The highlight of the Los Angeles Lakers season of 1979–80 was Magic Johnson leading the Lakers to the NBA Title in the team's first season under the ownership of Jerry Buss. Magic’s season represented the birth of the Showtime Lakers.
| 1979–80 season game log
October 7–3 (Home: 5–1; Road: 2–2)
November 9–6 (Home: 6–1; Road: 3–5)
December 12–4 (Home: 8–1; Road: 4–3)
January 10–4 (Home: 5–0; Road: 5–4)
February 9–2 (Home: 5–1; Road: 4–1)
March 13–3 (Home: 7–0; Road: 6–3)
| Season Schedule
| 1979–80 playoff game log
Conference Semifinals 4–1 (Home: 3–0; Road: 1–1)
Conference Finals 4–1 (Home: 2–1; Road: 2–0)
NBA Finals 4–2 (Home: 2–1; Road: 2–1)
| Playoff Schedule
Having won everything possible at the college level, Johnson decided to leave college two years early and declared himself eligible for the 1979 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Jazz originally had the first draft pick, but they had traded the pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for NBA star Gail Goodrich. As a result, the Lakers drafted Johnson with the first overall pick, signing him for a sizable salary of US$600,000 a year.
Johnson joined a franchise which had gone though major changes. The Lakers featured a new coach in Jack McKinney, a new owner in Jerry Buss, and several new players. However, Johnson was most excited about the prospect of playing with his personal idol, the 7–2 center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the leading scorer in NBA history. From the first game, Johnson displayed his trademark enthusiasm for the game. When Abdul-Jabbar hit a last-second free throw line hook shot to win against the San Diego Clippers, Johnson ran around the court, high-fiving and hugging everybody, causing concern that the "Buck" (as Johnson was called by Lakers announcer Chick Hearn for his youth) would burn himself out. However, in that 1979–80 NBA season, the rookie proved them wrong. Johnson introduced an uptempo style of basketball which the NBA described as a mix of "no-look passes off the fastbreak, pinpoint alley-oops from halfcourt, spinning feeds and overhand bullets under the basket through triple teams". Fellow Lakers guard Michael Cooper even stated that: "There have been times when he [Johnson] has thrown passes and I wasn't sure where he was going. Then one of our guys catches the ball and scores, and I run back up the floor convinced that he must've thrown it through somebody." This style of basketball became known as "Showtime". Given Johnson was also a prolific scorer and rebounder, he soon led the league in triple-doubles, racking up 10-points-10-rebounds-10-assists games in a rate only second to NBA Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson. In addition, he expressed a raw, childlike enthusiasm which further endeared him to the fans.
Johnson's average of 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game was enough to make the All-Rookie Team and become a starter on the All-Star Team, even though the NBA Rookie of the Year Award went to his rival Larry Bird, who had joined the Boston Celtics. The Lakers compiled a 60–22 win-loss record, and with Paul Westhead replacing coach McKinney as a coach after a serious bicycle crash, the Lakers reached the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Against the fierce resistance of Sixers Hall-of-Fame forward Julius "Doctor J" Erving and Darryl Dawkins, the Lakers took a 3–2 lead before Abdul-Jabbar went down with a sprained ankle. Coach Westhead decided to put point guard Johnson at pivot instead, and on the Sixers' home court, the rookie dominated with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, lifting the Lakers to a 123–107 win and winning the NBA Finals MVP award. The NBA regards Johnson's clutch performance as one of the finest individual games ever. Although only twenty years old, he had already won every trophy at the high school, college and professional levels. Johnson also became one of only four players to win NCAA and NBA championships in consecutive years.
*Stats after being traded to the Lakers.
†Stats before being traded from the Lakers.
Awards and records