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The Return of Magic Johnson

Magic-Johnson

On this date in 1996, Magic Johnson comes out of retirement and puts on a show against the Golden State Warriors. This was Magic’s first game after the 1991 Finals vs Chicago Bulls which placed Michael Jordan and the Bulls as the ultimate power-house in the NBA.

After being forced to an early retirement due to his contraction of the HIV virus, Magic Johnson began some intense workouts to help his fight against the virus. Eventually, Johnson would up his weight to 255 pounds and decided to make a comeback to the Lakers in 1996.

Johnson showed his skill when, in his first NBA game in five years, he nearly recorded a triple-double off the bench with 19 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds against the Golden State Warriors. Two weeks later, Johnson recorded his 138th, and final, triple-double of his career with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists against the Atlanta Hawks.

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Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Magic's 1996 comeback is that it showed what the Lakers lost when he left the first time. Magic was still great in 1991 and was still good in 1996. How far could he have led the Lakers in 1992 and beyond? Magic would have changed his game but remained effective and, likely, dominant for at least a few more seasons. He still would have been the smartest player on the court and few backcourt players would have had a chance against him in the post. Johnson truly proved his greatness with this final comeback and who knows maybe the Bulls don't have their first three-peat if Magic stayed around.

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