(Note: This list does not include territorial picks, which were used through 1965.)
A difficult choice among other top picks -- including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan (Oscar Robertson was a territorial pick and LeBron James has a lot more time to improve his body of work and win titles) -- but Magic not only won five championships but also rescued the NBA through his West-East rivalry with Larry Bird. He recast the league as an entertainment company led by likable stars. Would the NBA ever have become so popular without him?
Text: Ian Thomsen/SI.com
Photo: Manny Millan/SI