Magic Johnson Explains How 1992 Olympic Invite Was Paired With Request To Recruit Jordan, Bird

The offer to play for team USA came with a condition that was pretty difficult to fulfill.
Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; ESPN analyst Magic Johnson before game one of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; ESPN analyst Magic Johnson before game one of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Johnson's route to the 1992 Olympic team in Barcelona was unusual to say the least.

He got the call from then-commissioner David Stern, but it was more like a conditional invitation.

"So commissioner Stern then said 'I'm glad your happy," Johnson said during an interview with Katty Kay of BBC. "But there's one catch to it. You have to talk Michael Jordan and Larry Bird into playing.'"

Johnson then chuckled and said to commissioner Stern, "Oh, that's all I have to do?"

Magic readily admitted his spot on the team was conditioned upon him securing the services of Jordan and Bird.

Johnson said, "I then said to myself, 'what can I do or say to make them want to play on the team?'"

Johnson then went to work on getting his friends to join the team.

"Larry was big on his family, so I said I'm going to go with that angle," Johnson said. "I called Larry and said that this was an opportunity for our kids to see us play for our country..... He said 'alright Ill play'. I said good, I got Larry covered."'

The harder one was Jordan.

"I said, what can I say to Michael. He's already done everything. He's won championships and already played for the Olympic team," Johnson said. "You know what, Ill tell him we are gonna hang out and we will play cards every night together and he can play golf all day. He can then come to the game score 30 pts by half time and then go sit down, That's what happened."'

The Dream Team took an improbable route to get assembled, but they won every game by an average of 42 points while bring home the gold medal.

The rest is basketball history.

Scott Salomon is a contributor to Back In the Day NBA. He can be reached at scottsalomon67@gmail.com.


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Scott Salomon

SCOTT SALOMON

Scott Salomon joined FanNation on Sports Illustrated in April 2024 covering breaking news and analysis for the Miami Dolphins channel. In June he joined Inside the Heat and Back in the Day NBA. Scott is based in South Florida and has been covering the local and national sports scene for 35 years. Scott has covered and has been credentialed for the Super Bowl, the NFL Combine, various Orange Bowls and college football championship games. Scott was also credentialed for the NBA All-Star game and covered the Miami Heat during their first six seasons for USA TODAY. Scott is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Communication and the St. Thomas University School of Law. Scott has two sons and his hobbies include watching sports on television and binge watching shows on various streaming services. Twitter: @ScottSalomonNFL