Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 8:05 am    Post subject: Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills

Hey gang. It's your friendly neighborhood writer/Laker obsessive, Shawn Fury. For, oh, nine months, I've been working on a story/tribute to Magic Johnson's passing skills. I finally finished the thing and it...got a bit detailed. Because of that, the place where it was going to run was out so I ran it on my own site. But that did allow me to go deep into it. Warning: Thousands of words, hundreds of GIFs. But I think hoops fans, and Lakers fans especially, will enjoy.

http://bit.ly/2s1f9Xj

And here's the channel with all of the GIFs, if the actual story loads slowly:
https://giphy.com/channel/shawnfury

For the piece I interviewed Magic's high school coach George Fox, Jud Heathcote, Steve Springer and Michael Cooper.

Special thanks to Dancing Barry, who I was able to bounce ideas off of and get his awesome take on Magic's abilities and what it was like watching him every game.

And of course, I'm indebted to NPZ, our legend. His videos offer up so much and without them I could have never written this piece. More importantly, he's as wise with his words about Magic as he is with his videos. He's the Ken Burns AND Shelby Foote of Showtime.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 8:57 am    Post subject:

Thanks, Shawn. Man, your blogs and editing and sheer writing for volume has me beat. I'd have to be paid (and WELL) to put that much effort into those kind of productions, but still, I will make use any and all public statements citing my vital importance to the universe in my sig. The people need to know...

I forgot to watch that damn 30/30 on LA/BOS, live at any count, got the 1st part tivo'd. This is a 4 hr behemoth. They're playing Part 2 tonight, it apparently focuses on 85 and 87 onward (gotta be better than Part 1). Hope at least a snippet or two makes it on there. They asked specifically for some interesting stuff, mostly to due with Chick. I think the rest of the site forgot to watch Part 1 as well, there's no mention of it that I see.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:07 am    Post subject:

“That’s why he could get rid of it so quick. He caught it and just flicked it to an open guy. He never had to wind up. It’s all wrists.”
--

Reminds me of a post I made on YT the other day. Found the gm and timestamp. That was a high velocity flick.

https://youtu.be/gWm93xi3x8U?t=424

I've also made the same comment as you on that opening jump tap pass downcourt in that 79 college gm vs Notre Dame. Who woulda thunk it?! Same reaction. Great GIF of that clip.

https://media.giphy.com/media/lkexTLsZtTOKs/giphy.gif

“The game wasn’t televised,” Springer says. “No home television. Just Chick Hearn on the radio.” On the play, there were “three Kansas City players standing diagonal to him, one behind the other. The fourth player was Jamaal Wilkes. He made this pass — I know it didn’t happen, but I swear it went through the hands of all three guys and Silk caught it right under the basket and laid it up. He didn’t throw it over their heads. If he’d just thrown it over their heads to Jamaal, you’ve seen that play a million times. He threw it past these guys at eye level. Just an unbelievable pass.”


That's another of those things that sounds like hyperbole, but Earv did those needle threaders enough times that you know Springer wasn't jivin. There's one in the first minutes of the Baby Hook gm thru a group of players that Worthy couldn't convert, but it was a diagonal seam that no one but Magic could even recognize/visualize, much less pass it thru and he did it mid-dribble. Another one of those in the 86 SA series.

https://youtu.be/xBzi6gftMMc?t=60
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=9

Juicy no-look right here in that game, too. Look at the replay. I have that pegged for an avatar.
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=352
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Last edited by non-player zealot on Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:25 am    Post subject:

non-player zealot wrote:
“That’s why he could get rid of it so quick. He caught it and just flicked it to an open guy. He never had to wind up. It’s all wrists.”
--

Reminds me of a post I made on YT the other day. Found the gm and timestamp. That was a high velocity flick.

https://youtu.be/gWm93xi3x8U?t=424

I've also made the same comment as you on that opening jump tap pass downcourt in that 79 college gm vs Notre Dame. Who woulda thunk it?! Same reaction. Great GIF of that clip.

“The game wasn’t televised,” Springer says. “No home television. Just Chick Hearn on the radio.” On the play, there were “three Kansas City players standing diagonal to him, one behind the other. The fourth player was Jamaal Wilkes. He made this pass — I know it didn’t happen, but I swear it went through the hands of all three guys and Silk caught it right under the basket and laid it up. He didn’t throw it over their heads. If he’d just thrown it over their heads to Jamaal, you’ve seen that play a million times. He threw it past these guys at eye level. Just an unbelievable pass.”


That's another of those things that sounds like hyperbole, but Earv did those needle threaders enough times that you know Springer wasn't jivin. There's one in the first minutes of the Baby Hook gm thru a group of players that Worthy couldn't convert, but it was a diagonal seam that no one but Magic could even recognize/visualize, much less pass it thru and he did it mid-dribble. Another one of those in the 86 SA series.

https://youtu.be/xBzi6gftMMc?t=60
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=9

Juicy no-look right here in that game, too. Look at the replay. I have that pegged for an avatar.
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=352
passing the ball at eye level with high velocity on the pass its a great pass. I remember copying magic and did it a lot as a kid. People automatically flinch first/or half duck before they try to steal it. and thats all you need to get it thru. but if you're not good at it. you will end up hitting a lot of defenders in the face and you might as well get ready to brawl after that. lol
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:34 am    Post subject: Re: Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills

Doggone it! spflakers, you're amazing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your passion really comes through in your writing. Love the compendium of videos, Especially that high school game..

And I thought I knew Magic's game well....

spflakers wrote:
Hey gang. It's your friendly neighborhood writer/Laker obsessive, Shawn Fury. For, oh, nine months, I've been working on a story/tribute to Magic Johnson's passing skills. I finally finished the thing and it...got a bit detailed. Because of that, the place where it was going to run was out so I ran it on my own site. But that did allow me to go deep into it. Warning: Thousands of words, hundreds of GIFs. But I think hoops fans, and Lakers fans especially, will enjoy.

http://bit.ly/2s1f9Xj

And here's the channel with all of the GIFs, if the actual story loads slowly:
https://giphy.com/channel/shawnfury

For the piece I interviewed Magic's high school coach George Fox, Jud Heathcote, Steve Springer and Michael Cooper.

Special thanks to Dancing Barry, who I was able to bounce ideas off of and get his awesome take on Magic's abilities and what it was like watching him every game.

And of course, I'm indebted to NPZ, our legend. His videos offer up so much and without them I could have never written this piece. More importantly, he's as wise with his words about Magic as he is with his videos. He's the Ken Burns AND Shelby Foote of Showtime.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:39 am    Post subject: Re: Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills

lakerdynasty5.0 wrote:
Doggone it! spflakers, you're amazing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your passion really comes through in your writing. Love the compendium of videos, Especially that high school game..


SPF is a good dude. Professional, affable, always goes out of his way to give credit for any help he gets (which is highly rare). Good poster in general. Friendly to all.
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WILBON PROPS NPZ's MAGIC MAN MIX ON PTI!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:43 am    Post subject: Re: Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills

non-player zealot wrote:
lakerdynasty5.0 wrote:
Doggone it! spflakers, you're amazing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your passion really comes through in your writing. Love the compendium of videos, Especially that high school game..


SPF is a good dude. Professional, affable, always goes out of his way to give credit for any help he gets (which is highly rare). Good poster in general. Friendly to all.


Indeed!! One day, I'd like to create an LG Wall of Fame! I'll be sure to name names, especially those who helped me grow as a hoops fan! !!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:50 am    Post subject:

Yeah, this started off as a paid piece and then as months went by and the length of it increased, that fell away. But it was a passion project so I knew I'd finish it, even as my wife would be like, "How much are you getting?" "Uh, nothing now." But that did mean working on it on off hours, which did lead to longer production time.

My favorite YouTube activity is watching your videos but second-favorite thing is reading your comments. You always bring the wisdom and the thunder, occasionally, when needed, to those spouting nonsense. And yeah, we do think alike! Those flick passes are incredible, as you noted. There's the mental aspect, because he knows the guy is open before he even catches the ball, and then the physical part to just flick it to the guy without a windup. It was fun hearing Fox talk about working on those plays in practice. Which sounds a bit much but then you see him doing those plays in high school games and it's like, hmm, maybe they did work on them too! Also hearing Fox talk about Magic in the McDonald's game and those guys not being able to handle his passes was really fun. And I might have posted this before, but I think this might be the first time Fred Stabley called him Magic.

http://bit.ly/2rhGPEq

You also had a comment that I echoed, from another video. The Magic instructional video, when Magic makes it sound like us, kids like us!, could learn to pass like him. Uhhhh, okay, Magic! You're like, yeah, not so much, and I remember watching it as a kid and being like, sure, I can do it! And I did like throwing fancy passes as a kid. But...not at Magic level.

One thing I'm proud of with this piece is the breakdown of different types of passes. Those wrist passes; the bounce ones, that pet play to Worthy with Big Game on the left block and Magic whipping the pass; the baseball fastballs from 20 feet away that rocketed through traffic; the lobs; the post passes. And I do believe that variety is why he's best ever. No one could do every pass like him.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:03 am    Post subject: Re: Story: The Magic behind Magic Johnson's passing skills

lakerdynasty5.0 wrote:
Doggone it! spflakers, you're amazing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your passion really comes through in your writing. Love the compendium of videos, Especially that high school game..

And I thought I knew Magic's game well....

spflakers wrote:
Hey gang. It's your friendly neighborhood writer/Laker obsessive, Shawn Fury. For, oh, nine months, I've been working on a story/tribute to Magic Johnson's passing skills. I finally finished the thing and it...got a bit detailed. Because of that, the place where it was going to run was out so I ran it on my own site. But that did allow me to go deep into it. Warning: Thousands of words, hundreds of GIFs. But I think hoops fans, and Lakers fans especially, will enjoy.

http://bit.ly/2s1f9Xj

And here's the channel with all of the GIFs, if the actual story loads slowly:
https://giphy.com/channel/shawnfury

For the piece I interviewed Magic's high school coach George Fox, Jud Heathcote, Steve Springer and Michael Cooper.

Special thanks to Dancing Barry, who I was able to bounce ideas off of and get his awesome take on Magic's abilities and what it was like watching him every game.

And of course, I'm indebted to NPZ, our legend. His videos offer up so much and without them I could have never written this piece. More importantly, he's as wise with his words about Magic as he is with his videos. He's the Ken Burns AND Shelby Foote of Showtime.


Thanks, Dynasty! That was main reason for wanting to do this, so Magic fans and those who didn't see him play get a chance to remember what it was that made him so great.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:10 am    Post subject:

splashmtn wrote:
non-player zealot wrote:
“That’s why he could get rid of it so quick. He caught it and just flicked it to an open guy. He never had to wind up. It’s all wrists.”
--

Reminds me of a post I made on YT the other day. Found the gm and timestamp. That was a high velocity flick.

https://youtu.be/gWm93xi3x8U?t=424

I've also made the same comment as you on that opening jump tap pass downcourt in that 79 college gm vs Notre Dame. Who woulda thunk it?! Same reaction. Great GIF of that clip.

“The game wasn’t televised,” Springer says. “No home television. Just Chick Hearn on the radio.” On the play, there were “three Kansas City players standing diagonal to him, one behind the other. The fourth player was Jamaal Wilkes. He made this pass — I know it didn’t happen, but I swear it went through the hands of all three guys and Silk caught it right under the basket and laid it up. He didn’t throw it over their heads. If he’d just thrown it over their heads to Jamaal, you’ve seen that play a million times. He threw it past these guys at eye level. Just an unbelievable pass.”


That's another of those things that sounds like hyperbole, but Earv did those needle threaders enough times that you know Springer wasn't jivin. There's one in the first minutes of the Baby Hook gm thru a group of players that Worthy couldn't convert, but it was a diagonal seam that no one but Magic could even recognize/visualize, much less pass it thru and he did it mid-dribble. Another one of those in the 86 SA series.

https://youtu.be/xBzi6gftMMc?t=60
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=9

Juicy no-look right here in that game, too. Look at the replay. I have that pegged for an avatar.
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=352
passing the ball at eye level with high velocity on the pass its a great pass. I remember copying magic and did it a lot as a kid. People automatically flinch first/or half duck before they try to steal it. and thats all you need to get it thru. but if you're not good at it. you will end up hitting a lot of defenders in the face and you might as well get ready to brawl after that. lol


I was born in '75 so came of age in time of Magic. Tried doing his passes in my town of 2,000 in MN, at park and in games or practices. As I wrote about his instructional video, I don't think Magic could *teach* someone to pass like him, but if you did have good instincts, he could inspire you to try similar plays. So like you I tried copying him. I have couple videos of my senior year still of some touch passes where I saw guy ahead of time, got the pass and tipped it to the open guy. And true story: Senior year I made a steal and did a great bounce pass to a guy who went in for a layup. Chick might have said, "he executed a 20-foot bounce pass." After I made the play, as game's going on, I thought to myself, that was Magic like! Then I got back into the game.

I couldn't do the over the head passes from the post, which Magic did so often when doubled; did pull one off in old man's league few years back. But the play of his I tried more than anything was on his drives when he'd bring the ball up and then to the back of his head after he picked up the dribble and would then lay it in. It was much easier for a 6-9 marvel but there were a few times I sort of, if you squinted hard enough, made a similar play.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:29 am    Post subject:

non-player zealot wrote:
“That’s why he could get rid of it so quick. He caught it and just flicked it to an open guy. He never had to wind up. It’s all wrists.”
--

Reminds me of a post I made on YT the other day. Found the gm and timestamp. That was a high velocity flick.

https://youtu.be/gWm93xi3x8U?t=424

I've also made the same comment as you on that opening jump tap pass downcourt in that 79 college gm vs Notre Dame. Who woulda thunk it?! Same reaction. Great GIF of that clip.

https://media.giphy.com/media/lkexTLsZtTOKs/giphy.gif

“The game wasn’t televised,” Springer says. “No home television. Just Chick Hearn on the radio.” On the play, there were “three Kansas City players standing diagonal to him, one behind the other. The fourth player was Jamaal Wilkes. He made this pass — I know it didn’t happen, but I swear it went through the hands of all three guys and Silk caught it right under the basket and laid it up. He didn’t throw it over their heads. If he’d just thrown it over their heads to Jamaal, you’ve seen that play a million times. He threw it past these guys at eye level. Just an unbelievable pass.”


That's another of those things that sounds like hyperbole, but Earv did those needle threaders enough times that you know Springer wasn't jivin. There's one in the first minutes of the Baby Hook gm thru a group of players that Worthy couldn't convert, but it was a diagonal seam that no one but Magic could even recognize/visualize, much less pass it thru and he did it mid-dribble. Another one of those in the 86 SA series.

https://youtu.be/xBzi6gftMMc?t=60
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=9

Juicy no-look right here in that game, too. Look at the replay. I have that pegged for an avatar.
https://youtu.be/1SEzClF6tWc?t=352


The no-look against the Spurs, I had to write about that one specifically in the piece. The first angle is impressive enough, getting the board, racing downcourt, dropping it off to Coop so Coop just has to direct the ball in. But that second angle! Looking straight ahead the entire time. And then, just as the defender's going up for the block, dropping it off...and with a little bit of flair. Fundamentally perfect, and thrilling to watch. Magic in one pass.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:18 am    Post subject:

Sticky. Can't wait to read this after work tonight.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:55 pm    Post subject:

Incredible work, you should be very proud of this. I've always felt Magic was the greatest player ever, a piece like this only makes my rational feel more concrete.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 3:06 pm    Post subject:

Bravo! Beautiful work putting that article together. I remember watching many of those passes live and marveling back then. Even after seeing these replays, it's hard to grasp the skill, timing and imagination Magic had. Pure genius!

Worthy was certainly one of the best finishers of all time. He just glided and soared with ease. But I also enjoyed watching Magic's connection with Jamaal Wilkes, who wasn't the dunker James was and did not have a quick trigger like BScott on the jumper. Yet Magic always used to find him directly under the basket with a bullet pass or find him enough time to slingshot a jumper.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject:

Agree totally on Wilkes. The way he seemed to disappear into the defense and then pop open was uncanny, making him a perfect partner with Magic because the second he was open, Magic had the ball to him.

I was going to include a lot more jumpers off of Magic assists but only have a handful, a couple from Byron, I think. Could have put A LOT more and maybe will add them at some point. I mainly didn't because I wrote in the piece that what made Magic so special was how so many led to layups or dunks. Compared to today's game where so many assists come off 3-pointers, where the shooter's doing more work. But Magic was of course expert at finding guys on the perimeter, whether on the dribble or when he camped out in the post.

Few other things that struck me while watching old games: Worthy was just ridiculous. Damn. His post moves, the combination of footwork, finesse and power was just gorgeous to watch. And that's not even getting into him finishing on the break, filling the rim with thunder, as Dick Stockton once noted.

The other thing, and maybe I just oversaturated myself with highlights and was too inside it all and this is a ridiculous opinion but...Byron Scott was one of the great, and underrated, in-game dunkers of the 1980s. My god did he have some incredibly impressive dunks. Off the break, against defenders, he could finish like few guards of the era. Like few guards now of his size. I obviously remembered a lot of his dunks but had forgotten just how impressive he was. Could be a really fun compilation if someone put together Byron's best dunks.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 4:24 pm    Post subject:

Still boggles the mind how quickly Magic gets dismissed when GOAT conversations happen.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:48 am    Post subject:

lakerhalo wrote:
Still boggles the mind how quickly Magic gets dismissed when GOAT conversations happen.


1st post after 3 yrs. It truly MUST boggle ya.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 7:55 am    Post subject:

Mods, can we Topic HoF this one? Seems worthy of preservation. I'd probably like to come back to it in the future more than once.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 7:56 am    Post subject:

This is absolutely great
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:13 am    Post subject:

So many memories that I had forgotten and as I watched it felt like yesterday! To think his career was cut short. He would shattered so many records that we would be speaking of Magic as the GOAT. The media gets caught in the prisoner of the moment which is the "new" overused term much like "at the end of the day" but it's true...they tend to forget the past stars such as Magic as some fleeting bow but forget how truly "dominant" he was!
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:06 pm    Post subject:

non-player zealot wrote:
lakerhalo wrote:
Still boggles the mind how quickly Magic gets dismissed when GOAT conversations happen.


1st post after 3 yrs. It truly MUST boggle ya.


Lol!! I've been caught.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 5:14 pm    Post subject:

I agree with Pat Riley. Magic is the best player I have ever seen. I would take him over any other player, over Jabbar, over Jordan, over Worthy and over Kobe. They I would get those guys to play with him!!!
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:06 pm    Post subject:

https://youtu.be/UIaQhMKFxWc?t=307

THAT

is this...sans x-over.

https://youtu.be/rwD4p2bWfsc?t=514

Second pass, bing! rite out of hands. That's the eye, my boy Shawn and Laker lads and lasses. Snap recognition. 1 or more steps ahead of the pace. May be only one example, but still, that kind of stuff isn't simply had by PGs of that caliber for no reason.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:08 am    Post subject:

non-player zealot wrote:
https://youtu.be/UIaQhMKFxWc?t=307

THAT

is this...sans x-over.

https://youtu.be/rwD4p2bWfsc?t=514

Second pass, bing! rite out of hands. That's the eye, my boy Shawn and Laker lads and lasses. Snap recognition. 1 or more steps ahead of the pace. May be only one example, but still, that kind of stuff isn't simply had by PGs of that caliber for no reason.


Haha, great find and eye, NPZ!

Although, let's hope it goes a bit different than D'Angelo. I remember someone linking his great bounce passes at Ohio State to Magic's bounce vs. the Sonics in the playoffs to Worthy.

But agree, that Lonzo does have that extra It factor when it comes to awareness, playmaking, passing, that separates him and others in that rare category even from other guys who can make certain great passes. Like Westbrook had that insane bounce pass this year, a Magic-like one, but no one's going to say he has that, as you say, snap recognition.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:09 pm    Post subject:

Fantastic! I particularly loved reading the WHEN EARVIN BECAME MAGIC section. Great video clips! I don't say this lightly but I see a lot of Magic in Lonzo. Thanks again for the read.
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