Not many players in NBA history can say they enjoyed a better rookie campaign than former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson. That list shortens exponentially when you consider what he achieved in the 1980 Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers on this date 40 years ago.
With the Lakers leading the series 3-2, the 6-9, 215-pound Johnson was thrust into the starting center position after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was ruled out with an injury. How did the rook respond?
By posting 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals on 14-of-23 shooting en route to a Lakers win.
If you want to feel bad about yourself, think about what you were doing at 20 years old. Magic was busy knocking off Julius Erving and the Sixers to capture a world championship.
Talk about announcing your presence in the Association. Johnson became the first rookie in league history to win Finals MVP, and rightfully so. The Michigan State product averaged 21.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 2.7 steals while shooting 57.3% from the floor and 87.5% from the charity stripe against Philly.
That is quite simply the stuff of legend, and it really jumpstarted what proved to be a Hall of Fame career for the five-time champ. You'd be hard-pressed to find a player that had a more notable rookie season than Johnson's magical 1980 campaign.