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SI writer John Papanek described the return of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson, who in his second NBA season was sidelined for 100 days after tearing cartilage in his left knee.
JUST AS injury is an inevitable adjunct to sport, so is the clichéd comeback. But there are comebacks and there are comebacks. Mickey Mantle folded his leg over his knee backward and came back. Tommy John had his pitching arm reconstructed and came back. All Magic Johnson did was have a small piece of cartilage removed from his knee—a relatively minor procedure as knee operations go—and he is only 21 years old, for heaven's sake. But the severity of the injury wasn't The Forum crowd's yardstick; it was responding to the persona of Johnson, the man-child who has never failed to live up to his nickname. Last year, his rookie season, he received most of the credit for nudging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers to the NBA championship. He is a great basketball player and has never been anything but a winner, but beyond that he is as appealing as any public figure, perhaps more so.
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