Magic Is Back
Magic Johnson ended his retirement last week when it became obvious that it was the first thing at which he had ever failed miserably. After he announced last November that he was HIV-positive and was ending his career as a Los Angeles Laker, Johnson made cameo appearances during which he played so well that he was named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game and won an Olympic gold medal. Now he will resume playing for the Lakers on a limited basis—perhaps up to 60 regular-season games, though never on successive nights. But even if his health holds up, will he be able to perform as well as he used to?
One person who has reason to suspect that Magic will have difficulty is Bill Walton, the former NBA star who attempted a similar comeback with the San Diego Clippers during the 1982-83 season. In January '81 Walton had been told by doctors that because of chronic foot injuries his career was over, but by the following year his feet began to feel better. He returned to the court and appeared in 33 games, never playing two nights in a row. "It was a problem to some extent," Walton says. "I had to learn that your body does not function on the NBA schedule, and it will tell you what you can and can't do."
Laker opponents are already clamoring to know whether they will be selling tickets to Magic games or non-Magic ones. "Who's going to decide which games Magic's going to sit out?" Walton wonders. "It's a difficult situation." And what of his teammates, who will be playing with the NBA's career assist leader one game and someone else the next? "The other players will have to adjust to him," says Walton. "It's not ideal." By the way, the Clippers finished the '82-83 season at 25-57, 33 games behind the Lakers and their 23-year-old point guard, Magic Johnson.
The NCAA last week loosed a toothless set of sanctions against the Syracuse basketball program—two years of probation, some recruiting restrictions and a one-year ban from the NCAA tournament, but no limitation on lucrative TV appearances. On top of that, the Big East is expected to allow the Orangemen to play in the conference tournament this season. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim responded with a grudging acceptance of responsibility but no discernible sign of contrition. "I'm the coach from the opening tip to the end of the game," Boeheim said, conveniently narrowing the scope of his authority. "But I was not aware of anything that happened, therefore I could not have prevented it."
The university tried to buy its way out of even the one-year basketball tournament ban by offering to donate $364,000—its share of tournament revenues last season—to charity. When the NCAA didn't bite, the idea of a donation was quickly dropped.
The NCAA uncovered at least 15 rules violations, including Christmas cards to players stuffed with cash from a booster. "I think the basketball coach should have been aware some of these problems were occurring," said David Swank, chairman of the NCAA infractions committee.
Should have been and probably was. So how about this? From now on coaches whose programs are corrupt should be fired, just as the head of any business would be if implicated in such slimy doings. Why isn't cheating considered a greater disgrace among coaches? If you want to reduce cheating in college sports, off with their heads.
No Bonilla Bonanza
Before this season the New York Mets signed free agent Bobby Bonilla to a five-year, $29 million deal and got a player whose hitting proved to be erratic, who was frequently injured and who was often surly with umpires and the press. The Mets finished fifth in the National League East, 24 games behind Bonilla's former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were supposed to collapse without him.