Every day is a great day for the "Magic Man," who flashes a big smile and bounces around joking with everyone he comes in contact with.
Michigan Statehs Earvin (Magic) Johnson is, indeed, a rare youth. He has an enviable ability to enjoy himself no matter what he is doing or who he is doing ti with.
But it is when "Magic" picks up a basketball that the good times really begin to roll.
Johnson can do things o n the court that 6-foot-8 people aren't supposed to be able to do. He is the best ballhandler and passer to appear in a long time and if he had a deadly jump shot to go with the rest of his game, he probably would be one of the greatest to ever play the sport.
One pro scout said that every team in the National Basketball Association would gladly pay $1 million for Johnson, but added that he first thing Johnson should do with the money is buy a jump shot.
Even without the jumper, however, Johnson has left heads shaking from coast to coast.
He was a third-team All-America as a freshmen last year and a first-team selection this season.
Johnson's statidtics are impressive -- 16 points, seven rebounds and 7.5 assists a game -- but they are not accurate indicators of his skills.
"In Earvin's case, you don't talk about the points he scores," Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote said, "but the points he produces. Not just the baskets and assists. but the first pass that makes the second pass possible."
Johnson is contemplating turning professional after this season, a possibility to which Heathcote has resigned himself.
"That's why I made him team captain this year as a sophomore," the coach said. "It might be his last year here."
Johnson's value to his team can be seen in the win column. The year before he came, the Spartans were 10-17. Last season, they were 25-5 and Big Ten champions. This season, after winning last night at Minnesota, the Spartans are 21-5 and alone atop the conference again.
"When 'magic' leaves, they are going right back down where they were before he came," said Michigan Coach Johnny Orr.
The fourth-ranked Spartans have other talented players -- forward Gregory Kelser and center Jay Vincent, in particular -- but the team is Johnson's and if it reaches the final four, it will be because of him.
Johnson modestly disagrees.
"My whole success is my teammates," he said. "If they don't catch the ball, I'm nothing. I have to hit the open man because I'm not a scorer."
Johnson is a combination Meadowlark Lemon, Julius Erving and Bob Cousy.
NBA scout Will Robinson calls Johnson "a court genius."
Notwithstanding his wondrous talents, it is Johnson's personality that sets him apart from most of his peers.
He is a coaching, teammate and meprobably the only basketball junkie in America who isn't awed by his skills.
"My game is coming along like I want it to," he said. "I'm still improving. Sometimes I'll do something and as soon as I do it, I'll know it was wrong and that I should have done something else. I have a tendency to get lazy with the ball. I'm working on that."
Even opponents admire Johnson.
"He'll frustrate you for 40 minutes, and he wasnts to win as badly as anyone, but he will still give you some encouragement when you make a nice play and he raps with you during the game like uyou were on his team," said Ohio State guard Kelvin Ransey. "Every game he is in belongs to him."
Johnson keeps up with friends like Larry Bird of Indiana State, Darnell Valentine of Kansas, Gene Banks of Duke and Kelly Tripucka of Notre Dame in the newspapers and surprises them occasionally with phone calls, "just to check up on them."
Johnson handles the ball on most Michigan State possessions, bringing it up court and looking for a place to throw it.
When he doesn't have the ball, he'll post low, work from a high post or roam the baseline.
"He plays guard, forward and center and coaches," said Orr "and I don't know which he does best."
Most big guards, like 6-7 George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs and 6-6 Doug Collins of the Philadelphia 76ers, are great shooters, but lack playmaking and ballhandling skills.
He is a legitimate ballhandling guard who plays that position not because he normally has a height advantage but because it is his natural spot.
Johnson is also a fierce competitor, but not so fierce that he ever ceases having fun. In typical Johnson style, he says there's only one thing worse than losing, "and that's not getting to play at all."