Magic Johnson came to the L.A. Lakers and ruffled some feathers due to his larger-than-life personality. Alpha dog Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tried to set the rules, but Magic taught him some lessons that led to creating a beautiful and successful partnership on the court.
You’re gonna have to accept me for who I am, just like I accept you for who you are
By the time Magic played for LaLa Land, Kareem was already the top dog and one-time champion. Some didn’t think their personalities would mesh well with each other. Abdul-Jabbar was the serious, no-nonsense type; Magic was the young, loud, and vocal leader. However, Johnson knew what he needed to do to make Kareem open up to him and his teammates more: ask questions.
Kareem was surprised when his rookie point guard asked him where he wanted the ball in the low post. The big man had never had a guard ask him that before. The gesture meant Magic wanted Abdul-Jabbar to be in his best position to succeed. The rookie paid his dues and admitted to buying his veteran hot dogs and bringing him Gatorade. But that didn’t stop Magic from reaching out and making Kareem more than a teammate: his friend. Johnson set the tone early in the team. He mentioned the instance his teammates knew he wouldn’t change for them.
“I’m gonna be me. You have to accept me who I am just as I accept you for who you are.”
How Karem changed his ways
After some games, Kareem started initiating high-fives with Johnson and other teammates. It was thought impossible at first, given his serious demeanor, but it was all thanks to his star point guard.
Magic served as a catalyst for Kareem to open up, let loose, enjoy, and let go. Once he started opening up, it became easier for everyone to achieve their goal. The Lakers won a total of five titles with Magic and Kareem. Without that extra prodding and the little steps Johnson bravely took, the team might not have been that successful. The efforts saved their friendship and championship aspirations.