Magic Johnson, the ultimate team player, is on the verge of a historical achievement all his own.
With 9,879 career assists, he is nine shy of breaking Oscar Robertson's 17-year-old NBA record of 9,887. Averaging 12.6 assists per game, he is likely to set a new playmaking standard Monday when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks at the Forum.How does Johnson view the prospect of becoming basketball's most prolific playmaker?
"I'll be happy to get it over with, basically," he said after passing for 15 assists in the Lakers' 118-113 loss to Portland Saturday. "I'll be happy to attain it. It's going to be nice."
Johnson says he values the five championships he's won with the Lakers more than any individual feats.
"I never thought a player like me would get any records, because I'm not a records guy," he said. "What I am, and what I am most proud of, are the five championship rings."
He initially had planned for his parents to watch him set the record, but there was a change of plans.
"My dad has a satellite so he'll just tune in," Johnson said. "I think he wants his own moment to be proud instead of enjoying it with 18,000 people."
Johnson's teammate on those championship teams, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the last years of Robertson's career. Robertson played with the NBA's Cincinnati Royals from 1960-70 and the Bucks from 1970-74.
Abdul-Jabbar says the difference between the two comes down to fancy versus no-frills.
"They were both so skillful at getting you the ball in scoring position," he said.
"I think the differences of style were very dramatic, though, and make for an interesting contrast. Magic is very flamboyant; he enjoys bringing out the skill and showmanship aspect of the game, and he'd very demonstrative."
"Oscar was the exact opposite. He just threw the pass very simply, and he didn't get very emotional about it. But they were both very consistent, and had the best eyes of anybody I've ever played with."
Robertson, now 52, won't be there to see his record surpassed but said he plans to congratulate Johnson in person during the playoffs.
"Magic's a tremendous athlete," he said. "He's been very consistent over the years. Records are made to be broken, so if he gets it, that's fine."