1. MAGIC JOHNSON, 1996
The last time Earvin was on the Lakers sideline, he’d been their coach. The last time he’d been on the court in a purple-and-gold mesh uniform, it was June 12, 1991, in a triple-double performance that was the seeming (and appropriate) coda to his career. Of course, it wasn’t his final game, but when he did come back on Jan. 30, 1996, it was like he’d been gone two weeks, not five years. Magic lived up to his name with 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in just 27 minutes against the Warriors. In the video, it’s chilling to hear legendary L.A. broadcaster Chick Hearn let the Forum crowd do his job when Johnson walks to the scorer’s table to check in, saying “they speak for us.”
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HONORABLE MENTION: REGGIE MILLER, 2004
A broken left hand kept Miller out for the first 15 games of this season, but when he got back he hadn’t lost his legendary stroke. Miller went for 23 points, with 4-of-6 from three, in a loss to Golden State on Dec. 4, 2004. He didn’t exactly ease into it, either: He had eight points, two boards and a dime in the first quarter.
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