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Over the years, Michael Jordan has received plenty of praise. His Airness is widely considered the greatest player ever to hit the hardwood, but even if you hand the GOAT crown to someone else, he’s still got a good shot at plenty of other honors. Just ask Magic Johnson about that.

During an appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay, the Lakers legend handed MJ a new title. In Magic’s mind, Jordan was the “strongest athlete” he ever saw.

Was Johnson talking about Mike’s famous will to win? Did he see the Chicago Bulls’ star hitting the gym and posting eye-popping bench press numbers? No. Instead, he was impressed by number 23’s ability to smoke, gamble, and golf, only to hit the court as if nothing had happened.

Magic Johnson provides a new riff on Michael Jordan’s incredible resume

At this point in time, Michael Jordan has become a larger-than-life figure. There are almost as many stories about his personality and off-court exploits as there are about his playing career. And while that’s helped us come to “know” His Airness, it does create something of a boilerplate stereotype.

Take, for example, the tales of MJ smoking cigars, golfing, and gambling with seemingly no regard for his NBA commitments. It’s easy to view those through a particular lens — Jordan was just such a serial winner that he couldn’t not compete in every arena — but Magic Johnson provided a different perspective. To him, those habits show how supreme of an athlete the UNC product was.

“He was the strongest, not basketball player, athlete, I’ve ever seen,” Magic explained when Shannon Sharpe asked how Jordan could smoke cigars, golf, and gamble before the game without missing a beat. “Because he could do just what you said. If I tried to do that, I’d be 0-for-15, no assists. I’d be dragging.”

The former Laker even remembered how, on one occasion, MJ invited him out for a night of fun. Johnson, however, knew his limits.

And he tried to get me to do it with him right, during the Dream Team. “MJ, MJ!” I said, “What’s up?” “Come on, hang with me.” I said, “Mike, I can’t hang until 4 o’clock. You have your drinks, get up, go play 18 rounds of golf, sleep for an hour, and then come get 30 by halftime. I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I know who I am.”

Magic Johnson

So, what did Magic prefer to do before the game? He liked his music, solitude, and getting to the arena hours early to mentally prepare for the task at hand. There was also a good amount of rest involved.

And while it might be easy to juxtapose those two styles against each other and posit Jordan as the irresponsible one, that’s probably not 100% accurate, at least in hindsight. Did he always make the best choices? No, but as best as we can tell, His Airness didn’t negatively affect his performance by living the way he did. If anything, it’s impressive that he could do what he did and keep playing at the highest level.

“Jordan, what he did paid off for him,” the point guard added. “And that’s what made him Michael Jordan.”

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