-- The ability to come through in pressure packed situations is said to be what distinguishes a good player from a great one.
A gamer. A clutch performer. A hero. A legend. Whatever you call them, these players answer the call of duty when everything is on the line. And there is no place where more is on the line than in the NBA Playoffs.
Magic made magic in the playoffs (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
Magic silences Sixers with 42 in '80:
Magic "Kareems" the Celtics in '87:
How does one become synonymous with greatness? One barometer, especially in sports, is when you can go by a single name: Babe. Jordan. Wilt. Kareem. The same goes for one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players. Hardly anyone calls him by his first name: Earvin. The world knows him as Magic.
And, oh, how he lived up to that nickname as a Laker. He's a Hall of Famer, a five-time NBA champ, a three-time Finals MVP and a three-time NBA regular season MVP. But as sports fans know, greatness is achieved in the postseason and it was here that Magic made, well, magic. Johnson became a legend in his rookie season. Take a look at five Magic playoffs moments and then vote for your favorite Magic postseason performance.
Game 6 of 1980 Finals vs. the Sixers
In a word: Ridiculous. One year removed from an NCAA title with Michigan State, the Lakers' 20-year-old rookie turned in one of the greatest clutch performances in, not only NBA history, but sports history. With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that season's MVP, out for Game 6 with a severe ankle sprain, the 6-9 Johnson started at center and scored 42 points, grabbed 15 boards and dished seven assists to lead the Lakers to their first title since 1972.
No. 1 on NBA.com's list of Greatest Finals performances
Game 2 of the 1984 West Finals vs. the Suns
It was a Tuesday, that May 15 of 1984. The Lakers had already whipped the Suns by 16 in Game 1 of the 1984 Western Conference Finals two days earlier. No one knew that they were going to see a record-setting performance in Game 2. In a 118-102 Lakers win, Magic dished an NBA-playoff record 24 assists against Phoenix to give the Lakers what would be a commanding 2-0 series lead. Magic's feat has since been matched by Utah's John Stockton in 1988 but never surpassed.
Game 3 of the 1984 Finals vs. the Celtics
Though the Celtics would prevail in seven games, Magic turned in one of the great all-time Finals performances when he set a Finals record of 21 assists. Magic's passing was contagious as the Lakers set an NBA Finals-record 21 assists in the third quarter, which led to 47 third-quarter points and 80 total points in the second half. L.A. would go on to win the game handily 137-104.
NBA 25 Years of Champions
: When Larry Met Magic
Game 4 of 1987 Finals vs. the Celtics
Whomever says the game of H-O-R-S-E is a time-waster doesn't know what they're talking about. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would often play the game after practice or before games. It is there, Magic laid the foundation for one the most memorable Finals moments in NBA history.
Up 2-1 in the series, but down a point 106-105 in Boston Garden with seven seconds left in the game. Taking the ball on the left wing, Magic dribbled to the middle of the lane and then lofted what he called his "junior, junior sky-hook" over Kevin McHale to give the Lakers a 107-106 win and 3-1 series lead. Where did Magic learn the shot? Playing H-O-R-S-E with Kareem.
Or as Larry Bird said: "You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky-hook. You don't expect it to be from Magic."
Relive the moment in NBA.com's History section.
Game 5 of 1991 West Semis vs. the Warriors
Magic had more than 30 playoff triple-doubles in his career but none possibly more impressive than the triple-double he put up in this series clincher when he went for 28 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in a 124-119 win over the Warriors in overtime. Sure, Magic has had more points in a playoffs triple-double (29 points, 15 boards, 14 dimes in a loss to Dallas in May 4), more rebounds (16 boards to go with 13 points and 14 assists in 1982) and assists (21 in that memorable Finals blowout in 1984), but never did Magic put it together so well at one time as he did in this game.