Magic Johnson is still considered by many the greatest point guard in NBA history, and rightfully so. Standing at 6’8″, Magic was a unique floor general that used his incredible combination of size, skill, and high basketball IQ to his advantage. His versatility was the factor that set him apart from all the other point guards in that era. All the individual and team accomplishments speak volumes about how great an athlete Magic Johnson was during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Even though Magic was one of the most dominant players of his era, usually dismantling defenders and teams in charge of stopping him, he pays respect for those who gave him the most problems. There were numerous great athletic defenders in the ’80s, and Magic names, a few recognizable players, but also a few guys that rarely get mentioned today at all.
I would say you have a couple of them. First of all, was Nate McMillan, he was tough, he was tough. Joe Dumars was a tough man. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen cause they were rotating on me, and I would say DJ from Boston was the toughest. He was also big like I am and strong.Magic Johnson, via Sway In The Morning
Another player that doesn’t get enough recognition as one of the most elite perimeter defenders is Magic’s teammate Michael Cooper. On top of being a great scorer, Cooper was able to lock down players playing multiple positions, and his versatility was a vital part of the Lakers’ success during those years. Going up against Cooper every day in practice meant a lot to Magic because he learned that other defenders don’t stand a chance if he can go up against Cooper.
Last but not least, the boy I had to go up against every day in practice Michael Cooper. One of the best to ever play the game at defense. That boy used to beat me up every day in practice, so those were the guys who gave me the most problem and went head to head against.Magic Johnson, via Sway In The Morning
It’s always interesting to hear what legends like Magic have to say about the toughest defenders he had to face during his illustrious NBA career. Names like Pippen, Jordan, and Dumars are frequently mentioned when discussing great defenders of that era. However, Nate McMillan, Dennis Johnson, and Michael Cooper rarely get their respect even though they were great and important players for their respective teams. Magic understands better than anyone how good they were, so giving them their due respect is an admirable thing Magic has done.