Magic Johnson is regarded as one of the NBA’s greatest players. Johnson guided the Los Angeles Lakers to tremendous championship success throughout the 1980s. However, it took a singular moment against Michael Jordan to realize his time on top had ended.
Magic Johnson’s dominant run in the 1980s
Johnson experienced a quick ascension into NBA stardom.
The Michigan State product quickly transformed the Lakers into a powerhouse in the 1980s behind five championships in eight Finals appearances. Through the iconic rivalry with Boston Celtics’ great Larry Bird, he became one of the faces of the league.
Johnson earned numerous accolades over that span, such as three NBA Finals MVP awards, two of his three regular-season MVP awards, and nine All-Star Game selections. He also led the league in assists four times and steals twice.
The former Lakers great firmly established himself as arguably the greatest point guard in NBA history behind his sustained success and stellar play. However, it took one moment against Jordan to realize his time on top had ended.
Magic Johnson reveals the single moment he knew the NBA belonged to Michael Jordan: ‘It’s your time now’
After dominating much of the 1980s, Johnson entered the 1990s hoping to replicate his success.
However, Jordan began to hit his stride as he finally elevated the Bulls past the Detroit Pistons to reach the 1991 NBA Finals berth against the Lakers. Although Johnson wanted to maintain his control, it only took Jordan’s iconic layup in Game 2 of the series to fully realize it was his colleague’s turn to take over the league.
“When we played them in ’91 for the NBA Finals, he came up on the right side, coming down,” Johnson recalled during an interview on The Bakari Sellers podcast. “And he took off with the tongue out. We all jumped. We thought we had him. And in mid-air, he switched it to the left hand. Oh, Man! We said, ‘you know what, passing of the torch.’ And they beat us 4-1 in that series.”
“And when I went in after the game, after they beat us, I told him, it’s your turn now, it’s your time now. And sure enough, won three straight. Took off for baseball. Came back. Now, who else in the world could take a couple of years off, come back and win three more championships?
From that moment forward in the series, the Bulls dominated the Lakers, winning each of the last three games by at least seven points. Jordan led the way, averaging a double-double with 31.2 points and 11.4 assists while shooting 55.8% from the floor and 50% from 3-point range.
Beyond that, it set the table for Jordan to begin his historic championship run that forever defined his legacy.
Michael Jordan dominated the 1990s
After Jordan and the Bulls cruised past the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals, it set the tone for what lay ahead.
He first guided Chicago to three straight NBA titles behind securing three consecutive central division titles. Jordan took a two-year hiatus from the game but returned to lead the Bulls to a second string three-peat of NBA titles.
It featured Chicago earning three more central division titles and three 60-plus win campaigns, including a then-NBA record 72-win season. In the 1990s, Jordan won six NBA Finals MVP awards and four of his five regular-season MVP honors.
His utter dominance over much of the decade cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest player in league history.