by Adam Burns
Welcome to tonight's game between the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, where the featured matchup will be between Michael Jordan and Ervin "Magic" Johnson?
OK, very funny, who's been messing with these lineups?
Well, trust your eyes, folks. Just less than nine months after Jordan's return, Magic is back, too.
Jordan left on his own before the 1993-94 season, leaving Scottie Pippen to discover that he could not, in fact, win an NBA title on his own.
Johnson felt obligated to step down after he discovered he was HIV positive in November 1991.
Jordan returned after he found out he wasn't Ken Griffey Jr. in his stint with Class AA baseball.
With the addition of himself and former Detroit Piston/San Antonio Spur Dennis Rodman, the revitalized Bulls (39-3) have been cutting a bloody swath through the 1995-96 NBA season and serving a hearty can of whoop-ass to anyone who faces them.
Tuesday night, a chunky 252-pound Johnson (27 pounds heavier than when he left) rejoined the Lakers with a 19-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound outing in a 128-118 Lakers victory against Golden State.
It was the first time Johnson played in an official NBA game since the 1991 NBA Finals -- against Jordan's Bulls.
But he has since played in: the 1992 All-Star game; the 1992 Olympics with the Dream Team; the 1992 pre-season, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led exhibition team; and practiced with the Lakers many times.
One of Magic's reasons for retiring and reconsidering coming back for the 1993-94 season was a concern for endangering other players if he had stayed.
His retirement raised the question of the dangers of playing a physical contact sport with someone whose blood contained a deadly virus.
A new rule was spawned in most professional basketball games that a bleeding player, no matter how minor, must leave the court until the bleeding was stopped and cleaned up.
Many players, including Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone and the Australian National Team, said they would not feel safe playing with an HIV-infected player when Magic first announced he was HIV-positive.
This time, most NBA players now know the dangers of playing Johnson are negligent, including Malone.
One exception is former Rocket Vernon Maxwell, who never was known for thinking things out.
Maxwell doesn't have to worry about playing anybody -- anytime soon, anyway -- he has recently been sentenced to 90 days in jail on a marijuana possession charge.
Health concerns aside, the question is: Can Magic, along with the young core Lakers, take on the Spurs, the Magic, the Sonics, the Rockets or the Bulls?
The answer is: Sure, definitely, possibly, maybe and not unless Abdul-Jabbar comes out of retirement, too.
Still, the return of the best point guard in the history of the NBA will make the Lakers a good `Showtime' to watch again. It will take more than just a few games to decide if he has lost a step or not
Title contenders or no, the new Lakers will be a good team. Expect to see them deep in the playoffs.
Burns is a senior journalism major who wishes someone new would win an NBA title.