Who was better: Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Discussion in 'The Sports Arena' started by J.J., Jan 23, 2016.

  1. J.J.

    J.J. Mid-Card Championship Winner

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    I grew up in the 80s watching the Lakers, Celtics, Nets and the Pistons play. Pre-Jordan I was a big fan of Julius Erving. Lakers were arguably the more enjoyable team to watch and a great deal of the NBA in the 1980s was headlined by their success. Magic and Kareem are arguably the best 1-2 punch in NBA history, but who would you say is the best of the two?

    I'm going to roll with Kareem. Kareem in my opinion is the last of the long great centers as the NBA by his retirement was no longer about Centers dominating the game and became more guard heavy. Many will argue Magic, but how many players do you know that played 20 years of basketball at the level he did? Even the best of them seen a large decline in their play as recently as Kobe Bryant. Fellow centers such as Shaq, Ewing and Olajuwon had drastically fell off before their careers ended.
     
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  2. SSJPhenom

    SSJPhenom The Phenom of WZ

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    As I said in the Sports Bar when arguing which of the two is the better Laker. IMO, they're either 1A or 1B and they're interchangeable at the top of the greatest Lakers of all time list, but that wasn't the question was it?

    So to answer your question, and I know I'm going to get flack for this, I'm going with Ervin Magic Johnson. For me, it simply comes down to competition at there positions. It can be argued that Abdul-Jabbar was so good and dominant because he was tall and big. I mean, nobody in the League at that point in time was close to Abdul-Jabbar in height, which is why the sky hook worked so well. It was unblockable. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Abdul-Jabbar wasn't skilled because he damn sure was. I'm simply saying that a lot of times his dominance of other players didn't come down to his skills. It came down to his height. It was different for Magic Johnson. He was a 6'9" point guard and on a nightly basis, he had to face guards who were a lot smaller than him, which is the opposite of what you want when you're on the perimeter. Johnson repeatedly had to face guards smaller, faster, and more agile than himself but because of his great skill and basketball IQ, he always managed to come out on top. Not to mention Magic had the greatest rivalry in sports history between 2 men with Larry Bird, who was equally as skilled as Magic but played SF instead of PG. Bird could've played PG though. He was a point forward on many nights and always had high assist numbers, but I'm rambling.

    I'm going with Magic Johnson.
     
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  3. J.J.

    J.J. Mid-Card Championship Winner

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    I'll give you a very base logic, without going into detailed specifics. You say Kareem had a height advantage, so you don't consider a 6'9 point guard having an advantage who was several inches taller than others at the respective positions? Let's take a look at some centers Kareem went against, specifically during his time sharing the floor with Magic that are worth mentioning.

    Bill Laimbeer
    Hakeem Olajuwon
    Jack Sikma
    Artis Gilmore
    Robert Parish
    Moses Malone
    Mark Eaton
    And for the sake of argument I'll add in Patrick Ewing even though his better years were after Kareem.

    Those are just some of the guys off the top of my head that were good at their positions that he played against that were arguably in their prime during his run with Magic. They're around the same height as Jabbar too. Some maybe giving up an inch or two. Eaton is less skilled but was a hell of a rim protector and probably one of the better defensive centers I saw growing up. Kareem was no slouch on defense either but the greatest part of his game was by far his offense.

    Jabber wasn't a guy known for his strength but his flexibility and the fact the skyhook was just unguarded. He wasn't a dominant physical big like a Shaq. He was a tall guy with a long wingspan - if he was a physical big at that height I cannot see him playing a 20 year career at such a high level.

    So if we are going to use the height argument, let me name off some guys off top of my head Magic had a major height advantage over.

    Isiah Thomas
    Maurice Cheeks
    Dennis Johnson
    Sugar Ray Richardson
    Norm Nixon(even though half his career was with the Lakers)
    John Stockton(he was more of a 90s guy)

    That list of guards are many of the ones I would say were among the best during the 80s that Magic had to compete against. If we are going to use the height argument, DJ was a fairly tall guard; somewhere between 6'4-6'5 but the rest were 6'1-6'2 ballpark.

    I feel Magic as a player in comparison had an overall better skill set, was more versatile and could play different positions. But to me what separates them is durability, points and defense. Magic did not play up to the same level when he came back from his 'retitement', Jabbar had well over 20,000 more career points and his defense was better - which I could credit to his length and wingspan.
     
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  4. SSJPhenom

    SSJPhenom The Phenom of WZ

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    Did you miss the whole part in my previous post where I explained how height really isn't an advantage against guards? Bigger slower guys guarding guards are constantly being out maneuvered or just plain out ran, etc. So, no, I don't consider Magic's height an advantage against guards. Magic himself has said several times in several interviews that he hated going against significantly smaller guards because they were quicker, could shoot better, and were better able to play defense on him by being able to steal the ball because of their size.

    You're right about Abdul-Jabbar's numbers, but I'm glad as a PG that Magic doesn't have significant scoring numbers. That wasn't his job. Magic was the quintessential pass first PG and his job was to run the Showtime Lakers. The reason I say that they are interchangeable at the top of the Lakers greats is because without Magic, that team doesn't win and without Abdul-Jabbar, that team doesn't win. Although, I do think that Magic attributed to more of the Lakers success than Abdul-Jabbar did. Remember the 1980 Finals when Abdul-Jabbar went down? Who played Center in the last game to seal the Lakers victory? Magic did with 43 pts, 14 rbs, and 7 ast.

    Magic Johnson was amazing.

    EDIT: You left out some guards on your list. Mark Jackson, Sidney Moncrief, Nate Tiny Archibald, etc.
     
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  5. J.J.

    J.J. Mid-Card Championship Winner

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    Sidney was a guy I forgot. But the other two either I intentionally left off. Jackson played against that duo 4 times? Tiny was near the end of his career and probably weighed 80lbs less than Magic on top of being about 7 inches shorter. Basically what I'm getting at the true best one i remember that was a good challenge would've been Sidney and Thomas. I feel Kareem had more matchups against better players at his position.
     
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