Magic Johnson is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He led the Lakers to five championships, including the first three of the 80s. He was forced to retire from the NBA due to a back injury. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1991 and has spent much of the last two decades helping to fight the AIDS epidemic.
A lot of people will say that the 1980s were the last time the Lakers were truly great. Well, the Lakers actually dominated the NBA for most of that decade, and the best evidence is the fact that Magic Johnson was a part of the Lakers during that time (and still remains as a legend to this day). This is the best team that Magic was a part of (by his own admission, of course), and there’s no doubt in my mind that the Lakers would have dominated the Bulls in the late 80s and early 90s.
In an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, former NBA great—and lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan—Magic Johnson claimed that his team could beat Michael Jordan’s 1991-92 Chicago Bulls, who are widely regarded as the greatest team ever assembled.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their first of six NBA championships in the 1990s in 1991, beating Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in a symbolic passing of the torch. The 1991 Finals were basically a goodbye party to the “Showtime” era, since Magic won five championships with the Lakers in the 1980s. It wasn’t so much that Magic handed the torch to Michael as it was that Jordan just accepted it. While the Lakers were still a good team — they made the Finals — they weren’t the same as they had been a few years before, and the younger Bulls were just superior.
Magic, on the other hand, said a few years later that, although Jordan’s Bulls were a terrific team, they would have been crushed by his greatest Lakers squad.
In the 1991 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 1990-91 season was an important one for Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. In each of the previous three years, they’d been knocked out of the NBA playoffs by the Detroit Pistons, the last two defeats coming in the Eastern Conference Finals. So it was important for Jordan & Co. to prove they could take that next step.
The Bulls maintained their domination in the playoffs after winning a franchise-record 61 games during the regular season. They swept the New York Knicks in the first round then thrashed the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the conference semifinals, setting up a rematch with Detroit in the conference finals. The Bulls swept the Pistons to reach their first NBA Finals, and we all know what transpired then.
Meanwhile, Magic and the Lakers had their own set of challenges. They were growing older but wanted to make one more push after being the dominating team in the NBA during the 1980s, reaching the Finals eight times and winning five championships. They finished third in the West with a 58-24 record, defeating the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors on route to the conference finals, where they beat the Portland Trail Blazers, who had the best record in the NBA at 63-19 at the time.
In the Finals, though, they were no match for Jordan and the Bulls. The Lakers were trounced throughout the following four games as Chicago won their first NBA championship after an upset in Game 1. LA’s Magic Johnson led the way with 18.6 points, 12.4 assists, and eight rebounds per game, but Jordan was unstoppable. On his route to earning the first of six NBA Finals MVP honors, MJ averaged 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game.
Jordan’s greatest Bulls squad would ‘dominate’ Magic’s best Lakers team, he claims.
During the 1991 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson fight | Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
After beating the Lakers, Jordan and the Bulls went on to win five of the following seven NBA championships, a number that some think would have been greater if MJ hadn’t decided to retire after Chicago’s first three-peat. Many consider the Bulls of the 1990s to be the best team in NBA history, and there’s a case to be made for that. Magic, on the other hand, famously said that his greatest Lakers team would “dominate” Jordan’s best Bulls squad.
“The Bulls depend on Michael [Jordan] a little too much at times. You’d be surprised what happens if you got me in trouble and Michael in trouble at the same time. They’d be dominated by our squad. Who will be able to stop Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]? We had a lot more weaponry than they had. We’d defeat them.
“There’s no doubt Michael [Jordan] would have scored 50 points against us or anybody else because he’s a fantastic basketball player. But I believe we would have kept everyone else at bay.”
Magic Johnson discusses how his greatest Lakers team would defeat Michael Jordan’s best Bulls squad.
It’s always tough to compare teams from different eras, but let’s see what we can do with Magic’s greatest Lakers squad and Jordan’s best Bulls team.
The fantasy series is being dismantled.
When it comes to Magic’s greatest teams, the 1984-85 Lakers are without a doubt the best. They went 62-20 during the regular season and 15-4 in the playoffs, becoming the first Lakers team to defeat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, which they did in six games. The 1995-96 Bulls, who went 72-10 during the regular season, 15-3 in the playoffs, and beat the Seattle Supersonics in six games in the NBA Finals, are an obvious choice.
Let’s start with the starting lineups and their season scoring averages. Michael Jordan (30.4), Scottie Pippen (19.4), Luc Longley (9.1), Ron Harper (7.4), and Dennis Rodman lead the Bulls (5.5). Magic Johnson (18.3), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (22.0), James Worthy (17.6), Byron Scott (16.0), and Kurt Rambis lead the Lakers (5.2).
Toni Kukoc (13.1) and Steve Kerr (8.4) led the Bulls’ bench, while the Lakers had Bob McAdoo (10.5), Mike McGee (10.2), Michael Cooper (8.6), and Jamaal Wilkes (8.6). (8.3).
In this hypothetical duel, we’d certainly have to look at more than simply scoring, although the Lakers definitely have the upper hand on that front. Jordan will always get his, as Magic said. And both Pippen and Kukoc have the ability to take over a game. The Lakers, on the other hand, are just deeper. Kareem wasn’t in his peak at the time, but he was still the team’s leading scorer. And Luc Longley and Bill Wennington aren’t going to be able to stop him. Rodman would have gladly accepted the challenge, but the Lakers now have a lot of other options.
When the Bulls and Lakers played in 1991, Worthy wasn’t in his peak, but neither was Pippen. That would undoubtedly be a showdown to watch in this fantasy series. Overall, Jordan and the Bulls would definitely have the advantage on defense. The Lakers would have their job cut out for them with MJ, Pippen, Rodman, and Harper, who remade himself with the Bulls after realizing he wasn’t the scorer he once was. But it’s not like those Lakers aren’t capable of playing tough basketball.
Have faith in me. I could sit here and dissect out each battle from top to bottom, but it’s all pointless in the end. Although I am one of those who believes the Bulls would have lost to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets if MJ hadn’t retired in 1993, it would be difficult to bet against Jordan in the Finals. But there’s no way of knowing what would have occurred if Jordan and the Bulls had faced Magic and the real “Showtime” Lakers.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
RELATED: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson Were Requested to Boycott Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals Due to Social Injustice, but They Declined
Magic Johnson made a bold claim in a recent interview: his five-time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers would dominate Michael Jordan’s five-time champion Chicago Bulls. He even claimed to have inside information for his prediction. When asked how he knew this, he said he “had some connections in the Chicago locker room.”. Read more about los angeles lakers roster and let us know what you think.
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