In South Korea, a woman 5’6” tall played phenomenal basketball, which prompted experts to call her their country’s version of Magic Johnson. Here’s the story of Eun Jung Lee Ok and why we have to give her more recognition.
The Korean Magic Johnson
Being compared to one of the greatest point guards of all time means a lot. And it comes with pressure, too! But this speaks of the contributions and skills of E.J. Ok. The Gimje, South Korea native, went to the U.S. to play for Northeast Louisiana University and immediately made an impact.
Her legend started in the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game against rivals Louisiana Tech. Just like Johnson, she weaved through traffic and made plays for her teammates. E.J. Ok’s double-clutch jumpers fooled defenders into thinking she would pass the ball. At the end of the game, the South Korean totaled 18 points and 11 assists, limiting the other team’s superstar to only three points. Her team won to the tune of 85-76. It was a masterclass for Eun Jung. You know you had a good game when the opposing coach tells you he would be the happiest to see you graduate.
E.J.’s resume includes being Southland Conference Player of the Year from 1983 to 1986. During her time at Northeast Louisiana University, the team tallied a 102-15 record and was unblemished in the Southland Conference for four years. Ok’s college averages of 18.8 points and 8.4 assists are even more impressive if you consider her leading the assists total and second in points in the school history.
“I don’t mean to embellish this, but she’s a female Pete Maravich. They had eyes all around their head. Great players perceive things that aren’t there. They diagram plays and know it in their head, and make that pass two seconds later. She was a phenom, I tell you. She had it all.”
Dale Brown, Character Media
What could have been
According to her social media profile, E.J. worked as an Associate Head Coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and now holds a position at River Oaks School. She will forever be remembered with these highlights for the younger generation to watch and admire.
Eun Jung Lee Ok was truly ahead of her time. There was still no professional league for women after she graduated from the U.S. She had to go to Sweden and Italy to explore opportunities, and she won MVPs in her stint there. Just imagine the impact she could have had if she had played in the era of social media. Ok’s story was a perfect recipe for a Netflix docuseries.
For sure, if she made it to the WNBA, E.J. would have dominated the same. At 35 years old, she had her chance to try out for the Houston Comets in 1997. However, all hopes vanished upon learning she was pregnant with her third child.
Her legacy remains intact even if there are only a few videos of how great she was as a player. It would have been nice if there were more, but as the only woman basketball player who was compared to Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich, it shows how special she was on the court.