The Golden State Warriors are being called the greatest team to ever play the game, and the Warriors-Cavaliers the greatest NBA rivalry since the Lakers-Celtics of 30 years ago.
Not so fast, says one of the greatest basketball players of all time, a man who owns five championship rings and went to the finals nine years out of 12 full seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I wouldn’t say they’re the best ever,” said Magic Johnson of Golden State’s team, conceding the Warriors appear unbeatable at the moment. “If they can put together a string of multiple championships, they could go down as the best team, but right now, winning one doesn’t make you the best.”
Johnson spoke to CNBC at an event hosted by American Express, which brought in card members to meet Johnson and legendary coach Pat Riley in Los Angeles on Monday night. Johnson is free to mingle this year because he’s not part of the announcing team for the playoffs. That’s because he has a new job as president of operations for the Lakers. It’s a tough job, as the Lakers are a shell of the great franchise they once were.
“I know what type of player I want, and our fan base has to be patient, but we’re going to get there,” Johnson said. He said it will take time to build a team which can take on the Warriors. “Everybody has their run, but that will eventually end, and when it ends, we’ll be sitting there waiting on them.”
Ratings for the finals are the highest since Michael Jordan’s final title in 1998. “The country is engaged, they want to see who is going to win this rubber match,” said Johnson, calling it good for the NBA. “Fans who might have gone away came back.”
Overall, sports ratings have been falling. Johnson said part of the reason is that a younger generation prefers to watch things on small screens or catch up on highlights later. “There’s nothing you can do about that. It’s not marketing, not anything, it’s just kids are different.” However, he says there’s nothing like a live sporting event to create excitement, pointing to the way Nashville, Tennessee, has gone crazy over hockey.