Tuesday, May 22, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Johnson Edges Barkley For Mvp Award -- Laker Guard Wins In Closest Vote In 10 Years


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson, his basketball playing over for the season, won his third NBA Most Valuable Player award today.

In the closest voting in 10 years, Johnson narrowly beat Charles Barkley of Philadelphia and Michael Jordan of Chicago. Johnson had 636 points and 27 first-place votes from a nationwide panel of 92 media members. Barkley had more first-place votes (38) but finished 22 points behind Johnson.

Jordan was third with 571 points and 21 first-place votes. Karl Malone of Utah was fourth, followed by Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, rookie of the year David Robinson of San Antonio and Akeem Olajuwon of Houston.

The previous closest vote was in 1981, when Julius Erving beat Larry Bird by 31 points.

``Every player has a gift,'' Laker General Manager Jerry West said. ``Magic Johnson's gift is that he makes a difference for everyone around him. He's not just a great player, he's a great team player.''

League commissioner David Stern presented Johnson the trophy for the second consecutive year - and third time in four years - at a news conference today at the otherwise quiet Forum.

The award was given to Johnson between the first and second games of the Western Conference final, same as last year. But unlike last year - and most years in Magic's career - the Lakers aren't involved.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Phoenix in the conference semifinals last week despite having the league's best regular-season rec-ord (63-19).

Laker Coach Pat Riley earlier received the NBA's Coach of the Year honor for the first time. So the Lakers have the league's most-honored coach and MVP of the 1989-90 season, yet were eliminated from the playoffs the earliest since 1981.

Johnson averaged 22.3 points, 11.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per

game during the season and averaged 25.2 points in nine playoff games.

Johnson is the sixth player, and first guard, in NBA history to win the MVP award three times, joining ex-teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone and Bird.

Johnson, 30, has led the Lakers to five NBA championships since joining them in 1979. The team reached the Western Conference finals eight straight years before losing 4-1 to the Suns.

Johnson was the first player selected in the 1979 NBA draft after he left Michigan State at the conclusion of his sophomore season, when he led the Spartans to the NCAA championship.



-- Leading vote getters in NBA MVP balloting (first-place votes in parentheses):

Johnson, L.A. Lakers (27) 636

Barkley, Philadelphia (38) 614

Jordan, Chicago (21) 571

Malone, Utah (2) 214

Ewing, New York (1) 162

Robinson, San Antonio (2) 102

Olajuwon, Houston (1) 64

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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