Magic Johnson‘s extraordinary height of 6 feet 9 inches gave him a tremendous edge throughout his NBA career. For a point guard, his size was unprecedented at the time and allowed him to utterly dominate games in all facets. While Johnson‘s work ethic and natural ability stood out, his stature played a pivotal role in enabling him to become one of the most influential figures in basketball history.
Introducing Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr.
Before diving into Magic Johnson‘s size, it‘s helpful to understand his background. Born on August 14, 1959 in Lansing, Michigan, Johnson eventually headed west to play basketball for Michigan State University. In 1979, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Johnson 1st overall in the NBA draft.
Let‘s break down some key details about the man known as "Magic":
Full name: Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr.
Position: Point guard
Height: 6 feet 9 inches
Weight: 220 pounds
NBA career: Los Angeles Lakers (1979-1991, 1996)
Accolades: 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 regular season MVPs, 12 All-Star selections
Right away in the NBA, Magic Johnson‘s infectious smile, flashy playmaking, and larger than life persona captivated fans. But beyond the razzle dazzle, his dominance stemmed from his extraordinary size.
How Unheard of Was Magic‘s Size for a Point Guard?
In the late 1970s when Johnson entered the league, point guards were typically no taller than 6 feet 3 inches. The position was seen as best suited for smaller players in the mold of Nate "Tiny" Archibald or Jerry West.
Magic Johnson shattered all preconceived notions about how tall someone could be while running an offense. At 6 feet 9 inches, he towered over practically every point guard he faced.
Here‘s how absurdly gigantic Johnson was compared to notable contemporaries at the same position:
- Isiah Thomas: 6 feet 1 inch
- John Stockton: 6 feet 1 inch
- Maurice Cheeks: 6 feet 1 inch
As you can see, Johnson had a staggering height advantage of over half a foot versus other elite point guards of the era. His stature was more typical of a power forward or center.
Put simply, nobody had ever seen a point guard with Magic‘s combination of size, passing ability, court vision, and leadership skills. He reinvented expectations for what the position could look like.
The Aspects of the Game Where Height Gave Magic an Edge
You might be wondering exactly how Magic Johnson‘s height gave him such a big advantage. Let‘s break it down area by area:
Johnson‘s 6-foot-9 height meant he could see over defenses and spot open teammates that a smaller point guard could not. The passing lanes were clearer and he could deliver pinpoint dimes.
With his size and strength, Johnson excelled at rebounding from the point guard spot. He averaged a superb 7.2 boards per game for his career, pulling down rebounds over smaller defenders with ease.
Matchup Problems Galore
Try sticking a 6-foot-1 point guard on Johnson, and Magic would simply shoot over him or post him up. But put a bigger defender on him, and Magic‘s quickness took over. He created mismatch nightmares.
Johnson took advantage of his size to become an excellent interior scorer. He mastered an almost unblockable baby hook shot and could finish through contact.
Thanks to his size and skillset, Johnson could realistically play any position from point guard to center depending on matchups. Not many players in NBA history can say that.
Magic‘s immense strides and speed for a 6-foot-9 player made him nearly impossible to stop on the fast break. He could cover the length of the court in just a few dribbles.
As you can see, Johnson‘s extraordinary height for a point guard allowed him to dominate games in a wide variety of ways. But don‘t just take our word for it…
In the Words of Magic‘s Teammates and Opponents
Magic Johnson‘s size advantage was not lost on his teammates and competitors. They marveled at how Johnson bent traditional position expectations.
Fellow Hall of Famer George Gervin reflected:
"He was 6-9 and could do things that a little guy could do. I saw Magic when he was 14 years old, and he was built like a man. I knew he would be something special."
Byron Scott, Johnson‘s longtime teammate, compared him to the 6-foot-4 Jason Kidd:
“Jason Kidd was Magic Johnson, but 4 or 5 inches shorter. Magic’s height made him almost impossible to guard.”
Mark Aguirre, who faced off against Magic in the 1980s, said:
"At 6-foot-9, he could get his shot off any time he wanted but still had the ballhandling skills of a smaller guard. Trying to defend him was a nightmare."
It‘s clear Magic‘s peers understood just how much his size differentiated him from other point guards of the era. Next, let‘s break down Magic‘s stats and accolades.
Magic by the Numbers: Stats and Accomplishments
The numbers illustrate how Magic Johnson used his size to overpower opponents on his way to team and individual success:
- 5 NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
- 3 Finals MVP awards
- 3 NBA MVP awards
- 12 All-Star selections
- 9 All-NBA First Team selections
- 19.5 points per game career average
- 11.2 assists per game career average (first all-time)
- 7.2 rebounds per game career average
- 2.7 steals per game in 1981-82 (led NBA)
- 24.1 Player Efficiency Rating (Top 10 all time)
Johnson‘s assists numbers are mind-boggling—no one else close to 6-foot-9 has ever come near averaging over 11 dimes per game. Plus, he used his size to crash the boards at an elite level as a point guard.
Advanced stats tell the same story of Magic‘s dominance. His NBA-record 24.1 PER ranks among the best ever, reflecting how he exploited his size mismatch every night.
Tales from Showtime: Magic Moments That Showcased His Height
Magic Johnson‘s size and skills were perfect for the fast-paced, high-flying Showtime Lakers era. Let‘s relive some of his most famous plays and games where height was clearly an advantage:
1980 NBA Finals Game 6 – Rookie Magic filled in at center against the 76ers and racked up 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a title-clinching win. He outpaced legit centers Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones all game long.
1987 Finals Game 4 – On the fast break, Magic snared a rebound over Celtics forwards Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, then delivered a no-look assist to Byron Scott for the layup. His size allowed him to outrebound formidable frontcourt players.
Baby Hook Shot – Magic perfected a sweeping right-handed hook shot that was nearly impossible to block due to his height and wingspan. He‘d often shoot this over centers with ease.
Alley-oops to Kareem – Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar perfected the alley-oop pass. Magic‘s size allowed him to easily lob passes high in the air for the 7-foot-2 Kareem to finish with dunks.
Behind-the-back feeds – On the break, Magic would sometimes wrap dazzling behind-the-back passes around defenders. His size let him keep the ball away from smaller players.
Thanks to his size, Johnson had the passing lanes, vision, strength, and touch to make plays few others could dream of. His creativity blossomed because his stature opened up possibilities smaller players didn‘t have.
How Magic‘s Diagnosis Changed Perceptions
On November 7, 1991, a 32-year-old Magic Johnson stunned the world by announcing his HIV-positive diagnosis and initial retirement. This tragic personal news became a very public event.
By going public with his health status, Johnson helped dispel myths and fears about HIV/AIDS. He brought awareness to the epidemic and became a leading activist.
Though he returned briefly in 1992 and 1996, Johnson‘s career had been cut short in his prime. The NBA had lost one of its most vibrant superstars.
But over time, Johnson‘s dignity and grace in handling his diagnosis along with his continued community leadership helped him evolve into an inspirational cultural icon.
His legacy extends far beyond basketball as a voice for HIV education, entrepreneurship, and advocating for underserved communities. He remains beloved across generations of fans.
Evaluating Magic Johnson‘s Career and Legacy
When all is said and done, where does Magic Johnson rank among the NBA‘s legends? What made him truly great?
There‘s no question that Magic deserves to be on the NBA‘s Mount Rushmore alongside Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and the other greats.
Among point guards, Magic has a strong case as the GOAT over Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton and others.
More than just his height, Johnson had an unparalleled set of skills: court vision, passing, leadership, charisma, clutch play, and a burning passion for winning.
But those skills likely would not have maximized into all-time greatness without the edge his 6-foot-9 size gave him. His unprecedented stature for a point guard unlocked the genius of his game.
Ultimately, Magic Johnson is cherished as one of basketball‘s most influential icons because he played with style, flair, and joy. But underneath all the razzle dazzle was a point guard whose epic size helped him rise above the competition.
So while Magic‘s heart, work ethic and showmanship fueled his greatness, there‘s no denying his height was a key advantage that propelled his legendary career.