Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan are two of the best players in NBA history, with both winning multiple championships during their remarkable careers. Johnson was one of the most dominant players of the 1980s, helping the Lakers win five NBA titles in that decade. Meanwhile, Jordan led the Bulls to six titles in the 1990s.
However, Johnson believes Jordan’s career trajectory might have turned out differently if the Lakers didn’t draft him. If the Lakers didn’t land Johnson, he might have gone to the Bulls. If that happened, Chicago likely would not have been in a position to take Jordan with the second pick in the 1984 draft.
The Los Angeles Lakers get Magic Johnson due to a coin flip
Magic Johnson entered the 1979 draft out of Michigan State. Back then, the NBA determined what team would get the first pick via a coin flip. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls were involved in the flip. The LA Times writes that the Bulls called heads after a poll of the team’s fans had a slight consensus that the team should pick that. The coin came up as tails.
As a result, the Lakers got the top pick, and the Bulls got the second pick of the draft. The Lakers famously took Johnson, while the Bulls took UCLA F Dave Greenwood with their pick. Basketball-Reference tells us that, save for the 1980-81 season, the Bulls finished under .500 each season after drafting Greenwood leading up until the 1984 draft, when they were able to grab Jordan at No. 3 overall.
Johnson says if the Bulls drafted him, they wouldn’t have gotten Jordan
In an interview with YouTube channel Jake’s Takes, Magic Johnson discussed the lucky coin flip that the LA Lakers won to get him. He posits that if the Chicago Bulls won the coin toss and drafted him in 1979, they likely would have been a better team and would not have been in the position they were in with the third pick in the 1984 draft. Being lower in the draft order would have meant they would not have been able to draft Michael Jordan, and he would have played his career elsewhere.
Johnson believes it worked out for both teams. The Lakers and Bulls won a total of 11 titles between them during the time that Johnson and Jordan played for the teams. If Johnson was on the Bulls, who knows how either team would have done during that time. Neither team may have won as many championships as they did. So, even though the Bulls lost the coin flip, they won in the long run by having a dynastic run in the 1990s that few professional teams in any sport have been able to match in history.
Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan ended up playing together in the Olympics
The way Magic Johnson believes it, even if the Chicago Bulls drafted him, he would not have been able to play on the same team as Michael Jordan because the latter wouldn’t have ended up in Chicago with Johnson. If that somehow managed to happen, it would have been one of the most formidable sets of teammates in NBA history — and we got a look at what that duo might have looked like in Barcelona in 1992.
Johnson and Jordan were teammates on the first Olympic Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, the first time professional basketball players were allowed to play in the Games. Team USA took full advantage of the rule change, packing the squad with many future Hall of Famers that also included the likes of David Robinson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley. The Dream Team went undefeated in those Olympics, allowing America to return to the top of the podium after getting the bronze in 1988.