Magic Johnson is a special person, bestowed with athletic ability others can only dream about.
He will begrudgingly admit this, but basically he is an unassuming 22-year-old doing what comes naturally. The fact that such skills do come easily to Johnson is a primary reason the Los Angeles Lakers--or Team Hollywood, as they are called around the National Basketball Association--are the league champions. They won the title in six games, with a 114-104 victory at the Forum Tuesday over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Johnson never stole the spotlight in any game, but seemed to be the catalyst in all four victories by the Lakers. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and eight assists and was voted the series' most valuable player. Tuesday he had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists.
Why is Magic Johnson so good?
"Because he can do whatever his team needs him to do and he does it without being told," said Lakers Coach Pat Riley.
"How many guys do you think there are who can play center and point guard and both rebound and pass like Magic? He's one of a kind, the best basketball has ever seen."
Johnson can't really explain it, either. "God just gave me the talent to do these things." he said.
In the last six years, Johnson has won championships on three levels: the state high school championship in Michigan, the NCAA title while at Michigan State and two NBA championships.
He was also MVP when the Lakers beat the 76ers in the finals in 1980.
Johnson scored 42 points in the deciding game in 1980. He took only three shots Tuesday.
"I just do what they need me to do," he said.
Johnson's matter-of-fact nature fits the Lakers, whose style is a window to the future. Pro basketball in the '80s is destined to be a wide-open, running, thrill-a-minute game, thanks in large part to what the Lakers have done this season.
What sets the Lakers apart from the 76ers and other running teams is their passing.
The 76ers lived off Julius Erving's moves, Andrew Toney's jumpers and Darryl Dawkins' dunks; the Lakers live off breath-taking passes.
They averaged 31 assists a game against the 76ers. And in the process, new heroes such as Kurt Rambis and Bob McAdoo emerged.
McAdoo, who has averaged a team a year for the past six seasons, was signed as a free agent by the Lakers after Mitch Kupchak hurt his knee and broke his leg early in the season. He gave the Lakers the one dimension they needed--an exceptionally accurate outside shooter in a reserve role.
McAdoo averaged 16 points a game against the 76ers and was second in the MVP voting.
Each Laker got $31,042 for winning the championship; the 76ers each received $27,500.
Owner Harold Katz had threatened to break up the 76ers if they failed to win the title, but said today he might stand pat one more time. This was the third time in six years the 76ers have lost in the championship finals.
"But we were there," said Erving. "The people who want to knock us and stone us because we haven't won it all can go ahead, but unless you put yourself at center stage and dare to be great, you never will be. I'm going to keep daring."
So will the Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 35, who said today he will play at least two more years.
"I'm going to lay back, go home to Michigan, go back to school and play a little softball," said Johnson. "Then in four months, we'll all go back to training camp and try to repeat."
All except maybe Kupchak, a former Bullet, who had a second operation on his knee today and is expected to miss all of next season. The Lakers have the first pick in the June 29 draft.