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Earvin Magic Johnson just celebrated his 50th birthday and is widely regarded historically as one of the NBA's best ever. But what if he didn't retire when he did?
When Magic announced his first retirement in November of 1991, the Chicago Bulls were about to begin the defense of their first of six titles with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson.
The Bulls won their first, in Jordan's 7th NBA season, a few months earlier beating Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
And then, right before the 1991-92 season was set to begin, Magic made his famous announcement that he was forced to retire because he'd contracted the HIV virus.
He did play in the All-Star Game that season and won a Gold Medal for the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics.
Magic wanted to return to the NBA for 1992-93 season but called off the comeback right before the season was set to begin.
He went on to coach the Lakers for 16 games at the end of 1993-94. It was as memorable as The Magic Hour, Johnson's TV talk show.
At the end of the 1995-96 season, Magic played 32 games at power forward for L.A. averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds. He still had it.
Magic has gone on to monstrous success off the court rising to the rank of billionaire, no small task in this recent economy. When you consider within five years of retirement, 60 percent of former NBA players are broke, his financial success is all the more impressive.
Chamberlain and Russell fans might argue, but Jordan is regarded as the undisputed greatest player of all-time. Where would Magic rank on this list if his career hadn't ended prematurely?
Would Jordan still be considered, unequivocally, the greatest?
Mike won six titles.
Magic won five.
Mike's last came when he was 34 years old.
Magic was out of championship contention when he was 31.
How many more titles was Magic going to win? His Lakers team wasn't the greatest at that point in time, but so what? He was Magic Johnson. He made average players good and good players great.
Who's to say Jordan would have even wound up with six if Magic had stuck around?
And if Magic won another and Michael didn't have the most titles of his generation, the debate about "best ever" might rage much stronger than it does today.
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