Magic Johnson is one of the greatest winners in the history of sports. George Gervin explains how he had that mentality even at 14 years of age.
We’ve all become accustomed to watching point forwards in modern basketball. But the game wasn’t always like this. There were periods when players were pigeonholed into specific roles based on their physiques and heights.
This still happens to a great degree in today’s basketball. But if we have to attribute the change in archetypes to one or two players, it would have to be Magic Johnson and Larry Bird at the top of that list.
Johnson was 6’8″ – 6’9″ in height, and he took advantage of his amazing ball-handling ability to craft basketball of the highest quality. Many people have described the Lakers legend as the original Point God.
Magic has won championships at every level of the game, through all phases of his life. His old rival and mentor George Gervin described the experience of playing with him as a 14-year-old.
“Magic Johnson was making guys around him better at 14”: George Gervin on Grantland
Gervin was once a guest on Bill Simmons’ Grantland division on ESPN a few years back. The NBA legend and multiple scoring champion spoke about a wide range of basketball topics.
Simmons began the talk by touching upon how Gervin was a streetball, pickup basketball legend. Magic Johnson described him as the greatest pickup player he’s ever seen.
In response, the Spurs legend heaped his own praise upon the generational talent that was Magic Johnson. As an important member of the Detroit basketball scene, Gervin happened to have mentored him from a younger age:
“I used to come up and play at Michigan State when Magic was real young. Magic was probably 14 years old when I met him, and he played with us, you know. He was playing with the pros at 14.”
“And, oh man! He was special then. He’s smart enough to get a whole lot of people, you know. That’s what made him Magic. He understood how to win, he was all about winning.”
“He made people around him better – he made people around him better at 14! So his potential was scary, and I think he reached his full potential, having a super career as an NBA player.”