Lakers Logic: Who wins in a game of one-on-one, Magic or Kareem?

US PRESSWIRE Sports-Historical
Mar 26, 1985; Portland, OR, USA: FILE PHOTO; Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33) and Magic Johnson (32) on the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers at Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Lakers Logic, a column where I pose a question and answer it. You can expect topics that are current and on the more serious side, but you’ll also find hypotheticals that I plan to have some fun with.

For the second installment of Lakers Logic, I wanted to have a little more fun with this one. So my question is, who would win in a game of one-on-one, Magic or Kareem? The two spent ten seasons together with the Lakers, but Kareem’s career started a decade earlier.

For the sake of this hypothetical, though, we’re going to take both players in their prime and pit them against each other. Plus, for all intents and purposes, this game of one-on-one will be time-based instead of points based. Let’s call it a 12 minute game over two 6-minute halves. The players will get a little breather for a minute or two before diving back in.

A lot of stats weren’t recorded just yet when Kareem first started playing. The three-point line didn’t even exist yet, rebounds weren’t split into offensive and defensive ones, while steals, blocks, and turnovers weren’t recorded. While some of those might be important in a game of one-on-one, there’s still enough there to see who would beat whom.

Looking at the advantages that Kareem has, the first one is his height advantage over Magic. He’s 7’2” while Magic is 6’9”. This height difference is certainly going to be his main advantage. It would make it easier for him to defend Magic in the paint. In fact, most of his advantages stem from his height because another one would be grabbing rebounds. It’s a sure way to keep the ball out of Magic’s hands if Magic isn’t grabbing many rebounds off of misses. His post game is fantastic, too. You’ll have the skyhook vs. the baby hook and we all know Kareem is quite the master at the skyhook.

Magic’s advantages come from a different perspective. He’s never going to have the height on Kareem, but he does have a better range. The three-point line didn’t even exist when Kareem started playing and he’s always been more of a force in the paint. If Magic can hit some three’s, he’ll have a chance. His three-point percentage wasn’t the greatest, but if Kareem isn’t shooting them at all, he just needs to knock down a few. Plus, Magic might just have a little extra speed on him to make things difficult for Kareem to defend out on the perimeter. The mismatch has its advantages for both players.

Before deciding on a winner, let’s cover a couple disadvantages. The main one for Magic is that he won’t have teammates to pass to. He’s known for his stellar passing more than most other things he does on the court. For Kareem, he’ll struggle a bit on defense trying to guard a smaller player.

So, who wins? I’m putting my money on Kareem. He shot 55.9 percent from two-point land and had a couple years where he shot 60 percent from the field. He’s going to pound the ball in the paint and get easy buckets with the mismatch there. Magic might have the advantage on the perimeter, but ultimately he’ll get tired from taking a beating in the paint. Now, don’t get me wrong, Magic will get some buckets, but the truth is the skyhook is just going to beat his baby hook enough times to give Kareem the win.

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