- Dubbed "Magic" by Lansing State Journal sportswriter Fred Stabley Jr. after Stabley witnessed Johnson post a triple-double (36 points; 16 assists; 16 rebounds) in a high-school game.
- Led Michigan State University to the NCAA Tournament two straight years, culminating in the 1979 title over Larry Bird and Indiana State University—sparking a rivalry that spilled over into the two stars' NBA careers.
- Selected first overall in the draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Started Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and scored 42 points and 15 rebounds to clinch the title, and became the first rookie to win the Finals MVP.
- Won five titles with the Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988).
- Announced on November 7, 1991, that he had contracted HIV and would retire immediately, but was subsequentally selected to the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, sparking complaints from some players.
- Named to the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team, dubbed the Dream Team, after FIBA allowed professional players to compete.
- Hosted a late-night talk show in 1998 called The Magic Hour, which was canceled by Fox after two months.
- Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He was introduced by former rival Larry Bird.