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Sudden Impact
JACK McCALLUM
July 11, 2005
[MAGIC JOHNSON] A quarter century ago in the NBA Finals an effervescent rookie took his team--and the league--on his shoulders and lifted it to greatness
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July 11, 2005

Sudden Impact

[MAGIC JOHNSON] A quarter century ago in the NBA Finals an effervescent rookie took his team--and the league--on his shoulders and lifted it to greatness

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Years later, as I sat with Magic in an outdoor caf´┐Ż in Los Angeles, I wondered about that rookie season of 1979-80. The gist of the interview had been about how well Magic had done in the decade since he announced he was HIV-positive in 1992. His business empire included shopping plazas, movie theaters, restaurants and a record company. (Those enterprises continue today; his business interests are now valued at more than $700 million.)

The subject moved easily and pleasantly to his rivalry with Bird. In a lifetime in which he never failed to open his mouth when someone stuck a microphone in front of it, one of Magic's greatest accomplishments is that he never had anything but praise for his greatest rival. I asked Magic if he should've been rookie of the year in '80.

"No way," said Magic. "Larry was great that year. Larry was great every year." Then he got a big smile on his face. "But, man, I did get it done in those Finals, didn't I?"

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