Magic Johnson is widely considered as the greatest point guard in NBA history. Thanks to his size, excellent playmaking skills, and 5 championship trophies; Magic is almost the perfect epitome of a point guard.
Yet, the arrival of Stephen Curry to the NBA has shaken the grounds of NBA lore. Nobody thought we would see a player shatter the 3-point records of Reggie Miller and Ray Alen, let alone completely dominate the league with his shooting. Curry is a three-time champion and two-time MVP that is simply unstoppable in today’s NBA.
Thus the question arises. Who is the better point guard, if we take into account every aspect of the game?
Inside Scoring - Magic Johnson
Even though Curry is very underrated at attacking the basket and finishing with flip-layups, Magic takes this one. Magic was 6’9”, and was able to back you down and finish at the rim. Magic also had a nice hook shot near the basket which gave him a couple of easy baskets a game.
Curry is mostly known for his outside shooting, where he far excels in comparison to Magic. As effective as Curry can be finishing with a soft touch around the rim, Magic’s size gives him a distinct advantage here.
Outside Scoring - Stephen Curry
This one is a no-brainer, as Curry is the greatest shooter of all-time. He is almost unguardable as soon as he steps past half court and is simply a long-range sniper of the highest order. Magic was never much of a shooter but did develop a respectable jumper that kept defenders honest. Still, Curry is by far the better shooter and scorer from the outside.
Playmaking - Magic Johnson
Curry is not only a fantastic scorer but is also a great contributor as well. Curry averages 6.6 assists per game for his career, and this is often an underlooked aspect of his game due to his incredible shooting ability. But Magic Johnson is arguably the greatest playmaker of all time.
He averaged 11.2 assists per game for his career, including many memorable passes and iconic plays that will go down in NBA history. Magic was one of the best ever at initiating and finding guys on the fastbreak, and making pinpoint passes that many thoughts were impossible. No question here, Magic is the better playmaker.
Athleticism - Magic Johnson
Curry is a very underrated athlete, despite his slight frame. He has a decent vertical and stands 6’3”, which is a good size for a point guard. He is also quick, agile, and is able to move around the court with ease to find open shots. But Magic was just so large and agile for his position, at 6”9”, and could run with the best athletes in the league. He was also very strong, with very wide shoulders, which allowed him to post guys up and take contact well. Due to his mix of size, speed, and strength, Magic takes this one.
Defense - Magic Johnson
Neither of these players is regarded as defensive stoppers, but Magic was a better defender. He was just much bigger and stronger than Steph and could handle most of the point guards in the league. Curry, on the other hand, is often placed on the opposing team’s weakest offensive player to hide his defensive shortcomings. Curry is still adept at playing passing lanes and coming up with steals, but Magic was a better overall defender.
Rim Protection - Magic Johnson
Neither of these players were great at rim protection as point guards, but Magic takes this one as well. Magic once started an NBA Finals game at center and did an admirable job with a dominating performance. Magic’s size is one of his key strengths, and he excels at defending the rim over a slight-framed Curry.
Rebounds - Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson was a beast on the boards as a point guard, averaging over 7 rebounds a game for his career. He also almost averaged 10 rebounds a game during the 81-82 season. Curry is also quite a good rebounder for his size and averages around 4.5 rebounds per game. Magic’s size comes into play once again, as he is a better rebounder than most point guards in NBA history.
Clutch - Magic Johnson
This might surprise some of the younger viewers, but Magic Johnson was more clutch than Stephen Curry. If there is one knock on Stephen Curry offensively, it is that he does not make the crucial buckets when games are on the line. While he has a few great moments, including a very long effort against Westbrook and the Thunder, Curry has not been able to hit the crucial buckets in the Playoffs.
Magic, on the other hand, always seemed to perform when his team needed him most. Most iconically, Magic started at Center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals en route to a dominating performance which earned him the Finals MVP. Can’t get more clutch than that.
Leadership - Magic Johnson
Magic was arguably the greatest leader in basketball history, in terms of raising the level of play around you. Magic was a supremely gifted passer, floor general, and winner. Alongside Michael Jordan, you will be hard-pressed to find a better winner than Magic.
Curry leads by his play, and his incredible scoring prowess. He gives teammates confidence when he has the ball in his hands and is able to pull off scoring feats that turn the tide in his team’s favor. But Magic was just a supreme leader and could get everybody involved in the right way to win games. Johnson takes this one.
Basketball I.Q. - Magic Johnson
While Curry is a fantastic shooter and scorer, Magic had the rest of the basketball game in his favor. He was able to read the game consistently better than almost every player on the floor, and set guys up in perfect spots to score. Having such supreme playmaking and floor-leadership as a point guard gives Magic the edge on this one.
Scoring - Stephen Curry
Magic Johnson was no slouch on the offensive end, posting a career average of 19.5 points per game. Magic could get buckets when his team needed it, but his real value was in his leadership and play-making where he arguably excelled better than any player ever.
Curry, on the other hand, is a scoring phenom. He can go off for 40 or 50 points at any given night, by getting hot from the perimeter. As the best shooter we have ever seen, Curry takes the cake here by a landslide.
Impact - Magic Johnson
Curry’s impact is undeniable. He can scorch teams in a matter of minutes by getting hot from the perimeter. Even if you play him too tightly, he can drive past his defender and finish at the rim with a soft touch. When he gets going, he is almost unstoppable. But the game is played more than just putting the ball in the basket, and that is why Magic had a greater impact on his team.
Magic was able to take games and completely control the tempo, and get guys going by putting them in the best position to score. He was also a supreme leader, making everyone around him better. His 5 championship rings are proof that he is a winner of the highest regard. Curry keeps this one close, but Magic had a greater impact over a basketball game.
1 on 1 Game - Even
Magic Johnson and Stephen Curry are both great in their own right and are both Hall-of-Fame players with exceptional skill sets. If we were to witness a one-on-one game between these two, both player’s strengths will come into play. Curry is excellent at using dribble moves to create space for his quick release jumper and is very crafty at finishing at the rim.
Johnson, on the other hand, will have little issue backing Curry down and taking the game inside. While Curry’s shooting is always a problem in a one-on-one game, Johnson will be able to negate it with easy buckets at the rim. Overall, this is even between the two.