Magic Johnson believes that Michael Jordan is a master tactician, on and off the court, and he narrated an anecdote to that effect recently.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the class of the NBA when MJ entered the league as a 21-year-old rookie. Jordan instantly shot to stardom with his extremely watchable playing style and scoring barrages.
His ability to hang in the air aside, another thing that separated Michael from the field was his incurable competitive streak. We’ve got many, many instances from his career when he played with an edge after a perceived slight.
When there was nobody left to give him that competitive fire, MJ sought other ways to gain a mental edge. According to Magic, this meant befriending his opponents before games and softening them up.
Magic Johnson narrates how Michael Jordan would soften up his opponents
Having been on the receiving end of some of MJ’s scoring exploits, Magic knows all about his tricks. He explained them in a recent interview:
“He (MJ) will laugh and smile with you just like he did him and shoot around with me. He smiled, hugged me and say ‘what’s up my boy.’ He is trying to soften you up, he gonna kill you and then he gonna smile and laugh with you after the game.”
“See Michael is like that. That’s why you almost can’t beat him and that he knows. He will smile with Charles and then he’d go kill him. And Charles would be like, he’s still smiling. ‘I’ll see you in a minute, Charles let me dunk one.’ ‘What you say Charles. Let me juggle it you know yeah Charles.’ See? That’s Michael.”
“So you gotta watch Michael. That’s why I didn’t want him to touch me today. Get back. Not your friend till after the game is over. Because I know him.”
Magic and Mike remain great friends to this day – especially after MJ invited him to the Dream Team in 1992. The two of them are commonly regarded as the two greatest guards in NBA history, and with good reason.