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One Magic Night 40 Years Ago

We almost let the month of May slip by without acknowledging the 40th anniversary of one of the most “magical” moments in basketball history: On March 16, 1980, a young 20-year-old rookie named Earvin “Magic” Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship with a Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The win was remarkable because the Lakers’ star center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was out with an ankle injury that he suffered during the previous game. Jabbar, the league’s reigning MVP, wasn’t even able to accompany his team to Philly. Worse, if the 76ers forced a Game 7, Jabbar was doubtful to play in that contest as well.

Johnson, however, was eager for the challenge. The 6-8 point guard even lined up at center for the game’s opening tip. What followed was perhaps his greatest NBA performance, as “Magic” played all five positions during the game and recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot. The Lakers prevailed, 123-107, giving the franchise its first league championship since 1972. Forward Jamaal Wilkes added 37 points and 10 rebounds, while another forward, the burly Jim Chones, contributed 11 points and 10 boards. Julius Erving paced the 76ers with 27 points.

For his memorable performance, Johnson was named the NBA Finals’ MVP.

Check out some of Magic Johnson’s Game 6 highlights below:

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