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Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 am  |  12 responses

One For The Money

Two decades ago in Orlando, a retired Magic Johnson put on an All-Star performance that will be remembered forever.

The next day, All-Star Sunday, Magic Johnson was the last player announced during the pre-game introductions. Afterward, Isiah Thomas walked over, kissed and embraced him. The rest of the East All-Stars then lined up to greet Johnson.

Quinn Buckner (Announcer): People were interested to see how his teammates would interact with him. I think the Isiah thing was really important. They always kissed before a game. I thought that was a great gesture. Isiah’s and Magic’s interaction at that time was important, not just for basketball but for life. You get a lot more casual fans at All-Star Games, and I thought that said something to the casual fans about how this fraternity feels about one of its own.

Thomas: The disease was already in my household and I would hug and kiss my brother every time I saw him. We had a chance to educate the world on a public stage and break down a lot of the stereotypes and phobias about HIV.

Hornacek: When we came out of that locker room and went to the court, I think all [Magic’s] worries at that time disappeared; he was playing the game he loved. It was horrible to see his career come to an end. For one night to see him go out there and see him play the way we thought he would and not skip a beat.

Thomas: You knew he would be great. He kept himself in great shape and loved to play the game. But I remember him being very nervous because of the venom and animosity coming from some players who didn’t want him to participate.

Price: I think everybody couldn’t believe how well he was playing. Everyone was glad to see him play so well because that was the Magic everybody remembered playing against.

Johnson [from When the Game Was Ours]: I made a nice pass and guys were saying, Oh, I remember him. He’s still Magic. It calmed everyone down. After that, it was just basketball.

Dan Majerle (All-Star, Phoenix Suns): I was his last assist. I was on the baseline, my guy turned his head, I cut back door and Magic fed me a beautiful pass. I remember going up and thinking, Am I going to dunk this? What am I doing? It was just, Don’t miss this shot, so I laid it up. It was a great pass and the last thing I wanted to do was do something crazy so I just laid it in.

The game was a blowout, with the West prevailing 153-113. The final minutes, however, were riveting. Isiah and Michael Jordan took turns going one-on-one with Johnson, and then Magic closed the game by hitting three straight three pointers. With 25 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds, Johnson was named MVP.

Hornacek: It seemed like it was scripted. It was perfect: Let him go against Isiah and then let Michael get a shot at him. I don’t think they could have drawn it up any better.

Thomas: The All-Star Game is about having a good show, not only for the fans, but we wanted it to be a good show for Magic. Myself, Jordan, we wanted to make sure it ended right for Magic. And the fans enjoyed it.

Mike Fratello (Announcer): It was eerie, but in the end when he took that last shot, we were in line. We could see when it left his hand, this is going in. It wasn’t off-left or off-right, it was dead center when it left his hand.

Willis: The big shot at the end? I was on the court. That capped it off really smooth. That’s Magic though. That’s Magic.

Drexler: Magic had those three threes at the end. How many points did he have, 25? If he finished the game with 16 points I don’t think he gets the MVP [laughs]. That was the year they probably should have given it to me and Magic—[Drexler had 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists]—but because there was so much sentiment for him and people didn’t think he was going to be around…Had I known he was going to be around, I wouldn’t have passed him the ball at the end. I would have kept my MVP. Tell Magic If I had known he was going to live this long, I wouldn’t have passed him the ball at the end [laughs]. I would have kept my MVP. I’m joking. At the time, we were all just wishing Magic the best and trying to do what we could to boost his spirits.

Hardaway: I enjoyed every minute of that weekend. I enjoyed just being with him and seeing that famous smile. Every time I see that game, I smile, laugh and chuckle a little bit, but it also brings tears to my eyes because I missed watching him play.

Johnson: That game helped change the perception of HIV all over the world. People watching it said, “It’s OK. He can do this.”

Photos courtesy of NBAE/Getty

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  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Another reason why Magic is the Greatest Player who has Ever Lived…

  • martey

    i was twelve also. incredible game. one of my most memorable also. script reads like a movie. great read down memory lane. thanks

  • MikeC.

    We all missed out on a good 5 years of Magic’s prime. As a basketball fan, that’s a sad thing. As a person, I’m just glad Magic has shown the world that with diet, exercise and access to doctors and medicine, HIV isn’t an automatic death sentence. He’s a terrible announcer, but his smile is magnetic.

  • Justin G.

    There goes Philosopher with the crazy talk again. For hopefully the last time…If Magic can admit that MJ was a better player than him, why can’t you? Anyway, that was one of the great all star games and the way it ended was absolutely phenomenal. First the Magic/Isiah one on one, then the Magic/Jordan one on one, and the finish with his third straight 3 pointer. I believe there was still about 14 seconds left on the clock and the players just stopped, all understanding that it was the perfect way for the game to end.

  • Ka

    Im old enough to remember this game. I was in my teens n this was my 1st time watching the asg. Even without the storyline this was a great great game. Guys came out sharp n just youtube this game, there were hella crazy highlights (n they were off ball movement n just guys chucking it) watch this game (more so than barcelona) to understand how the dream team was realy that: a dream team.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    @JustinG:
    The only reason Magic says anyone is better than him is because, it is good for business. It is bad for business saying that he’s better than someone.
    Do we ever hear Jordan saying that he is better than Magic?
    No.
    Do you know why?
    Because, it is bad for business.

  • TBEASTIN

    im coming away from this article with the thoughts that Clyde Drexler is a hater.lol.

  • Justin G.

    Ohhh right, I forgot about your little “bad for business” excuses. So, because he said it in his autobiography do you think he sold less copies? It’s not bad for business to admit somebody is better than you at something. You think he’s somehow going to lose money if he comes out and says he’s the best? That’s absurdity at it’s highest level. God, you can be so ignorant sometimes. Magic’s businesses aren’t predicated on him claiming he’s something he’s not. Everyone (except for you apparently) that’s ever watched the two play knows who the best of all time is.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    @JustinG:
    We hear Lord Thomas III lament about how if he were taller, he would have been better than Jordan. He also reminds anyone who will listen that HE is the one that baptised Jordan. How he used to kick his ass regularly.
    He also goes in about how he kicked Earvin’s ass in The Finals, and so on. He goes in on how he kicked Bird’s rear side as well.
    All of those players that I mentioned were on the original Dream Team. Isiah was not.
    Not saying that Isiah’s statements are what kept him off the Greatest Team of All Times. But I ask you, did Isiah’s tirades about that help or hurt his cause? In your opinion?

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Now, concerning Magic’s business.(es)
    One can argue that the movie theaters that Magic promotes is something that it is not. He’ll say that he is doing this, doing that for the better of a certain group of people when in reality, what he claims to be doing is not really happening. I mean, HE’S getting paid, but, what about what was promised?
    Now, it is arguable that Isiah lost some money by claiming that he is/would be better than someone. We don’t hear too many high profile personalities do such things.
    They just don’t. Only if they have something personal afainst someone. This is true.
    And, we all know that Isiah has some enemies. Partly because, of what he comes out and says publicly.

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