Crediting Himself for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Turnaround, Magic Johnson Recalls 44YO Hilarious Encounter With the Captain: “Not Gonna Change”

The start of the NFL season has made Magic Johnson a busy man. As the new co-owner of the Washington Commanders, he’s got the important task of uplifting them. Not a big task for Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Not only does he have the megawatt smile and the warm dad laugh, he has the knack of getting serious and stoic athlete to let out their emotions. Just ask his teammates from the Los Angeles Lakers during his playing days.

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Johnson was on CBS Mornings to talk about his new role in the ownership group of an NFL team. The NBA legend is shining as the Commanders’ mood-booster. He’s had that charm since his rookie days, as he boasted about in this interview.

Magic Johnson’s friendly threat to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


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The Lakers selected Magic Johnson in the 1979 draft. By that time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in his fourth season in purple and gold. He had started his NBA career a decade before and had one championship title. It made him a little serious on the team. Rookie Magic fixed that.

While on CBS Mornings, Johnson touched on the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the Lakers. It goes back to October 12, 1979. The Lakers were playing the erstwhile San Diego Clippers. They were down by a point when Kareem hit the buzzer-beater of the season and winning the game. Rookie guard Magic ran up to Kareem and gave him a big hug.

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The 1979 LA Times would describe Johnson as “childishly exuberant” and the then 32-year-old Kareem “too bored” for the NBA scene based on this moment. That hug when the clock hit zero proved it. Johnson revealed that Jabbar didn’t like it. “This is just game number one out of 82 games, we can’t be this high. Rookie don’t ever do that again,” he scolded Johnson in front of the team.

That far from deflated Magic. He immediately bounced back and looked up to Kareem to say, “Let me tell you something, Big Man. You hit a shot like that 81 more times, and I’m jumping on your arms 81 more times.” After that friendly threat, Johnson emphasized, “I’m not gonna change now.

He left quite the impression on Kareem and his teammates. Johnson said he’s not going to let any veteran take away his natural jest for life. The other Lakers could see that when they told him they never saw anyone talk to The Captain like thatThis locker room talk would turn into a defining moment for both of them.

Kareem was infected by the Magic joy virus


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These days there’s no doubt about the Magic-Kareem friendship though Johnson did betray his former Big Man recently. Abdul-Jabbar probably took it just fine since his friend taught him to lighten up. Johnson changed the air in the Lakers’ locker room. He recounted that as his rookie season progressed, they’d give each other hive-fives. But not to Jabbar, since he didn’t want them.

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Halfway through the season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hits another one of his signature sky hooks. And he was lost after that. “He comes out, he didn’t know what to do.” Johnson then mimes a wide-eyed, beaming guy holding his hand up. “Gimme a high-five.” Johnson’s voice was thin, simply reminiscing the moment.


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From then on, [Kareem] saw that he could enjoy himself  and it was still alright.” Johnson takes credit for transforming Jabbar, who’d go on to win five more championships. He hopes to bring that same energy to the Commanders now.

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Author: ZeroToHero

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