The Showtime Lakers are one of the most famous teams in NBA history. Led by Magic Johnson, the team fathered the swag and up-tempo style of basketball the NBA stands on today. Even though this current generation has evolved into a 3-point parade Johnson’s contemporaries never could have fathomed, there are certain players who were made for Showtime.
5. Imagine Nikola Jokic on the 1980s Lakers
There is a common belief in the basketball world that if a team has a good big man and a good point guard, it will always be a contender. The Showtime Lakers had that and then some. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is arguably one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the league and Magic Johnson is the consensus GOAT point guard. That duo set the tone for the belief that a good point guard and good big man equal contention.
So imagine if that big man was the Joker. While Jokic has much more to accomplish in his career to be put in the same sentence as Jabbar, he does have a few similarities to the all-time great. The biggest would be his passing ability.
The 80s Lakers that dazzled generations of NBA fans were known for transition offense. To successfully run teams off the court, passing has to be elite, at all positions. Jabbar, aside from Johnson, set that bar. Whether it was hitting a teammate who leaked out down the court or hitting the skip pass on the trail, Jabbar was an integral part of the Lakers’ facilitation.
Jokic has shown that he is the best passer on the Nuggets, and possibly in Denver. Jokic would find Byron Scott and James Worthy the same way he finds Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, only Worthy is a Hall of Famer and Scott led the champion Showtime Lakers in scoring.
4. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton isn’t the passing force that Jokic is, but when Magic Johnson is manning the offense, there isn’t much needed. What Middleton does do well, is run the floor. Again, the Showtime Lakers pushed the pace and pushed it at an all-time elite level. They did so through their defense.
At 6’7 with a 6’11 wingspan, Middleton is a very versatile defender. He can defend on the wing and switch onto bigs while grabbing a career average of five rebounds a game. His length would give the Lakers an even longer defensive lineup. He, alongside Johnson, Worthy, Kurt Rambis, and Jabbar would make a starting five that features no one under 6’7.
On the offensive end, Middleton is a very good shooter– shooting a career 39% from the three point line. With Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dishing out dimes in the half-court, Khris Middleton would have literal target practice. Inserting him into the shooting guard slot would make the Showtime Lakers.
3. Kawhi Leonard
During the offseason, sources close to the Clippers said that Kawhi Leonard wanted a true point guard. While the Clippers failed to make it happen, the reasoning behind that request is pretty obvious. Leonard’s rise to stardom came with a Spurs team which at the time was led by a Hall of Fame point guard by the name of Tony Parker.
Lakers fans know that Leonard then won a championship next to an All-Star point guard in Kyle Lowry in Toronto. Leonard is a phenomenal player who can create his own shot, but he is most lethal when he is being set up for a shot– particularly in the low post.
Insert Magic Johnson. Kawhi has one of the highest basketball IQs in the league. His ability to know when and where to cut and which lane to fill on a fast break are the type of skills that the Showtime Lakers built their success on. Fancy passing wasn’t what made that team special– though it did make them aesthetically pleasing. Spacing, pace, and shot-making made them special.
Basketball IQ is what makes the first two lethal and Leonard has that at an elite level. It goes without saying he is a shot-maker.
2. Lakers champion Anthony Davis
Davis’ ability to play in transition, hit the open jumper, while still being an elite defender is a monstrous combination to pair. You can see how Davis’ game was taken to new levels once he was paired with Lebron James on the Lakers; his game would be insane next to Magic Johnson on the Laker dynasty of the 1980s.
The Showtime Lakers did their damage in transition, regardless if they got a steal. If they got a steal, often it was one or two passes into a layup. More times than a few, the Lakers had to push the ball after a bucket.
To properly run transition after a basket, the right lanes have to be run. The two guards typically run the right side of the court, while the three-guard runs on the left side. The center usually rim runs, while the point guard pushes the ball in the middle of the floor. The four, who is often the inbounder, trails the play. The trailer is usually a playmaker who can pass and score the outside.
Davis, who powered the Lakers to an NBA title last year, fits that profile to a tee.
1. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter ever. That’s clear. Johnson’s passing ability is something that the current generation is very aware of, but his scoring ability was still elite. He was a very capable slasher. Any slasher needs a reliable shooter to space the floor.
Curry is one of the only players who creates offense for others through “gravity.” Johnson would have little to no opposition since you can’t help too far off of Curry. Also, Curry is a very capable ball-handler who can set others up– he is a point guard. In a half-court offense, the Lakers would have premium spacing because of Curry’s shooting ability, and wouldn’t lose a single step in their motion offense.
Matching Curry with the Showtime Lakers would result in a repeat of his time with Kevin Durant– a literally unstoppable offense.