and Team ball) 3) We won at the beginning of the brutal era (Pistons, Blazers, Jordan Rules).


  5. For those who were hysterical about this being a seminal moment in Lakers history, a changing of the guard, as it were, Bryant shrugged.

    “When I was younger, we had a guy named Shaquille O’Neal,” Bryant said. “We used to throw it into him every once in a while.”

    Asked if he ever suggested Shaq get the ball in the final seconds, Bryant could not resist a dig.

    “He was a little challenged at the free-throw line, so not so much,” Bryant said.

    Maybe we won’t need Kobe to decide where the ball goes if we added a certain player… Check The box below for link


  6. Half of those passes seemed to come from the 44-4 1st quarter beatdown of Sacto. We have owned them forever


  7. Best PG ever. This video demonstrates one of the things that this current Laker squad suffers from (by not doing): playing fast.

    In the video, it is almost impossible to count how many times Magic threw a bullet pass to someone in the paint, where the defender was close by, but had his head turned. Playing fast, by pushing the ball up the court and using active cutters, forces defenders to focus much more on keeping track of their man, which makes it difficult for them to keep their eye on the player with the ball.

    This Laker team, by playing almost every possession in the half court, and by having very few cutters, allows defenses to sit back, pack the paint, and maintain eye contact with their man and the ball. The result is that most players almost never appear open, and it is nearly impossible to fire the ball into the middle of the lane without multiple defenders reaching out to block the pass. The result is often a forced pass (and turnover), a contested shot, or a long-range jumper. Percentage-wise, none of these outcomes produces consistent scoring opportunities.

    There will never be another Magic, but watching how many easy baskets he created just by pushing the basketball makes the passage of the trade deadline without any improvement at PG all the more difficult to tolerate….


  8. Beautiful basketball. Magic was a true maestro.

    Amazing how all the clips against the Celtics had Tommy Heinson talking about what the Celtics were doing or what they needed to do. Reminded my of how annoying it was to listen to Heinson (former Celtic player) and Dick Stockton (former Boston sports anchor) call those finals in 84,85, and 87.

    My favorite line was the clinching game 6 victory in the Garden when an incredulous Heinson lamented Kevin McHale fouling out. “You can’t foul Kevin McHale out game 6 in the Boston Garden!”


  9. Haha. I don’t like how people say there will never be another Magic or Jordan or Wilt. That’s very unlikely. Sure no two players are ever identical… But you’re telling me in the next 200 years there won’t be another player like Magic?


  10. #10 Yes that is what we are saying


  11. Well, I’m sure two thousand years ago people were saying the same about a certain athlete by the name of Spartacus.


  12. Brilliant passer, and brilliant finishers, what a team we had in the 80s; Worthy, Scott, Coop, Rambis, and the Capitain. Not only there will never be another Magic, there will never be another team play so beautifully together. There can be stronger and better teams, but not with so much style.

    The Kobe-Shaquille team that won 3 titles might theoreticaly beat the Magic-Kareem-Worthy team, but in terms of style, I had rather pay more money to watch the Magic team.


  13. There probably won’t be another Magic because the game will be different. Watching the clip now I can just feel the difference and it’s not just the shorts. The flow and the defense is somehow very different as is the way players move.

    Still, watching it reminded me how players say that the NBA pass is one of the things that hits them the hardest when they first enter the league. Magic’s passes are like baseball throws – my reaction would be to get the hell out of the way 😉


  14. Aaron,

    Magic Johnson is to basketball what Beethoven is to music.

    That’s not hyperbole in my opinion, that’s how sublime of a basketball player Magic was. Magic makes you appreciate how beautiful and profound and artisitc the sport of basketball is.

    Intellectually I can’t say there won’t be another Magic but I’m trying to imagine someone doing what Magic did but better and my mind literally draws a blank.

    MJ is the G.O.A.T but I can imagine someone being better (they just never miss fadaways) but better at passing and understanding court dynamics then Magic? I don’t see it…


  15. Aaron, if you are suggesting that there may be another 6’9″ dominant point guard with a pass first attitude, then yes, I would think that some day this might be replicated (even while it has only occurred once).

    What some of us are suggesting when we say there will never be another Magic is that there will never be a guy who absolutely destroys everything we have ever known or thought possible with the PG position, and do so with a combination of unmitigated joy AND fierce competitiveness.

    Oh, and the fact that like a lot of people here (probably including you), some of us resort to hyperbole from time to time, especially when discussing the greatest Laker of all time.


  16. Mitch could be in his office – alone – hasn’t gotten any sleep in days – sitting by his cell phone – waiting for it to ring. Perhaps he has stumbled on this video and it brought a “brief” smile to his face.


  17. Magic, Bird and Jordan all had an incredible impact on the popularity of the game. I think Bird-Magic laid the groundwork by making the game popular outiside American TV audiencies and that later helped propel MJ into superstardom. Kareem and Wilt and others pre-Bird-Magic were also tremendous superstars, but I would respectfully argue that they did not have the same impact in terms of international viewership. For that reason alone, I would argue that Bird, Magic and Jordan will never be equalled.


  18. As was mentioned earlier, the game has changed. All of those passes by Magic looked spectacular because the players were intent upon rim rocking. In today’s game, very few players understand the importance of diving and cutting without the basketball. Additionally, they’d all stop and stand at the 3pt line waiting for someone to give them wide open shots.

    However, there’s one team that I’d love to see Magic play on today: The Miami Heat! Can you imagine the highlights from a team with Magic at the point, Wade on one wing and LBJ on the other with Bosh spotting up for the jumper. Wooo-weeee, that would be must see basketball. Magic would make it so easy for LBJ that he wouldn’t even recognize that he was taking the game winning shot.

    That’s the beauty of a good pg, getting you the basketball at the optimum moment with the best opportunity to maximize your skill set.

    The triangle allowed Kobe the luxury of not needing a good pg. Kobe is older with alpha starting minutes logged on those legs, he (and Bynum) would benefit more than anyone else on the team with a good pg.

    Always good to hear Chick Hearn, excited about the ballet that’s performed on a basketball court.


  19. #1/E:

    The behind-the-back wrap-around to Byron at :30 was a left-handed pass.

    There’s another left-handed pass to Worthy at the 5:!5 mark.

    Just sayin’. 🙂


  20. Guys… Magic is the best PG to date in fifty years of basketball. In two thousand years in sure there will be a number of guys better than him. Mate guys as tall, with his passing and vision except with even a better shot and ability to play defense. Can’t Magic be the best PG to date without trying to predict that nobody wills ever be as good? It’s just not likley that he will be forever the best PG to ever live. Hopefully lots of basketball to come.

    (edited for trade speculation)


  21. MannyP – I understand the argument that because of how they increased popularity they will never be matched, but I think it has more to do with when they played than how they played, that increased the international audience. Before them the games were tape delayed and few were even on T.V. with the technology boom of the 80’s and 90’s people were more able to watch. If Kobe and Lebron were to have played in their places I imagine very similar growth would have taken place.

    If we are talking strictly on court play I think that there is a good chance those players can be matched (Kobe is already very close to Jordan). If we include impact on the game probably not.


  22. I don’t think it would have been possible to script something better than Bird and Magic. Racially, geographically, and ending up in franchises with historic rivalry already in place?

    And after the rivalry, an almost invincible champion in Jordan, right around when professional ball players were allowed in the Olympics for the first time?

    I still remember what it was like to witness NBA players against other basketball players as I was living outside the states at the time (still am). It was one thing to watch them play each other (on AFKN, armed forces in Korea network) and quite another to watch them simply destroy everyone else. The “Dream Team” moniker was so arrogant but also so true that it was just impossible to resist.

    Anyway, strayed from the topic, but all of this sort of contributes to the ‘there will not be another magic’ talk. More so because another Magic will almost require there to be another Bird at the same time… which is why I guess I’m more inclined to think that there’ll be a next Jordan before there’s a next Magic or Bird.


  23. Being born in the late 80s, I never got to see Magic Johnson live; Kobe is my reference point as a Laker fan so its difficult for me to truly understand just how transcendant Magic was as a player.

    However, I prefer nonplayerzealot4’s compliation of Magic. Its longer and more complete in my opinion…


  24. Albert @13: I agree that the 80’s team was the most enjoyable to watch. However, for me, KB has overtaken Magic as the most enjoyable player to watch. Something about that double teamed fadeaway from 25′ just does it for me : )

    All: The TJ Ford retirement combined with the Rubio injury has made the PG market a little tighter.


  25. @ Aaron,

    When fans say something like there will never be another passer like Magic, or Kobe is the coolest dude ever, or MJ is the Great of all time, or Bird is the most amazing shooter….. That is not to say that there will never be similar or even more superior player to come in the next decade or next century. It is an expression to show fans’ unique admiration and love for the team or player.

    Imagine you hold your kid’s hand, and tell him/her: you are the smartest and the most adorable baby. There will never be another baby as cute as you. Does that mean of the thousands of babies were born each minute cannot measure up to your own kid? NO! It just means the love you feel for your kids is unique, and cannot be replicated.

    Being a fan of a team or a player is somewhat like that. The passion is only unique to you. So there is no point to argue whether there will be another Magic or another Kobe. Of course there will always be better players coming along. But I can never go back to that moment when Magic made that baby hook to beat the Celtics in the 87’s final. That heroic play filled my teenage boredom. As a fan, to me, Magic is unique, and therefore there will never be another great PG like him.


  26. A 6’9″ point guard with eyes in the back of his head who pushed the ball and possessed unreal passing skills, and who had an entire team who could finish around the rim that he could pass to? It’s hard to see it happening again. It’s crazy to think that as good as the point guards are in the league today, there will only be one Magic.


  27. Magic was one of a kind, a stone cold winner who put on a show like no other. If you were lucky enough to watch his entire career, like I was, you know what he was all about.

    On the subject of point guards…I know Chris Paul is great, but when he has a game like he did tonight – 3-12 shooting, 1-5 on 3’s, only 5 assists with 4 turnovers, in a loss – he just gets a free pass from the pundits. If Kobe – hell, if Pau Gasol – has a game like that, the wolves are out baying. CP3 plays great most of the time, but has his share of disappearing or floating games too – look at last year’s closeout game vs. the Lakers. I never liked the Pau for CP3 trade, am still glad the Lakers didn’t make it (even though the way it went down was jive), and really, really hope the Lakers plan to hang on to Pau and pick up a guy like Sessions.


  28. Magic is the most complete PG ever there won’t ever be another like him with the whole package. He had the skills, charisma, smile and passion for the game. Truly one of a kind never to be duplicated. But i’ll tell you what when it comes to passing ability I’d put jason kidd right up there he was just like magic on the fast break.


  29. Albert @ 26 – wonderfully said.

    My brother and I in the mid ’80s would watch the Lakers at home in SoCal and then go outside and run down the driveway being Magic, James, Kareem. I used to love Magic’s no-look passes. I couldn’t understand and still don’t, why more players don’t realize the joy that Magic’s stewardship of that fast break meant. Being unselfish, as Magic was on the court, was the essence of his greatness. He was often hit on his jump shot as though just because he didn’t shoot first, he couldn’t. But he shot 50% and around 50% most of the ’80s. It was such an exciting time to be a Laker fan. I absolutely HATED Ainge and McHale. I couldn’t bring myself to hate Bird coz he was too good. Ainge and McHale were punks and Bird was just a gamer. DJ also was a gamer and such a shut-down defender. Gosh how I hated those teams…..truly though, I don’t know if there will be a better PG than Magic ever, but you put it beautifully Albert.


  30. I remember in a Worthy interview with him saying that when you were on the floor with Magic, you had to be ready to get a pass from him, from anywhere on the court at anytime.


  31. Part of what made Magic so great was his great Laker teammates. Together they formed a symbiotic relationship that resulted in multiple ‘ships. Magic made his teammates better and they gave him the support that allowed all his talents to flourish. Magic could throw a 40 foot bounce to Worthy because Big Game James could catch and finish. A great team from top to bottom.


  32. I dont’ know where I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again:

    If there was one basketball pass and my life depended on it, I want Magic passing the ball.

    If there was a last second shot and my life depended on it, I want Magic shooting the ball.

    End of story.



  33. @26/Albert
    Well said, and very true. There is nothing rational about this. 🙂


  34. @33Gabriel, If my life depended on it, the shot would come from Bird. Stone cold shooter.

    @30TC, The first athlete I truly hated was Kevin McHale. Don’t know what it was, just the way he played all the time, I could not stand him. Danny Ainge was a player that took a little while to achieve that level for me, but boy I could not stand that punk Ainge. And who was the guy with the towel, my mind is going blank?


  35. #35. That was M.L. Carr with the towell.


  36. Bye Gabriel.

    I guess Magic missed that shot.