Magic Johnson: Ranking the Lakers Legend’s 5 Best Seasons in the NBA

Lakers legend Magic Johnson had an incredible 13-season career in the league. The future Hall of Famer was the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft and dominated the league throughout the ’80s.

NBA fans know Magic collected five championship rings, was named NBA Final MVP three times, and earned league MVP three times over the course of his career. However, what might not be quite so obvious is which seasons were the best of the point guard’s decorated career. It’s time to rank Magic Johnson’s five best NBA seasons from a statistical standpoint. 

5. Losing to the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals (1985-86)

From a statistical standpoint, Johnson’s fifth-best season in the league was the 1985-86 season. At 26 years old, this was his seventh season in the NBA. The Lansing, Michigan, native and the Lakers only made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Houston Rockets. 

While the team couldn’t secure another championship, Johnson achieved a lot of personal accolades. As Basketball Reference highlights, Johnson averaged 18.8 points, 12.6 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game. In addition, he achieved a win share of 12.1 over the course of the season. Along with these stats, Johnson was also named to the All-Star team and was voted to All-NBA First Team. 

4. The last regular season before his HIV diagnosis (1990-91)

Johnson’s fourth-best season in the NBA was the last regular season he played before contracting HIV. At the time, Johnson was 31 years old and was playing his 12th season in the league. The Lakers made it to the NBA Finals this season. But they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, winning only one of five games. 

Despite not winning the championship, this was statistically one of Johnson’s best seasons in the league. Basketball Reference puts it into perspective, highlighting that Johnson averaged 19.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds per game. During this season, Johnson was also able to earn a 15.1 win share on the season. 

3. Johnson and the Lakers defeat the Celtics in the Finals (1986-87)

Lakers guard Magic Johnson gets doused with champagne after the Lakers defeated the Celtics to win the NBA Championship
MVP Magic Johnson after the Lakers defeated the Celtics to win the NBA Championship in 1987 | Bettmann/Contributor

Many would argue that the 1986-87 season was Johnson’s best NBA season, maybe even Magic himself. There is no denying that the 27-year-old had a memorable eithgth NBA season. According to Basketball Reference, Johnson and the Lakers took home top honors after beating the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the NBA Finals. 

This was the fourth championship for the team. Johnson was named both season MVP and Finals MVP. While Johnson collected a ton of hardware during the 1986-87 season, statistically, it was not the best season of his career. Johnson averaged 23.9 points, 12.2 assists, and 6.3 rebounds per game. Johnson also achieved a 15.9 win share over the course of the season. 

2. Finals heartbreak against the Pistons (1988-89) 

Having just come off a championship victory with the Lakers, Johnson entered into his 10th NBA season with high spirits. At 29 years old, Johnson still had more to give the game. During the second-best season of his career, he averaged 22.5 points, 12.8 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. He also totaled 16.1 win shares over the course of the season.

Despite performing well on a personal level and earning MVP honors, Johnson was unable to lead the Lakers to another championship title. While the Lakers did make another Finals appearance in the 1988-89 season, they fell short to the Detroit Pistons. 

1. Lakers fall short, but Magic receives MVP honors (1989-90) 

While Johnson’s 1989-90 season didn’t earn him a ton of hardware, it’s statistically the best NBA season of his NBA career. At 30 years old, the 1989-90 season was Johnson’s 11th season in the league. After winning 63 regular-season games, Johnson and the Lakers cut their season short with a loss to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semis. 

Obviously, from a team standpoint, the 1989-90 season fell short. However, on a personal level, Johnson prevailed, averaging 22.3 points, 11.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game. He also shot 48% from the floor and achieved a total win score of 16.5 on the season.

Johnson’s personal accolades during this season also earned him MVP honors. So, while Johnson couldn’t secure another NBA Championship in the 1989-90 season, it was still statistically the greatest season of his decorated 13-season NBA career.

RELATED: Magic Johnson Finally Revealed the Secret Behind His Hilarious Twitter Account

Danielle Gibson | Sportscasting Contributing Writer