LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson has lived his basketball life by the credo that it is indeed better to give than to receive. And last night, after giving everyone in the Forum another Magic moment to remember him by, he wanted to be sure to thank the people who gave him life.
"The Magic Makers," he said, tears running a fast break down his cheeks. "I know both of them are sitting at home [watching] right now. Dad's sitting in his favorite seat, the one he used to sit in when he taught me how to play this game. If you're listening Dad . . . I love you."
Never one to hide his emotions, Johnson shared them with everyone last night after surpassing Oscar Robertson and becoming the NBA's all-time leader in assists with 5:42 left in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 112-106 victory over Dallas.
Johnson entered the game needing nine assists to break Robertson's record of 9,887. He had seven by the end of the first quarter. He had 19 by game's end.
The record fell when Terry Teagle took a pass from Johnson near the baseline and swished a 17-foot turnaround jumper to give the Lakers a 44-35 lead.
Terry Teagle? Well, perhaps it would have been more apropos if James Worthy or Byron Scott had done the honors. Or if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would have come out of retirement and unleashed one more sky hook for old time's sake.
But Johnson hasn't averaged more than 11 assists per game over his 12-year NBA career by being choosy about who does his dishes. So Teagle it was.
The game was stopped at the 5:19 mark of the second quarter, giving way to an emotion-filled ceremony to mark the ocassion. Johnson warmly accepted the embraces of teammates, coaches and trainers, then tried unsuccessfully to keep from crying as the tribute continued.
Laker general manager Jerry West presented Johnson a custom-designed piece of Tiffany crystal on a silver base. The inscription read, in part: "A truly exceptional person comes along only rarely . . . You raise our abilities and lift our spirits . . . We are privileged to share in your accomplishments."