Few players enjoy the All-Star experience like Magic Johnson.
He's like a sponge during the All-Star showcase, soaking in everything and forgetting nothing."All of my All-Star Games have special memories for me because it's always a different city and you tend tohave different players every year," said Johnson, who will make his 10th appearance Sunday. "Look at this year, there are four guys who haven't started before."
Johnson will take the court for the West Sunday along with Kevin Johnson of Phoenix at guard, Chris Mullin of Golden State and Utah's Karl Malone at forward and David Robinson of San Antonio at center.
One of Magic's favorite memories of his early All-Star Games was milking the veterans for information. Now that he's one of the oldest All-Stars at 31, Magic likes to bend the ears of the younger players.
"Being named as an All-Star as a rookie and playing against all of your heroes and the legends was just great," he said. "I was so full of butterflies that I could hardly play. I was so scared and nervous. I can remember that game like it was yesterday, because it was a fantastic day for me as a player."
Magic had 12 points and the first four of his NBA-record 115 All-Star assists on that day in 1980 at Landover, Md., won by the East 144-135.
Johnson said veteran players like Julius Erving and Tiny Archibald, who played in Magic's first All-Star Game, probably "were tired of me because I asked so many questions . . . what I should do and what I shouldn't do. I was going crazy. They just told me, play your game, have fun and enjoy yourself."
Last year at Miami, when Johnson won his first All-Star MVP award despite another East victory, it was he who picked up the veteran role for the young players.
"I told David Robinson last year that everyone's going to be on top of you to do this and do that," he said. "But don't come in and do everything. Do what you're supposed to do, then get away from it and have fun. Don't overcommit yourself and don't let them drain you by having you run all around everywhere. Just take the couple of days, enjoy it and have some fun while you're doing everything else."
Johnson and this year's four newcomers to the West starting lineup face East starters Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Bernard King and Joe Dumars.King and Dumars were named as replacements for injured Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas, who had been elected as starters.
Thomas underwent wrist surgery last week. Bird returned to the Boston lineup on Wednesday after missing 14 games with a bad back, but the Celtics said is not yet ready to travel and will miss the All-Star Game.
"I'll miss Isiah because we tend to keep up that fast tempo that fans like," Magic said. "But he'll still be around Charlotte, so I can see him."
Johnson, who was elected as a starter in 1989 but didn't play because of injury, failed to be selected to the team only in 1981, another injury-shortened season for him. He said that many players say they would rather have three days off than play in the All-Star game, but he doesn't believe them.
"Most of the guys are lying when they say they want to take a few days off," he said. "They say that, then they're the first ones to say they were robbed when they aren't voted in or picked by the coaches."
Magic said his favorite All-Star Game was at Seattle in 1987, an overtime victory for the West.
"I liked the one in Seattle, when Rolando Blackman hit the two free throws, the game went into overtime and we ended up winning," he said.