Magic Johnson Shares Funny Take On Why Michael Jordan Is The ‘Strongest’ Athlete He’s Ever Seen

Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson
(Image credit: ESPN/NBATV)

Earvin “Magic” Johnson is without a doubt one of the greatest basketball players to ever step on a court. However, he’s also one of the most humble figures in the game and has no problem giving other players their flowers. One particular competitor that Johnson has consistently given props to is Michael Jordan, who he played against back in the day. A number of fans and sports historians, of course, consider Jordan to be the greatest all-time baller. Johnson would take that a step further, though, and call him the “strongest” athlete, and he has a funny take on why that’s the case. 

Michael Jordan has been widely noted for the laser-focused demeanor that he possessed while on the court. His skills are also considered to be the stuff of legend and, of all the NBA GOATs, he’s arguably the one that gets emulated most frequently. But those elements aren’t actually why Magic Johnson calls him the strongest athlete he’s ever seen. The iconic Los Angeles Laker appeared on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay, where the host mentioned that Jordan could play golf, gamble, smoke cigars and stay out all night before a game and still dominate. And that’s when Johnson humorously discussed his strength:

[Michael Jordan] was the strongest – not basketball player – athlete I’ve ever seen, because he could do just what you said. If I tried to do that, I’d be 0 for 15, no assists, I’d be dragging [laughs]. And he tried to get me to do it with him right, during [our stint on] the Dream Team. [He said,] ‘MJ, MJ!’ I said, ‘What’s up?’ [He said,] ‘Come on and hang with me.’ I said, ‘Mike I can’t hang until 4 o’clock. You have your drinks, get up, go play 18 rounds of golf, sleep for an hour and then come and get 30 by halftime. I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I know who I am.’

Those who’ve seen ESPN’s The Last Dance (which ironically impacted Magic’s own docuseries) are more than likely aware of the fact that the former Chicago Bull had a number of vices. Still, as Magic pointed out, he never let them negatively affect his performance during a game, and that’s impressive, considering  just how much Air Jordan accomplished over the course of his illustrious career.

Of course, while Magic Johnson couldn’t get on that particular level from a physical and mental standpoint, he was absolutely no slouch. He simply had his own method of preparing for a game, which he went on to explain to Shannon Sharpe: 

So my routine was I got to have my music, I got to have quiet. So I had my house quiet [and] my car, I didn’t let anybody ride with me. I used to get there three or four hours before [a game]. You only had to be there an hour and a half [early, but] I had to get there way before that, so I could get ready. Because I had so much I had to remember [for the game].

There are different approaches one can take to their craft, and these two couldn’t be any more different. You especially can’t help but marvel at what Michael Jordan was able to accomplish, considering he could pull the occasional all-nighter before a game. Though his former teammate – Scottie Pippen – claimed Jordan “ruined” basketball, his b-ball receipts speak for themselves, and they’ll continue to fuel conversations about the “strongest” athlete for years to come. 

To get a better sense of the six-time NBA champion’s mentality, check out The Last Dance, which is available to stream using a Netflix subscription. Those who also want to learn more about Magic Johnson can pick up an Apple TV+ subscription and watch They Call Me Magic.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.