NBA superstar Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was the charismatic leader of the USA’s Dream Team, which did more than any other to put basketball on the Olympic map, thanks to a series of scintillating displays at Barcelona 1992.
In the college championships where he first earned the nickname of “Magic”, and then in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, Earvin Johnson became one of the greatest point guards of all time. The undisputed master of the ‘blind pass’ and the king of “Showtime”, Magic was five times NBA champion between 1980 and 1988, four times NBA Finals MVP, author of a record 10,141 assists, and a regular protagonist in the NBA’s annual “All-Star Game”, the showcase for the season’s best players. Standing at a towering 2.06m, Magic’s sense of spectacle, combined with his distinctive infectious smile, made him one of the most iconic and and most admired athletes his country has ever produced.
In April 1989, the International Olympic Committee and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) reached an agreement to allow professional players to compete in the Olympic Games. From that moment on, Magic emerged as the fulcrum and the leader of the US team that was being built for Barcelona 1992. It was he who persuaded his old rival Larry Bird, and the big star of the moment Michael Jordan to sign up for Team USA’s Olympic adventure.
In August 1992, the Palace of Sports in Badalona was packed to the rafters for every showstopping performance of the team that Magic himself described as “the best, most exciting and most explosive basketball team of all time”. Led on and off the court by their charismatic captain, Team USA won all of their matches, including the final against Croatia, by an average margin of 43 points. As the members of the Dream Team stepped onto the podium to receive their gold medals the emotion was palpable. These players, who were fierce rivals in the NBA, were united in patriotic pride, as the US national anthem blared out and the Stars and Stripes flag was unfurled. Their exploits at Barcelona 1992 served as a source of inspiration for future generations. Indeed, basketball history is now divided into two eras: “Before the Dream Team” and “After the Dream Team”. For Magic himself, being part of the team that took Barcelona 1992 by storm represented “the greatest moment of my life.”
After retiring from competition at the age of 37 in 1996, Magic was appointed as a United Nations Peace Envoy, and a spokesperson for World AIDS Day. He is also a successful businessman, and in 2012 became owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise.
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