"3 months, all summer I cried": Magic Johnson revisits emotional toll he endured after costing Lakers' 1984 NBA championship
Magic Johnson is considered the single greatest point guard in NBA history. His size, athleticism and grace put Johnson ahead of his time regarding playing multiple positions. Throughout his time in college and the NBA, he continued to surprise fans and peers with his skills; however, even the great Johnson struggled.
In 1984, Johnson and the LA Lakers took on the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The matchup was the next big milestone in his and Larry Bird's famed rivalry that spanned from the pair's college days to the pinnacle of their NBA careers.
When it came to this particular postseason, Johnson and the LA Lakers came up short. Although Johnson was already a two-time NBA champion, he blamed himself for his team's failure to secure another NBA title. He explained his thoughts to NBA vet Jalen Rose in a recent interview:
"This was the first time I made critical mistakes for us to lose that championship. So I cried, Jalen, for three months, all summer, I cried because I let my teammates down. I was the reason why we lost the championship. But the first thing I had to do, Jalen, was identify and say to myself, 'I'm not as good as I thought I was.'"
The star added,
"I got to go back to the lab. I got to go back to work. See, self-evaluation is the hardest thing you have to do. Any person has to judge themselves and be honest with themselves and if you can do that, then you can improve."
How Magic Johnson evolved his game, and the success that followed
After coming up short to Bird and the Celtics, Johnson went to work in the offseason alongside his friend and mentor Isaiah Thomas. In addition, the then-two-time champion also assesed himself as a player to identify what he needed to improve on.
On top of adding in a sky hook like the one-and-only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson also perfected his midrange jump shot. The following season, when he and the Lakers matched up with the Celtics in the NBA Finals, they avenged their loss, and Johnson captured his third title.
"I said, 'Uh-oh, I got to go to work. I got to get my jump shot better. I had to work on that. I got to make sure that I don't make critical mistakes ever again.' And so I improved over that summer. I started shooting a little sky hook. I worked on it every single day. Man, I was working out three times a day...
"Early in the morning, come back, get a little nap in the afternoon, then work out. Isaiah and I were working out at night at 12 midnight, man. ... And so God would have it that I would turn around in 1985, play the Celtics again, and we end up beating them because I got better and I didn't make critical mistakes," said Johnson.
In addition to the championship win the following season, Johnson also managed to capture back-to-back titles years later. When he retired from the NBA, Johnson had won five championships with the LA Lakers.