STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 418 Minutes
• 1980 NBA Finals Game 6 – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
• Magic’s number retirement ceremony

The Pitch

Ole’ Magic was a pretty good ballplayer. Here’s proof.

The Humans

Magic, Kareem, Big Game James, A.C., Cooper, Byron, Sir Charles, Bird, MJ, many others.

Lee: "Magic, we did it, man! We’re the champs!"
Magic: Yeah, that’s pretty cool."
Lee: "By the way, I got those five hookers you asked for."

The Nutshell

Earvin Johnson was born in Lansing, Michigan on August 14, 1959. He earned the nickname, "Magic" while still in high school, where he won a state championship his senior year. Later, in college at Michigan State, he led his team to the 1979 national championship against some guy named Bird’s team. In the NBA, he emerged as one of the greatest players in the history of the game; and was possibly the most versatile, as he could play any position, from center to point guard and play it just as well as anybody.

"Hi, I’m Magic Johnson."
"And I’m Larry Bird. And we hope you’ll watch us in the NBA Finals."
"You can let go of the trophy now, Larry."

He ran the "Showtime" era of the Lakers in the ’80s, amassing five NBA titles, three MVPs, three Finals MVPs and was an All-Star 12 times. Forced to retire in 1991 due to contracting the HIV virus, Magic endures as one of the game’s all time greats and his rivalry and friendship with that Bird guy are the stuff of sports legend. This two-disc set covers all of that and features three of his most important games, along with much more.

"When I think back to my earliest basketball memories, it all started in a run down neighborhood gym…"
"Uh Kurt, nobody cares. This is a DVD about Magic."
"Huh? Oh…but Magic was never at my run down neighborhood gym…"

The Lowdown

It’s pretty hard to screw up a story like that of Magic Johnson. You don’t even need a narrator. You could just throw up highlights of the man’s career and let it run. I was a huge fan of Magic growing up and I still believe there has never been anyone like him before nor since. Easily the greatest fast break player in NBA history, "Showtime" was called that for a reason as the Lakers’ speed trips down the floor with Magic were a dizzying at times trying to keep track of the ball. And I’ve still never seen anyone who had a greater love of playing the game than Magic did. And to settle the painfully old Bird vs. Magic argument: Magic. Sorry.

The main documentary is narrated by Danny Glover and details Magic’s career from growing up in Lansing through the ’92 Dream Team and All Star Game and even his short-lived 1996 comeback. It’s well put together and only clocks in at an hour, which is enough to adequately tell the story without dragging it out. Everything you could possbly want to see is here, from ridiculously old high school footage to the 1979 NCAA Title Game against Bird and Indiana State to Magic’s epic game 6 of the 1980 Finals against Philly. Then it goes on to run down the wars with the Celtics and Pistons in the late ’80s.

"So, Magic, my brutha, how’s it feel to be the man and send them jive turkey, white boy Indiana State Sycamores to the showers as some stone cold losers, blood?"
"Bryant, are you trying to sound black?
"Well stop it."

There’s plenty of good talking head features, from all the old Showtime guys, to Magic’s high school coach, family, and adversaries like Bird and Isiah. Much of the interview footage is obviously from the ’80s, and it’s good to see some old faces like Dawkins, Rambis, and Michael Cooper. I recently did the Shaq DVD, Like No Other (here), and this one in comparison is just so much better in terms of narrative flow, energy and overall storytelling. Also, controversy isn’t ducked in this doc like the entire Kobe / Shaq situation was in that DVD. I’d forgotten much of the old footage and it’s fun to see again. Aside from a somewhat lame introductive dramatization of magic as a kid getting schooled by his dad, the documentary is a solid effort.

my fellow Americans, we’re here today to uh…honor uh…uhm…what was
I saying? And hey, what are all these black guys doing behind me?"

The Package

The package is a two-disc offering in Laker colors with Earvin on the cover giving that million dollar smile. The majority of the footage is archival of course, and the picture ranges from dreadful but interesting home footage, to fairly sharp NBA action with Chick (Hearn) laying down the game commentary. The sound is fine in Dolby Digital. But what’s annoyingly deceptive is that only half of the special features are offered as separate entities. There is Magic’s number retirement ceremony, in its entirety (around 30 minutes) and the complete Game 6 of the 1980 Finals against the Sixers. And that’s it. The 10/20/79 first NBA game is incorporated into the documentary, as is the 1992 All Star Game. And while they’re both covered rather extensively, the packaging makes it look like these are offered like the Game 6 is and that’s not the case. So watch out for that.

"Kareem, we did it man! We ‘re the champs! We’re the champs!!"
"It’s your first game, nimrod."

7.0 out of 10