Should a television studio ever give Magic Johnson another shot at late night host (and if so, please call the show "The Magic Hour II: More Magic"), the Hall of Famer already has his jokes stockpiled.
Exhibit A came during a speech last Saturday at the University of Albany. When asked what he hopes will be the most lasting aspect of his legacy, Magic cited his impact on various downtrodden areas of L.A., then casually tossed in a zing at a certain NBA superstar.
"That's easy: Putting people to work in minority communities. There's going to always be great players in basketball. There's going to always be guys who win championships in the NBA, except LeBron..."
After laughing and telling the crowd "don't be mad," Johnson threw Kobe Bryant into the mix at LeBron's expense.
"Everybody's always asking, 'Who is better between Kobe and LeBron?' I'm like, Are you kidding me? I'm like you're kidding me ... Kobe, five championships; LeBron, zero."
After getting more laughs by promising James would "get better in the fourth quarter this year," Magic did note he's not "hating on LeBron." He "loves the young man" and considers him a "triple-double threat every single game."
Of course, that fish residing in a barrel had already been shot by then.
Less than 48 hours removed from "Kobe-only-7th-in-#NBArank-Gate," -- which prompted 750+ (and counting) comments largely devoted to "Kobe vs. LeBron" -- there's no need to regurgitate this debate. (And as I've noted on more than one occasion, I get bored by "Compare Kobe to Player X.") Besides, there's a bigger takeaway from Magic's comments than his endorsement of Bryant. It's his willingness to take unsolicited pokes at LeBron and the knowledge those cracks will be crowd-pleasers anywhere outside of South Beach.
Magic gave the people what they wanted, which these days are jokes at LeBron's expense. And that must be getting old for Ohio's former hero. Yes, LeBron's recent McDonalds commercial demonstrates how The King isn't above playing Jester with a finger pointed in his own direction. (It's actually a great way for LBJ to repair his image.) However, self-deprecating humor isn't the same thing as being the butt of the joke, which LeBron now regularly is. If Magic sincerely meant these remarks as friendly cracks, he's in the minority. For most taking shots, the barbs are meant to pierce.
Back in September, I noted how no player stood to lose more in the event of a canceled season than LeBron, and it was precisely for this reason. The longer we go without basketball, the longer LeBron's persona as a super-gifted, mentally-flawed athlete is allowed to fester. Not to mention, he gets one fewer shot at the championship necessary to stifle some critics, if not shut them up the entire lot of them.
For the time being, Magic's speech is a microcosm of LeBron's existence. Until we're back on the court, James will have no choice but to sit back and take it.