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Magic Johnsons' Career Record vs. NBA Legends: Only Michael Jordan And Scottie Pippen Won Their Head-To-Head Matchups Against Magic

Magic Johnsons' Career Record vs. NBA Legends: Only Michael Jordan And Scottie Pippen Won Their Head-To-Head Matchups Against Magic

There used to be magic in the air when Magic Johnson played. After a stellar career, Johnson is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, points guards of all time. Some claim that his run in the 1980s might be overplayed, but in reality, it’s not and the number can prove it. When all was said and done, Johnson reigned supreme against some of the best to ever play.

The outliers against Johnson are few, but when you see the names, it will make sense. From winning five championships to MVPs to just being great at the game, Johnson’s memory lives on. Against some of the best names to play the game, he found a way to win.

This is Magic Johnson’s career record against some of the best NBA legends.

Scottie Pippen - 14 Games, 4-10 (28.6%)

Scottie Pippen

Regular Season: 18.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 10.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 51.8 FG%, 48.1 3-PT% (3-6)

Playoffs: 18.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 12.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 43.1 FG%, 28.6 3-PT% (1-4)

There are only two players that Johnson owns a losing record against and they both wore a Chicago Bulls uniform. One of those players was Scottie Pippen, where Johnson owns the fewest wins among NBA legends. While it may be a small sample size, Pippen was among many winning Bulls teams against the Lakers.

The Lakers and Bulls played in the NBA Finals in 1991, where the Bulls won the NBA championship. After the Finals, Johnson retired from the league due to an HIV diagnosis. Had Johnson stuck around from 1992 to 1996, who knows if this record would have been better, or far worse.

Michael Jordan - 18 Games, 7-11 (38.8%)

Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson

Regular Season: 19.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 11.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 52.2 FG%, 43.3 3-PT% (6-7)

Playoffs: 18.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 12.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 43.1 FG%, 28.6 3-PT% (1-4)

If there was one player that was truly the nemesis of Johnson, it was Michael Jordan. In the regular season, Jordan averaged over 30 points against Johnson’s teams. With that said, it forced Johnson to change his style of play as the Bulls were one of the few teams he shot very efficiently from three-point range.

In the playoffs, the two met once in the 1991 NBA Finals. It was the first championship for Jordan at the time. It was the first time Jordan made it past Isiah Thomas, Johnson’s close friend, and the Pistons. The Bulls won the series as Jordan averaged31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.4 assists to claim Finals MVP.

Julius Erving - 28 Games, 14-14 (50.0%)

Julius Erving

Regular Season: 19.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 11.0 APG, 0.8 BPG, 60.8 FG%, 16.7 3-PT% (6-6)

Playoffs: 18.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 9.4 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 51.0 FG%, 0.0 3-PT% (8-8)

Now, we get into some true tough foes for Johnson. One of those was Julius Erving, who spent his entire career with the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite having two top defensive players in Erving and Moses Malone, Johnson was able to still get the ball to the rack, shooting over 60% from the field. With that said, his three-point shooting took a terrible toll.

The two met in the NBA Finals in back-to-back years in 1982 and 1983. In 1982, the Lakers won the series in six games Then, the two met in 1983 and the 76ers got their revenge by sweeping the Lakers in four games. Fun fact about Johnson, he never made a three-point shot against Erving in the playoffs.

Dennis Rodman - 20 Games, 10-10 (50.0%)

Dennis Rodman vs. Magic Johnson

Regular Season: 23.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 10.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 49.1 FG%, 28.6 3-PT% (6-4)

Playoffs: 18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 11.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 52.8 FG%, 27.3 3PT% (4-6)

Johnson has a slightly higher regular-season average in scoring against Rodman despite having a similar winning percentage in comparison to Erving. Johnson owns a solid rebounding average against Rodman despite Rodman being the superior rebounder. The battle between the Lakers and the Pistons posed some challenges for both teams.

For starters, the Lakers and the Pistons met in the NBA Finals in 1988 and 1989. The Lakers came out victorious in 1988, while the Pistons won the rematch in 1989. Rodman was one of the stable members of the “Bad Boys.” Despite having that tough, physical presence in front of him, Johnson still converted about half of his shots.

Moses Malone - 33 Games, 17-16 (51.5%)

Moses Malone

Regular Season: 20.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.3 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 52.3 FG%, 34.4 3-PT% (16-10)

Playoffs: 18.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 10.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 39.6 FG% 0.0 3-PT% (1-6)

Malone played with Erving when they played for the 76ers. As mentioned, the Lakers and 76ers had some tough battles between the two teams. In the regular season, Johnson got the best of Malone a handful of times while averaging a respectable stat line. In the playoffs, it was a different story.

Johnson’s field goal percentage took a dip and he never made a three-point shot. The two did not meet in the 1982 NBA Finals as Malone was not a member of the 76ers. With that said, when he joined the team the following season, he was able to defeat Johnson’s Lakers in four straight games.

George Gervin - 32 Games, 18-14 (56.3%)

George Gervin

Regular Season: 18.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 10.5 APG, 3.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 54.0 FG%, 14.3 3-PT% (10-12)

Playoffs: 17.1 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 12.3 APG, 2.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 50.4 FG% (8-2)

In the regular season, Gervin got the best of Johnson. Despite nearly averaging a triple-double, Gervin was able to win two more games when the Spurs played the Lakers. The biggest eye-popping stat would be how Johnson’s defense soared, averaging at least 3.0 steals per game.

In the playoffs, Johnson took over, losing just two times. The Spurs played the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in 1982 and 1983. Both times, Gervin was unable to lead his team into the NBA Finals, where the Lakers won a championship in one of those series-clinching wins.

Isiah Thomas - 28 Games, 16-12 (57.1%)

Isiah Thomas

Regular Season: 21.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 12.3 APG, 51.7 FG%, 11.1 3-PT% (12-6)

Playoffs: 18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 11.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 52.8 FG%, 27.3 3-PT% (4-6)

It was all love until the two players met on the basketball court. Johnson and Thomas were famously known as good friends back in the day. When they suited up, it was all business, where Johnson owned the regular season advantage with one of his higher-scoring efforts among NBA legends.

In the playoffs, the two met in the 1988 and 1989 NBA Finals. The Pistons nearly won back-to-back championships, In 1988, the series went the full seven games. The following year, the Pistons swept the Lakers in four games. They have to call this a true tie as neither won Finals MVP when playing each other. In 1988, it was James Worthy, while Joe Dumars won in 1989.

Larry Bird - 37 Games, 22-15 (59.4%)

Charles Barkley Says Magic Johnson And Larry Bird Are Two Most Important Figures In NBA History: "They Saved The League"

Regular Season: 19.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 11.5 APG, 49.6 FG%, 31.6 3-PT% (11-7)

Playoffs: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 13.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 53.3 FG%, 40.0 3-PT% (11-8)

The Celtics were a formidable opponent back in the 80s. Having the Celtics or the Lakers in the NBA Finals was sort of expected each year given the talent on each side. You had Larry Bird and Kevin McHale on one side and Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the other. At this time, steals and blocks were not consistently kept, so those stats are unavailable.

As great as Bird was, Johnson won most of their matchups. That included winning 11 times in both the regular season and postseason. Not to mention, Johnson got the best of Bird two of the three times they met in the playoffs.

Kevin McHale - 35 Games, 21-14 (60.0%)

Kevin McHale

Regular Season: 21.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 12.1 APG, 50.8 FG%, 28.6 3-PT% (10-6)

Playoffs: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 13.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 53.3 FG%, 40.0 3-PT% (11-8)

Right on cue, Bird’s longtime teammate in McHale is right here with him among Johnson’s victims. Both spent their career with the Celtics, so naturally, their winning percentage will be close to the same. It would likely be the same had McHale not missed two games against the Lakers at points in his career.

In the playoffs, Johnson met the tandem of Bird and McHale three times. Once was in 1984, where one game was decided, sweeping all three meetings in the Finals. The Celtics won Game 7 of the 1984 Finals to take the championship. The two teams met again in 1985 and 1987, where the Celtics won both titles and Johnson claimed Finals MVP in 1987.

Alex English - 57 Games, 41-16 (61.4%)

Alex English

Regular Season: 19.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 12.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 52.3 FG%, 25.4 3-PT% (35-15)

Playoffs: 14.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 14.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 51.4 FG%, 16.7 3-PT% (6-1)

With the Lakers and Nuggets in the same conference, the two teams frequently met in the regular season. It was a matchup that English was probably not looking forward to having. Out of 50 possible regular-season matchups, Johnson defeated the Nuggets 35 times.

In the playoffs, the Lakers eliminated the Nuggets in the 1987 first round. The most decorated matchup came in 1985 when the two teams met in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets have never played in the NBA Finals and part of that came in the 1985 conference finals where the Lakers won in five games.

Dennis Johnson - 60 Games, 38-22 (63.3%)

Magic Johnson vs. Dennis Johnson

Regular Season: 17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 10.2 APG, 2.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 49.1 FG%, 33.3 3-PT% (19-13)

Playoffs: 20.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 12.3 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 53.1 FG%, 30.0 3-PT% (19-9)

Similar to English, Johnson met Johnson frequently. Dennis Johnson is the only player that Magic has played at least 60 times. Out of those 60 meetings, Magic won 38 times, which is nearly two-thirds of the time. It didn’t matter if Johnson was with the SuperSonics, Suns, or Celtics. Magic found a way to win.

In the playoffs, it was equally successful for Magic. He nearly won two-thirds of their meetings there as well, which included averaging close to 20 points per game. All in all, we can tell who the better Johnson was in this matchup.

Hakeem Olajuwon - 48 Games, 30-18 (62.5%)

Hakeem Olajuwon

Regular Season: 21.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 12.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 49.7 FG%, 26.4 3-PT% (22-10)

Playoffs: 19.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 12.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 48.4 FG%, 20.0 3-PT% (8-8)

When Johnson was playing in his prime, Olajuwon was first entering the league. Olajuwon’s career didn’t take off until the 90s, which is when the Rockets saw their best success. By the end of the 1991 season, Johnson was done with basketball until a brief reunion in 1996. In the 80s, it was Johnson’s show and he made it showtime.

There was one time that Olajuwon made it past Johnson in the playoffs. In the 1986 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets won the series in five games to make the NBA Finals. Had the two played in the 90s, that would have been an interesting matchup had Johnson not ever left the league. The 1994 and 1995 championships won by Olajuwon might have been a lot harder to get.

Karl Malone - 32 Games, 21-11 (65.6%)

Karl Malone vs. Magic Johnson

Regular Season: 22.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 11.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 47.6 FG%, 34.0 3-PT% (17-8)

Playoffs: 18.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 50.0 FG% (4-3)

Malone first entered the league in 1985 and by his second year, he was one of the best power forwards in the league. When looking at this, we aren’t as gracious to give grace here because Malone was just a tad ahead of his peers when he first entered the NBA. Despite Malone’s All-Star level of talent, Johnson did win two-thirds of their matchups.

In the playoffs, the two met once. That was the 1988 semifinals where the series went seven games. Johnson did not make a single three-point shot and owns one of his lowest rebounding totals among the averages against NBA legends. The Jazz held a 2-1 series lead, but the Lakers ultimately won Game 5 and 7 to clinch the series.

John Stockton - 36 Games, 24-12 (66.6%)

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Regular Season: 21.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 11.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 47.3 FG%, 32.7 3-PT% (20-9)

Playoffs: 18.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 50.0 FG% (4-3)

Stockton entered the league in 1984, so he had two more games of service time against Johnson. Like his teammate Malone, this was a tough matchup against the. For starters, Johnson won 20 of their 29 meetings in the regular season. Combine that with the series win in the playoffs, the Jazz were ready for Johnson to leave.

The Jazz didn’t see their most successful playoffs until the late 90s. By then, Johnson was far gone from the league. It’s hard to stop someone when they are making half of their shots on top of everything else.

Bernard King - 21 Games, 15-6 (71.4%)

Bernard King

Regular Season: 20.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 10.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 55.6 FG%, 40.0 3-PT% (15-6)

Playoffs: None

There are four NBA legends that Johnson owns a winning percentage of at least 70% or better. You wouldn't want to call it a freebie, but let’s put it this way. The Lakers were going into these meetings thinking it was going to be a win.

The first matchup is with Bernard King, who spent the majority of his career with the New York Knicks. During the 80s, the Knicks were not as competitive as they were in the 70s and 90s. It was Johnson’s era, so naturally, he was going to put up big numbers, especially when he visited New York. Against King, it was one of the few times that Johnson shot the ball well from outside.

Clyde Drexler - 55 Games, 40-15 (72.7%)

Magic Johnson vs. Clyde Drexler

Regular Season: 20.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 12.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG , 51.5 FG%, 32.9 3-PT% (28-9)

Playoffs: 20.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 12.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 48.9 FG%, 33.3 3-PT% (12-6)

When looking at this particular matchup, this might be Johnson’s most impressive. Clyde Drexler was no slouch in the league. There is a reason he is a Hall of Famer and the all-time leading scorer for the Portland Trail Blazers. With that said, Johnson defeated Drexler 40 out of 55 possible games to make this one incredible statistic.

In the playoffs, Johnson won all three matchups against Drexler. Johnson was the one player Portland had to hate. In 1985, the Lakers won in the semifinals in five games. Then, the Lakers eliminated the Trail Blazers in the first round in 1989 and 1991. The Trail Blazers made the NBA Finals in 1992, the first season without Johnson in the league, just to add some extra context.

Dominique Wilkins - 18 games, 14-4 (77.8%)

Dominique Wilkins

Regular Season: 20.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 13.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 52.0 FG%, 38.7 3-PT% (14-4)

Playoffs: None

Johnson shot some of his best basketball when playing against teams with Dominique Wilkins. Outside of winning 14 of 18 regular-season games, Johnson averaged 52.0% from the field and nearly shot 40% from three-point range. It’s not his best overall stat line, but it’s still pretty efficient.

The two teams never met in the playoffs because the Hawks were in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks would have had to make the NBA Finals for the two teams to meet. When Wilkins joined the Clippers and Spurs later in his career, Johnson was out of the league.

Charles Barkley - 15 Games, 12-3 (80%)

Magic Johnson vs. Charles Barkley

Regular Season: 23.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 13.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 62.6% FG%, 48.0 3-PT% (12-3)

Playoffs: None

Only one player on this list was defeated 80% of the time and that was Charles Barkley. Not only did Johnson beat him four out of five times mathematically, but he also averaged one of his most efficient stat lines among NBA legends. All his Johnson’s work was done when Barkley was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.

For starters, Johnson shot the ball over 60% from the field, so you have to wonder who was even playing defense on him. From three-point range, he nearly made 50% of his shots and Johnson was not a historically good three-point shooter. Combine that with the 23.3 points, which is his highest average among all players on this list, Johnson roasted Barkley-led teams.


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