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How good was Magic Johnson in NCAA basketball? We take a look at his college stats, career, and highlights

NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin "Magic" Johnson speaks to the crowd during halftime of the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan.
NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin "Magic" Johnson speaks to the crowd during halftime of the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan.
ANALYST

Earvin Magic Johnson’s status as one of the greatest basketball players of all time is irrefutable. The former Lakers star is one of the most celebrated NBA figures in the league's history. He has achieved an enormous amount of silverware and accolades during his 13 seasons in the league.

The 1979 1st overall draft pick spent his entire career with the LA Lakers, winning 5 NBA titles with the franchise. Magic Johnson remarkably bagged both the NBA Finals MVP award and NBA MVP award three times.

His outstanding talent also saw him feature in 12 All-Star games, bagging the All-Star MVP award on two occasions (1990, 1992). Magic Johnson has a career average of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists - holding the NBA record for most assists per game.

Today is Magic Johnson's 62nd birthday.The NBA's all-time leader in assists per game avg (11.2), Johnson won 3 league MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs & 5 NBA Championships with the Lakers.He also won an NCAA title at Michigan State in 1979 & Olympic gold as part of the 1992 Dream Team. https://t.co/rGNnNwJ5gS

Despite having to forcefully retire in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, his outstanding performance was enough to have his no. 32 jersey retired by the Lakers.


How did Magic Johnson perform in college?

Earvin "Magic" Johnson talks with Michigan State Spartans fans before the Spartans take on the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson talks with Michigan State Spartans fans before the Spartans take on the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

For all his brilliance and achievements in the NBA, the LA Lakers weren’t the first team to retire the point guard’s jersey. Magic Johnson had already earned a reputation as one of the best players, leaving behind a massive legacy from his college stint with the Michigan State Spartans, where he received similar reverence.

Despite playing without the three-point line back then, Magic Johnson's first year at Michigan saw him average 17.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists during the 1977-78 season. Creating a record for the highest scoring average by a freshman. He led the Spartans to a 25-5 record and the Big Ten Conference title, becoming the only Spartan to earn All-American honors as a freshman.

Although his outstanding form pushed MSU into the NCAA tournament, they eventually failed to inspire, falling short in the battle for the top four places. Nevertheless, Magic Johnson’s efforts saw him set an MSU freshman record for the number of field goals made (175).

To this day, Magic Johnson holds the Michigan State record for the most triple-doubles in the program (8) and is second and third in Michigan's history for the most assists (76) and steals (75) in a single season.


NCAA title win and Michigan State Spartans' Immortality

NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin "Magic" Johnson poses with his 1979 NCAA National Championship
NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin "Magic" Johnson poses with his 1979 NCAA National Championship

Magic Johnson’s sophomore season in Michigan saw him attain “god status”, as the point guard doubled up on his impressive performances, creating records in the NCAA 1978-79 season.

At that point, Johnson had already started to make a name for himself outside Michigan State and he responded excellently to the extra pressure, averaging 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. He also completed 8.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game, setting an MSU single-season record in both categories.

His outstanding form saw the Spartans best their previous season record, rampaging their way to an iconic Finals against an unbeaten Indiana State Sycamore led by Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.

The 1979 final went on to be billed as Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, and both players went on to engage in individual battles during the encounter. Johnson and the Spartans claimed victory, triumphing over Bird and Indiana State with a 11-point differential (75-64). Magic Johnson bagged 24 points, on an 8-15 shooting record, as Michigan picked up the NCAA title.

#OTD in 1979, @MagicJohnson and @MSU_Basketball won the NCAA crown, in a game that forever changed the sport. https://t.co/RuSsNx50fo

He was named the most outstanding player in the NCAA Final Four after the Finals and is the first Michigan consensus first-team All-America sophomore player.

Over time, the all-action final has been lauded as the game that breathed life into the collegiate tournament and the match also generated the highest Nielsen TV rating (24.1) of any college game in American basketball history.


What is Magic Johnson’s highest-scoring NCAA game?

Magic Johnson’s highest-scoring game came in the 1978-79 NCAA Final Four against Pennsylvania. The Hall of Famer powered MSU into the Finals, recording 29 points to finish as the top scorer of the encounter. He scored 9-of-10 field goal attempts and performed excellently from the free-throw line, sinking 11-of-12 throws.

His outstanding scoring didn’t affect his effectiveness in the other parts of his game, as Magic Johnson also ended up recording a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and assists to round up an all-round performance.


Also Read: Who is Magic Johnson's wife, Cookie Johnson?


Edited by Arnav

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