I imagine it’s daunting to play Magic just to master its game and techniques convincingly. In terms of how he played the game, what was important to do well?
Yeah, so I’d like to hope that because he’s one of the best basketball players of all time – not just the point guard, one of the best basketball players of all time – that people don’t expect that I do everything exactly like him. But my biggest thing was really capturing the spirit of the way he played, that carefree, that looseness, and that joy that he brought to the game, and to really focus on that.
Of course, I’m an athlete and I love basketball. Some things came more naturally to me, like passing. I love passing the ball. I like to think these feel more Quincy to me than dribbling and shooting. Those came later. Because me, as a basketball player, I’m only defense. I do the bustle pieces. I bounce back. That’s how I play.
I already like to pass. So focusing on the things he was really good at that I don’t do so naturally. It was a big thing for me too.
Were there certain games you studied?
His first match and obviously the final match. There are a lot of full games on YouTube, so any game I could really find I just tried to watch. I didn’t get too far ahead, because this season we only covered the 1979-1980 season. I didn’t want to do too much. Oh, his college games, I got to watch them a couple of times, and really focus on who he was and what he brought to the game and what he brought that was different from other people around him and were really trying to choose what made it magical. Which made people go, “Ooh and ahh,” and really try to figure that out and focus on that kind of stuff.
Have you also revisited [Johnson’s failed talk show] “The magic hour”?
[Laughs] Yes I did it. I did.
What stood out?
Yeah, Magic is a billionaire or almost billionaire and he’s a great businessman, and he’s an even better basketball player. And so, I’ll leave it at that.
[Laughs] What are the main differences you noticed between his college and professional days?
It’s funny, watching college games and then watching his rookie season, he almost felt like he felt more free on the field. Maybe that was the system they were using and maybe the talent around him was so much better that he was able to make more flashy passes. He didn’t seem to have made as many flashy passes in college, and he felt like he was more in the system.
Once he got to the league, he rose. You play with Kareem, one of the greatest players of all time. So this will naturally up your game to be [on that level]. Maybe that was it. But it seemed like he improved exponentially from college to pro, even just in that rookie season.
The first season of “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” is underway on HBO.