The Lakers were down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals before Magic Johnson came back from a terrible bout of flu and helped lead them to victory.
Magic Johnson had his own flu game in the NBA Finals, then was aided by mom’s home-cookin’.
Michael Jordan’s flu game against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals is remembered by most NBA fans. Magic Johnson experienced his own flu outbreak during the 1988 NBA championship series between his Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons.
Johnson was doubtful to participate in Game 2 of the 1988 NBA Finals after getting sick and skipping practice on Wednesday. He was also absent from the shootaround on Thursday. He played, had his fluids pumped at halftime, and then went home to Michigan to eat his mother’s home cooking.
After Game 1 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Magic Johnson sensed something was amiss.
During a game in the mid-to-late 1980s, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball as he looks up court, his path blocked by Nate McMillan of the Seattle Supersonics. | Anthony Barboza/Getty Images
After the first game of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Pistons, Johnson didn’t feel quite right. Losing 105-93 at home didn’t improve matters. Something wasn’t quite right physically, and it didn’t strike me until the next morning.
He succumbed to the illness, putting his participation for Game 2 in doubt. He made it through without practicing on Wednesday or attending the walkthrough on Thursday. In reality, he played 42 minutes and helped the Lakers tie the series at 108-96.
According to United Press International, Johnson stated after the game, “I don’t wish this on anybody.” “I got the chills the other night, was sweating profusely, and had to go to the toilet every 20 minutes or so. The temperature has subsided, but the pain in my stomach persists, and I continue to go to the toilet as usual. I should be well by the weekend, according to the doctor.”
Johnson finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists.
“I didn’t believe I’d be able to play 42 minutes when I arrived (to the Forum),” he remarked. “At halftime, the doctor did an excellent job of rehydrating me. The squad looks to me for direction, and if I’m up, they’ll follow. It would be a huge disappointment for my teammates if I showed up on the court ill. I had no choice but to battle through it and give it my all.”
Magic Johnson was finally able to sample some of his mother’s cooking.
The series moved to Detroit after each club won a game in Los Angeles. Johnson was born and raised in Michigan, where his mother still resides. When he went home for Games 3, 4, and 5, he knew he’d be taken care of.
Johnson’s mother had traveled to LA for Game 2 and found her son in bad condition.
After the second game, Johnson recalled, “My mother came to greet me and I whispered, “Ma, I have the flu,” and turned my head to kiss her cheek.” “I reared you and brought you into this world, and I can manage this,” she replied, straightening my face.
Christine Johnson, according to UPI, flew home after Game 2 on a redeye trip to start preparing for her son and his teammates.
“She’s going to cook everything,” Magic predicted. “Sweet potato pie, handmade buns, everything.” “When we initially got to the finals, sweet potato pie was the first thing the squad yelled.”
In seven games, the Lakers defeated the Pistons.
With a 99-86 triumph, Johnson and the Lakers recovered homecourt advantage. Johnson showed no signs of the illness despite playing two minutes fewer than he did in Game 2. He had 18 points and 14 assists in the game.
The Pistons then took advantage of the new 2-3-2 format, winning the last two games in Detroit to carry a 3-2 series lead back to Los Angeles.
The Lakers won 103-102 in Game 6 despite Isiah Thomas’ 43 points. Johnson had 22 points and 19 assists in the game.
The Lakers outscored the Pistons 15 points in the third quarter to overcome a five-point halftime lead in Game 7. They needed to hold on as the Pistons launched a furious fourth-quarter comeback, but they fell short as LA won the title 108-105.
Johnson captured the hearts of his teammates with his courageous Game 2 effort and his mother’s cuisine, despite James Worthy being the Finals MVP.
Basketball Reference provided all stats.
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