Olympic Spotlight: Basketball's Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, Michael Redd and Deron Williams

July 16, 2008

by Jeff Smith
Contributor, BigTen.org

With the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games quickly approaching, BigTen.org takes a look at both former and current Olympians who have made their mark in their respective sports.  In today's "Olympic Spotlight" feature, we take a look at the Olympic basketball careers of Michigan State's Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Illinois' Deron Williams, and Ohio State's Michael Redd.

1992 - Barcelona (Gold)

Former Michigan State standout Earvin "Magic" Johnson was a member of the U.S. gold-winning basketball team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.  The team was affectionately called the "Dream Team" as the 1992 Olympiad was the first to allow professional basketball players in Olympic competition.  Despite being hampered with knee problems, Johnson helped guide the "Dream Team" to a 6-0 record in the qualifying round and two more wins in medal competition to win the gold.

Throughout the entire eight-game tournament, the "Dream Team" dominated its opponents with an average margin of victory of 43.8 points.  Remarkably, head coach Chuck Daly never once had to use a timeout.  In the gold-medal game against Croatia, in which they lead briefly, 25-23, the "Dream Team" responded with a 117-85 victory.  The 32-point difference marked the closest game the U.S. had the entire Olympiad.

Johnson was a sentimental selection to the 1992 Olympics squad.  After retiring from the NBA in 1991 due to health issues, the five-time NBA Champion and 12-time NBA All-Star was invited back to complete the 12-man "Dream Team" in the 1992 Games. 

Total Medals
* 1st Olympics in 2008

The former Spartan was an all-around player in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers.  During his playing career, which lasted from 1979-91 and part of the 1996 season, Johnson accumulated 17,707 points, 10,141 assists and 6,559 rebounds.  He was a three-time NBA Finals MVP and regular-season MVP and a nine-time All-NBA first-team selection. 

Prior to playing professional ball, Johnson spent two seasons at Michigan State under the direction of head coach Jud Heathcote.  He averaged 17.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game as a freshman and helped lead the Spartans to the Big Ten title.  MSU reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Kentucky and finishing the year with a 25-5 record.  A season later, Johnson was viewed as one of the top sophomores in the game.  He guided a talented bunch from East Lansing to the 1979 NCAA Championship, which the Spartans won 75-64 over the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores, and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.  That 1979 NCAA final is still the highest-rated college basketball game ever.  Johnson finished his career at MSU with averages of 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game.

2008 - Beijing

Former basketball players Deron Williams of Illinois and Michael Redd of Ohio State are two of the 12 members on the United States' 2008 Olympic team.  Both individuals put forth impressive efforts during the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship qualifying tournament, in which the U.S. won gold, and in recent practices leading up to the team's selection.  The pair will make their Olympic debut this August in Beijing.

The Big Ten duo is focused on bringing the U.S. back to world prominence as the Americans finished the 2004 Athens Games with a 5-3 record and a bronze medal.

Redd and Williams have each earned their stripes in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz, respectively.  Drafted third overall by Utah in 2005, Williams was an immediate hit as he made the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2006 after averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game.  His sophomore season in Utah saw him improve his numbers substantially, reaching averages of 16.2 points and 9.3 assists per outing.  His assists mark was second only to NBA leader Steve Nash and he set career highs of 31 points and 21 dishes during a two-week span during the season.  Williams then increased his stats to 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game in 2007-08 and set a new scoring career high with 41 points while leading the Jazz to the playoffs.

Redd has played his entire career in Milwaukee after being drafted in the second round and 43rd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft.  As a rookie he averaged 11.4 points per contest and shot over 44 percent from the perimeter.  Redd upped his scoring average to 15.1 the following season, which prompted a four-year contract offer by the Bucks in 2002.  As a full starter in 2003-04, Redd managed 21.7 points per outing and made his lone NBA All-Star appearance.  He has since signed another long-term deal with the Bucks that will keep in Milwaukee through the 2010-2011 campaign.   

Redd spent three years at Ohio State and recorded point averages of 21.9, 19.5, and 17.5, respectively.  He was a co-captain of the 2000 Buckeye squad and was named All-Big Ten for his efforts.  Williams was third in the conference with 4.53 assists per game as a freshman and then upped that mark to 6.17 to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2004.  Similar to his NBA progress, he improved in scoring between the two years as well, taking a freshman average of 6.3 points and increasing it to a team-leading 14.0 a year later.  As a junior, Williams earned consensus second-team All-America honors after leading the Illini to the Big Ten title and the national championship game.  The two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection was also a Wooden Award finalist in 2005, which prompted him to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.