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“I love that man but he was in between me and that NBA championship” — Magic Johnson showed no mercy to his mentor Julius Erving

Dr. J. made an incredible gesture that helped Magic make one of the most important decisions in his life. But that didn't matter when they met in the Finals ”six to seven months later.”
NBA legends Julius Erving and Magic Johnson

Julius Erving and Magic Johnson

When Magic Johnson was in his second year of college at Michigan State, he had a choice: to make the jump and take his talents to the NBA at the age of 19 years old or play out the rest of his collegiate career. Johnson, who was already projected to be a top-5 pick, admitted that it was a tough dilemma as he needed someone to advise him on how to handle the crossroad he was dealing with.

Then one day, Johnson got ahold of Julius Erving's (Dr.J) number, who once went through the same situation as he did. Dr.J was kind enough to be Johnson's mentor; he took him under his wing and even flew Magic out to Philadelphia to stay in his house. This was a surreal moment for Johnson, who looked up to Erving during his childhood years.

"I was like 'What did you just say?' So he [Dr.J] said it again and so I hung up the phone and I'm howling and screaming 'Guess what everybody!! I'm going to Dr. J's house.' I'm going crazy, I couldn't hold it and I'm going around the street telling everybody that I'm going to be staying in Dr. J's house," Johnson recalled in his latest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

7 months later, it was Magic vs. Dr. J in the NBA Finals

So when Magic was with Dr. J in Philadelphia, he was sold on the idea of taking the leap to the NBA. He knew there was no time to waste and that he was ready to shine on the professional stage. Thanks to Dr. J's advice, he declared for the NBA Draft weeks after.

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However, little did Magic know that he would make it to the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers in his rookie year — and face his mentor Dr.J 7 months after spending time with him in Philadelphia and deciding whether to declare for the NBA Draft or not.

"So I get there and he's talking to me and I'm just mesmerized right? I don't care if I'm sleeping on the floor or on the couch, I sleep anywhere. So, I went to sleep, woke up, went to the Playoff game, and who would've ever thought, this was how it ended up as blessing. I ended up playing in the NBA championships in my first year as a rookie six or seven months later, I'm in the Finals against Dr.J," Johnson added.

A storybook ending for Johnson

Led by Magic's brilliance, the Lakers defeated Dr. J's Sixers in 6 games to win their first championship under the Showtime Lakers regime. This was also the Finals where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suffered a foot injury, so Johnson stepped up and scored 42 points along with 15 rebounds and 7 assists — becoming the first and only rookie to be named Finals MVP in NBA history.

"I love that man but he was in between me and that NBA championship. I wasn't going to let him beat me and you know that series, I'm still the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP as a rookie. And the crazy thing is, we played the game, I went to my hotel and watched the replay because it wasn't televised live. How many people can say that? They won the game and watched myself on TV?" Johnson said.

Going from meeting and hearing Dr. J's advice as a confused college young adult to playing him in the NBA Finals months after is truly a full circle moment for Johnson. While it may have come at the expense of Dr.J, this was the moment that introduced Johnson to the world and made him an iconic superstar — all thanks to Dr. J's guidance. 

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