There is nothing on the internet that is more wholesome and less controversial than Magic Johnson’s Twitter feed. Even in this time of pandemic, there’s nothing quite like logging on and seeing tweets from a legend of basketball and humanity like the one he had on Sunday.
“Everyone stay safe, stay healthy, and practice social distancing.”
When it comes to basketball, Magic’s tweets have the same kind of tone of a guy who’s just looking at the world and tweeting what he sees, in a way that’s not going to upset anybody.
“Kyle Kuzma played the best defense I’ve seen during his time as a Laker; taking charges and not letting his man get by him,” Magic tweeted on March 8. “Superb defense by Kuz!”
This week, Johnson edged into as combative a place as he ever gets online, reacting to ESPN’s fan-voted “College Basketball’s Greatest Of All Time” bracket, which ended with Michael Jordan narrowly defeating Larry Bird.
It wasn’t out of bitterness that he lost to Jordan in the semifinals, denying a one-on-one rematch of the classic 1979 NCAA title game. That’s not how Magic rolls. He tweets nothing but facts.
“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Lew Alcindor is decisively the undisputed GOAT of college basketball!” Magic wrote. “During his 3 years at UCLA he led the Bruins to an 88-2 record, won 3 National Championships, was 3X National College Player of the Year, AND was 3X NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.”
That says enough, but Johnson added another key point: “Because of Lew’s dominance, the NCAA changed the rules and banned dunking in college basketball. From that he created his famous sky hook!”
Abdul-Jabbar has a little bit more fire to his Twitter feed, but that’s generally related to his dabbling in the op-ed world. When it comes to basketball, he knows that his record speaks for itself, but even he couldn’t let this ESPN bracket slide after Johnson’s tweet. He quote-tweeted with the message, “Hey Earvin — I would have to agree as my college years were incredible but playing for The Lakers and having you as my teammate was a G.O.A.T. friendship.”
It’s nice that nobody is taking real offense to this, and it provides an excuse to get lost in some Showtime Lakers highlights. It’s also a good reminder that while there are some things that are ripe for Twitter voting — sports logos, for instance — but “X of all time” isn’t one of them.
It’s been more than 30 years since Abdul-Jabbar was a competitive basketball player. His college career ended more than half a century ago, and he played at UCLA under a name that hasn’t been his name since Richard Nixon’s first term — he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971. Is it a big surprise that he lost an online vote to Shaquille O’Neal, who was dominant at LSU, as well as a huge star at Western University and currently works talking about basketball on television? Sure.
ESPN did do the right thing having Abdul-Jabbar as a No. 1 seed in its bracket. The problem is having a Twitter vote bracket in the first place, followed by not dividing up the bracket by eras to avoid the issue of disparate knowledge based on age-tilted results, followed by the truly bizarre way in which they sprinkled in women, making Cheryl Miller somehow a 3 seed and Candace Parker a 7, but Diana Taurasi a 2 and Breanna Stewart (rightfully, as her college resume is right up there with Lew Alcindor) as a 1. But again, this was a Twitter vote bracket, and while you can understand why ESPN would include women, doing so in this format really did them a disservice — only Stewart and Taurasi advanced out of the round of 64, no women made the Sweet 16.
Anyone who’s involved with basketball knows how ridiculous it is that this is how it played out. And when Magic Johnson’s Twitter feed is calling out how wrong you are, you know you’ve screwed up.