1991–92 Los Angeles Lakers season
|1991–92 Los Angeles Lakers season|
|Magic Johnson's first retirement|
|Head coach||Mike Dunleavy|
|Arena||Great Western Forum|
|Place||Division: 6th (Pacific)
Conference: 8th (Western)
|Playoff finish||First Round
|Television||Prime Ticket, KCAL|
|Radio||AM 570 KLAC|
The 1991–92 NBA season was the Lakers' 44th season in the National Basketball Association, and 32nd in the city of Los Angeles. This was the start of a new era for the Los Angeles Lakers, as they had to cope with the sudden retirement of their longtime superstar, Magic Johnson, due to an HIV infection. However, he would make a brief return playing in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game winning the All-Star MVP award. During the offseason, the Lakers acquired Sedale Threatt from the Seattle SuperSonics. Without Johnson for the first time since 1979, the Lakers won 10 of their first 13 games including a nine-game winning streak. However, they struggled in February losing seven straight games with a 3–9 record during the month. The Lakers struggled to make the playoffs as they finished sixth in the Pacific Division with a 43–39 record. It would be considered their worst record since the 1975–76 season.
As the #8 seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers were eliminated from the first round of the NBA playoffs in four games by the Portland Trail Blazers. Following the season, Mike Dunleavy left and took a coaching job with the Milwaukee Bucks.
|2||52||Anthony Jones||Forward||United States||Oral Roberts|
Los Angeles Lakers roster
|y-Portland Trail Blazers||57||25||.695||—||33-8||24-17||21-9|
|x-Golden State Warriors||55||27||.671||2||31-10||24-17||19-11|
|x-Los Angeles Clippers||45||37||.549||12||29-12||16-25||13-17|
|x-Los Angeles Lakers||43||39||.524||14||24-17||19-22||13-17|
- y - clinched division title
- x - clinched playoff spot
|1||c-Portland Trail Blazers||57||25||.695||–|
|3||x-Golden State Warriors||55||27||.671||2|
|5||x-San Antonio Spurs||47||35||.573||10|
|7||x-Los Angeles Clippers||45||37||.549||12|
|8||x-Los Angeles Lakers||43||39||.524||14|
- z - clinched division title
- y - clinched division title
- x - clinched playoff spot
Record vs. opponents
The Lakers would be the first team in NBA history to start out an NBA season with three straight overtime games, with the first one actually being a double-overtime game. While they would wind up being 1-2 to start out the season, and would have to cope with no longer having Magic Johnson on the team soon afterwards, the Lakers would ultimately recover just enough to end their season with a 43-39 record.
|1991-92 NBA Records|
West First Round
(1) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (8) Los Angeles Lakers: Blazers win series 3–1
- Game 1 @ Memorial Coliseum, Portland (April 23): Portland 115, LA Lakers 102
- Game 2 @ Memorial Coliseum, Portland (April 25): Portland 101, LA Lakers 79
- Game 3 @ Great Western Forum, Los Angeles (April 29): LA Lakers 121, Portland 119 (OT)
- Game 4 @ Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas (May 3): Portland 102, LA Lakers 76
Last Playoff Meeting: 1991 Western Conference Finals (Los Angeles won 4-2)
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
|A. C. Green||82||762||117||91||36||1116||13.6|
In the 1991-92 NBA season, Johnson missed the first three games with an unspecified "stomach ailment". On November 7, 1991, Johnson made the shocking announcement that he was infected with HIV and would immediately retire. Johnson discovered his condition when he tried to obtain life insurance and had failed the compulsory HIV test conducted by Lakers team doctor. Johnson gave a grave but defiant statement, stating he was happy that both his wife Cookie and her unborn child were HIV negative and that he was going to dedicate his life to spread the word about HIV prevention and promote safer sex. The NBA world was in shock, and even U. S. president George H. W. Bush mourned: "For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports." Johnson immediately was listed as an injured reserve on the roster, but due to his valid contract, he continued to be paid by the Lakers franchise.
Nonetheless, Johnson was still voted into the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, and the press speculated whether he was going to make a comeback. Moreover, many colleagues were wary: as HIV can be transmitted by blood contamination, they argued that Johnson would be a deadly risk if he would get a bleeding wound and touch them. One of the most vocal opponents was Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone. Johnson won the skeptics over and made a triumphant return, leading the West to a 153-113 win and being crowned All-Star MVP. The game was also a curiosity, ending prematurely when he drained a last-minute three-pointer and his colleagues refused to play further, instead running collectively on court, hugging him and exchanging high-fives. However, it remained Johnson's last NBA game until his brief return at the end of the 1995–96 season.
Magic and the Dream Team
Despite being HIV positive, Johnson was chosen for the US team for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The squad was quickly dubbed the Dream Team because of its abundance of NBA stars such as Jordan, Karl Malone and Bird, but Johnson was the main attraction. At the Olympic Opening Ceremony, German tennis player Steffi Graf ordered colleague Barbara Rittner to photograph her with Johnson, and in the match against Spain, Spanish captain Juan Antonio San Epifanio and his squad demonstratively hugged him, showing that his HIV infection did not matter to them. During the tournament, Johnson struggled with knee problems and played for only a fraction of the games. The point guard position was mostly run by Utah Jazz all-time assist leader John Stockton, but Johnson's presence alone was enough to provoke standing ovations from the crowd. He used the spotlight to attempt to inspire HIV positive people in several interviews.
Awards and Records
- Magic Johnson, NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award
- Magic Johnson, J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award
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- 1990-91 Los Angeles Lakers
- "Magic Johnson Ends His Career, Saying He Has AIDS Infection". New York Times. November 8, 1991.
- Los Angeles Lakers Franchise Index at basketball-reference.com
- "Long Lakers Season Comes to a Close". New York Times. May 5, 2014.
- "On Capitol Hill, the Battle for AIDS Funds Heats Up". New York Times. November 9, 1991.
- Bork (1994), pp. 90-94
- "Johnson Finally Says the Magic Words: 'It's On'". New York Times. January 30, 1996.