The Story Of The Korean Basketball Player Who Was Nicknamed The Female Magic Johnson

Pete Maravich. Magic Johnson. E.J. Ok. While the first two names are instantly recognizable as basketball legends, few will recognize the third or know the impact she had on the game. Even today, a Google search of her name delivers few results. So who is she and why does she deserve to be on a list with Magic and Maravich?

Born in Gimje, South Korea in 1982 Ok began playing basketball  for her school team when she was 10, according to Character Media. While playing as a senior at Soongeui Girls High School, her team traveled to the U.S for exhibition games against junior colleges. It was here that she caught the eye of recruiters from Northeast Louisiana University (now known as the University of Louisiana at Monroe) who offered her a scholarship to come play for their team, according to Character Media. She was a dominating force for NLU from 1983 to 1986 being named Southland Conference Player of the Year all four years according to Basketball Network.

Great Comparisons

Ok held career averages of 18.8 points and 8.4 assists per game during her collegiate career, giving her career totals of 978 assists and 2,208 points, which rank first and second, respectively, in career totals at NLU (via Character Media). She led NLU to their first and only Final Four in school history in her Junior season in 1985. She was the driving force behind their deep run and drew praise for her level of play. Sports Illustrated dubbed her the "Korean Magic Johnson." 

Often regarded as the best point guard to ever play, Johnson was at the peak of his career with the Showtime Lakers when the comparison was made. If comparison to one all-time great wasn't enough to convince people of Ok's skill, Dale Brown, who coached Louisiana State University from 1972 to 1997 and had his own fair share of great players(including Shaquille O'Neal), eagerly added on praise of his own. "E.J. is the best female point guard I've seen," said Brown. "I don't mean to embellish this, but she's a female Pete Maravich. They had eyes all around their head. Great players perceive things that aren't there. They diagram plays and know it in their head, and make that pass two seconds later. She was a phenom, I tell you. She had it all" (via Character Media).

Ahead of the Game

One thing that might have worked against Ok in her basketball career was that she may have simply been too far ahead of the game at the time she played. The WNBA, now a well established league, would not have its inaugural season until 1997, 11 years after Ok finished her collegiate career. With no professional women's leagues in the U.S, Ok's only choice was to play in Europe. She played one season each in Sweden and Italy, winning the MVP both years according to Character Media, before returning to Louisiana and settling down. Ok did train for a comeback with the Houston Comets for the WNBA's inaugural season, but according to Basketball Network, this was cut short when she found out she was pregnant with her third child. 

Following her playing days, Ok became an assistant coach at her former school and, as of 2014, was still coaching after more than 20 years. Ok has the same passion for the game she did back when she was dominating on the court and has big aspirations for her coaching career. "I don't know if I'll have the chance soon, but I'm gonna keep going," Ok said. "We went to the Final Four when I played, but we didn't win. I want to go to the Final Four and win the whole thing. As head coach, absolutely, that's what I want" (via Character Media).