After Being Hit With Life-Threatening Illness, Bashing His Own Coach and Crying in Apology, Magic Johnson Took a Career-Ending Step: “A Broken Heart”

Published 01/23/2023, 4:50 PM EST
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 28: Earvin “Magic” Johnson before the MLB game between the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)

Magic Johnson is one of the most celebrated NBA athletes of all time. The iconic Showtime Lakers could only exist due to the flair the five-time champion got in. However, in 1992, the Hall of Famer was forced to step away from the game after contracting HIV. However, while many wrote off his glorious career, Johnson didn’t stop there. The Olympic Gold medalist returned during the All-Star, then again three years later. Unfortunately, his championship ambitions didn’t hold up with the Purple and Gold. After an early playoff exit and bashing his head coach, he announced his retirement for good.

An emotional 1992 night earned Johnson the All-Star game MVP honors. While he didn’t play in the NBA, Johnson continued to participate in scrimmages. That’s when he realized he could continue playing at the highest level. This time he returned with no fear of the opposition of his peers. This time though, that wasn’t the problem. Johnson marked his return back to the NBA three years later. However, the man used to taking center stage entered a young Los Angeles Lakers side.

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 08: Magic Johnson attends New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers game at Madison Square Garden on November 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

The 12-time All-Star wasn’t satisfied with his role among the youngsters. Notably, he even publicly took shots at then-coach Del Harris for not using him as a traditional point guard. Rumors of him possibly joining another team flooded in. However, Johnson’s heart couldn’t live away from LA.


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Magic Johnson retired after problematic last season

Losing to the Houston Rockets in the very first round, Johnson was distraught. He had to fight for his role as the point guard against teammate Nick Van Exel. Moreover, the starting guard felt uneasy due to a diminished role with Johnson’s return. Likewise, several internal issues started to emerge in the Lakers’ locker. However, despite the hurdles, they were a postseason team. Eventually, their problems caught up and it took Hakeem Olajuwon just four games to lead Houston to the next round.


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After the series, Johnson exploded on Harris for playing him in the low post. That season he arguably had his worst playoff performance averaging 15.3 points and 6.5 assists shooting just 38%. Moreover, he was the eldest player in the Lakers. While his elite court vision remained, the three-time MVP has slowed down quite a bit. He wasn’t able to be as aggressive on the defensive end.

The Lakers weren’t close to his Showtime days without his flair to operate. The one who once led them to five championships in the 1980s was arguably not the same anymore. In addition, without an established big man, Olajuwon ran circles around the young Lakers. Putting up 26.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game, he took over on both ends of the floor. Lakers star forward Cedric Ceballos’ 19 points per game just weren’t enough to overthrow the former champions.


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Likewise, upset with the franchise for not letting him free, Johnson considered playing for a different organization. However, his name had become synonymous with the energy of Los Angeles. That was the reason he couldn’t see himself playing or any other franchise. Likewise, he decided to retire from the game one final time, this time on his own terms.

Speaking to the New York Times, Harris reacted to Johnson’s decision saying, “I don’t feel there was a particular disruption, other than basically a broken heart. I think he felt he could be that extra little impetus to put us over the top. In the perfect situation, Earvin would have put on another ring and said, ‘Now, that’s what I was talking about.’ “


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Watch the Story – “Goodbye to the eternal king”: Sports world mourn the loss of Pelé

Do you think Magic could have had another championship if he went to a different franchise? Let us know your views in the comments below.



Anuj Talwalkar

1727 articles

Anuj Talwalkar is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He is a student studying at NM College in Mumbai, aspiring to pursue sports management to follow his love for sports. Anuj started following the NBA last year, and he loves to combine his passion for writing with his understanding of basketball.