”Everybody’s head is down” – Magic Johnson explains how he motivated Lakers in the 1980 NBA finals after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got injured


In Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Magic Johnson played every position, including center, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was unable to play due to an ankle sprain suffered in Game 5.

During an episode of the “All The Smoke” podcast, Johnson recounted how his fellow LA Lakers players were worried about playing against the Sixers without Abdul-Jabbar. However, despite being a rookie at the time, Johnson was self-assured and went on to lead the Lakers to a championship.

Magic Johnson on the 1980 NBA Finals

“Everybody’s head is down because Kareem can’t play. I said ‘So what if Kareem can’t play? We’re still gonna win.’ And they looked at me like ‘Rookie, go sit down. We can’t beat Philadelphia without Kareem.’ So I said I got to do something to get these guys going. I asked the flight attendant if I can go on the plane first. So I went and sat in Kareem’s seat, and as every Laker came by I said, ‘Never fear, Magic is here!'” Johnson said.

The score was tied at 60-all during the first half of Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, but the LA Lakers dominated the third quarter and secured the win in the second half. They defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 123-107 to earn their seventh championship title. Despite playing without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson took control of the game and was named NBA Finals MVP after contributing 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and one block. Johnson’s perfect 14-for-14 performance from the free-throw line further demonstrated his complete command of the game.

Johnson’s career is incredible

Regarded as one of the all-time greats in the NBA, Magic Johnson is widely acknowledged as the best point guard in the game’s history. Despite being a towering figure at 6’9″, he possessed exceptional skills that made his plays look effortless. Johnson was instrumental in defining the “Showtime Era” of the LA Lakers and his intense rivalry with Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics during the 1980s helped revive the NBA from a period of decline. Over the course of his 13 seasons in the league, Johnson led the Lakers to five NBA championship titles.

In terms of individual achievements, Johnson was recognized as the NBA Finals MVP three times, league MVP three times, and was selected as an All-Star a total of 12 times. He retired from the game in 1991 after testing positive for HIV, but was still chosen to play for the gold medal-winning Team USA at the 1992 Olympics. Johnson’s stellar basketball career earned him two inductions into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – first as a player in 2002 and then as a member of the legendary “Dream Team” in 2010. Following his retirement, Johnson ventured into business and has since amassed an estimated net worth of $620 million.

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