Erving Magic Johnson - Influential Black Leaders
Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is an American retired professional basketball player and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons. After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 36, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.
Johnson's career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA's all-time leader in average assists per game, at 11.2. Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"), which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. After leaving the NBA in 1992, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that traveled around the world playing exhibition games. Johnson was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Johnson became a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame—being enshrined in 2002 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team". Multiple media organizations have rated him as the greatest NBA point guard of all time. His friendship and rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, whom he faced in the 1979 NCAA finals and three NBA championship series, are well documented.
Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, broadcaster and motivational speaker. His public announcement of his HIV-positive status in 1991 helped dispel the stereotype, still widely held at the time, that HIV was a "gay disease" that heterosexuals need not worry about; his bravery in making this announcement was widely commended. Named by Ebony magazine as one of America's most influential black businessmen in 2009, Johnson has numerous business interests, and was a part-owner of the Lakers for several years. Johnson also is part of a group of investors that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014.
Professional playing career
Rookie season in the NBA (1979–1980)
Johnson was drafted first overall in 1979 by the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson said that what was "most amazing" about joining the Lakers was the chance to play alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the team's 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) center who became the leading scorer in NBA history. Despite Abdul-Jabbar's dominance, he had failed to win a championship with the Lakers, and Johnson was expected to help them achieve that goal. Lakers coach Jack McKinney had the 6-foot-9-inch (2.06 m) rookie Johnson, who some analysts thought should play forward, be a point guard, even though incumbent Norm Nixon was already one of the best in the league. Johnson averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game for the season, was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team, and was named an NBA All-Star Game starter.
The Lakers compiled a 60–22 record in the regular season and reached the 1980 NBA Finals, in which they faced the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by forward Julius Erving. The Lakers took a 3–2 lead in the series, but Abdul-Jabbar, who averaged 33 points a game in the series, sprained his ankle in Game 5 and could not play in Game 6.Coach Paul Westhead, who had replaced McKinney early in the season after he suffered a near-fatal bicycle accident, decided to start Johnson at center in Game 6; Johnson recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in a 123–107 win, while playing guard, forward, and center at different times during the game. Johnson became the only rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP award, and his clutch performance is still regarded as one of the finest in NBA history. He also became one of four players to win NCAA and NBA championships in consecutive years.
Ups and downs (1980–1983)
Early in the 1980–81 season, Johnson was sidelined after he suffered torn cartilage in his left knee. He missed 45 games and said that his rehabilitation was the "most down" he had ever felt. Johnson returned before the start of the 1981 playoffs, but the Lakers' then-assistant and future head coach Pat Riley later said Johnson's much-anticipated return made the Lakers a "divided team". The 54-win Lakers faced the 40–42 Houston Rockets in the first round of playoffs, where Houston upset the Lakers 2–1 after Johnson airballed a last-second shot in Game 3.
In 1981, after the 1980–81 season, Johnson signed a 25-year, $25 million contract with the Lakers, which was the highest-paying contract in sports history up to that point. Early in the 1981–82 season, Johnson had a heated dispute with Westhead, who Johnson said made the Lakers "slow" and "predictable". After Johnson demanded to be traded, Lakers owner Jerry Buss fired Westhead and replaced him with Riley. Although Johnson denied responsibility for Westhead's firing, he was booed across the league, even by Laker fans. However, Buss was also unhappy with the Lakers' offense and had intended on firing Westhead days before the Westhead–Johnson altercation, but assistant GM Jerry West and GM Bill Sharman had convinced Buss to delay his decision. Despite his off-court troubles, Johnson averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and a league-high 2.7 steals per game, and was voted a member of the All-NBA Second Team. He also joined Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to tally at least 700 points, 700 rebounds, and 700 assists in the same season. The Lakers advanced through the 1982 playoffs and faced Philadelphia for the second time in three years in the 1982 NBA Finals. After a triple-double from Johnson in Game 6, the Lakers defeated the Sixers 4–2, as Johnson won his second NBA Finals MVP award. During the championship series against the Sixers, Johnson averaged 16.2 points on .533 shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Johnson later said that his third season was when the Lakers first became a great team, and he credited their success to Riley.
During the 1982–83 NBA season, Johnson averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game and earned his first All-NBA First Team nomination. The Lakers again reached the Finals, and for a third time faced the Sixers, who featured center Moses Malone as well as Erving. With Johnson's teammates Nixon, James Worthy, and Bob McAdoo all hobbled by injuries, the Lakers were swept by the Sixers, and Malone was crowned the Finals MVP. In a losing effort against Philadelphia, Johnson averaged 19.0 points on .403 shooting, 12.5 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Battles against the Celtics (1983–1987)
Prior to Johnson's fifth season, West—who had become the Lakers general manager—traded Nixon to free Johnson from sharing the ball-handling responsibilities. Johnson that season averaged a double-double of 17.6 points and 13.1 assists, as well as 7.3 rebounds per game. The Lakers reached the Finals for the third year in a row, where Johnson's Lakers and Bird's Celtics met for the first time in the post-season. The Lakers won the first game, and led by two points in Game 2 with 18 seconds to go, but after a layup by Gerald Henderson, Johnson failed to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded, and the Lakers lost 124–121 in overtime. In Game 3, Johnson responded with 21 assists in a 137–104 win, but in Game 4, he again made several crucial errors late in the contest. In the final minute of the game, Johnson had the ball stolen by Celtics center Robert Parish, and then missed two free throws that could have won the game. The Celtics won Game 4 in overtime, and the teams split the next two games. In the decisive Game 7 in Boston, as the Lakers trailed by three points in the final minute, opposing point guard Dennis Johnson stole the ball from Johnson, a play that effectively ended the series. Friends Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre consoled him that night, talking until the morning in his Boston hotel room amidst fan celebrations on the street. During the Finals, Johnson averaged 18.0 points on .560 shooting, 13.6 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game. Johnson later described the series as "the one championship we should have had but didn't get".
Media figure and business interests
Johnson giving a speech at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas on April 25, 2013.
In 1998, Johnson hosted a late night talk show on the Fox network called The Magic Hour, but the show was canceled after two months because of low ratings. Shortly after the cancellation of his talk show, Magic Johnson started a record label. The label, initially called Magic 32 Records, was renamed Magic Johnson Music when Johnson signed a joint venture with MCA in 2000. Magic Johnson Music signed R&B artist Avant as its first act. Johnson also co-promoted Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope Tour through his company Magicworks. He has also worked as a motivational speaker, and was an NBA commentator for Turner Network Television for seven years, before becoming a studio analyst for ESPN's NBA Countdown in 2008.
Johnson runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate company that has a net worth of $700 million; its subsidiaries include Magic Johnson Productions, a promotional company; Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters; and Magic Johnson Entertainment, a film studio. In addition to these business ventures, Johnson has also created the Magic Card, a pre-paid MasterCard aimed at helping low-income people save money and participate in electronic commerce. In 2006, Johnson created a contract food service with Sodexo USA called Sodexo-Magic. In 2004, Johnson and his partner Ken Lombard, sold Magic Johnson Theaters to Loews Cineplex Entertainment in 2004. The first Magic Johnson Theater located in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, closed in 2010 and re-opened in 2011 as Rave Cinema 15.
Johnson began thinking of life after basketball while still playing with the Lakers. He wondered why so many athletes had failed at business, and sought advice. During his seventh season in the NBA, he had a meeting with Michael Ovitz, CEO of Creative Artists Agency. Ovitz encouraged him to start reading business magazines and to use every connection available to him. Johnson learned everything he could about business, often meeting with corporate executives during road trips. Johnson's first foray into business, a high-end sporting goods store named Magic 32, failed after only one year, costing him $200,000. The experience taught him to listen to his customers and find out what products they wanted. Johnson has become a leading voice on how to invest in urban communities, creating redevelopment opportunities in underserved areas, most notably through his movie theaters and his partnership with Starbucks. He went to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz with the idea that he could successfully open the coffee shops in urban areas. After showing Schultz the tremendous buying power of minorities, Johnson was able to purchase 125 Starbucks stores, which reported higher than average per capita sales. The partnership, called Urban Coffee Opportunities, placed Starbucks in locations such as Detroit, Washington, D.C., Harlem, and the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. Johnson sold his remaining interest in the stores back to the company in 2010, ending a successful twelve-year partnership. He has also made investments in urban real estate through the Canyon-Johnson and Yucaipa-Johnson funds. Another major project is with insurance services company Aon Corp. In 2005–2007, Johnson was part of a syndicate that bought the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, then the tallest building in Brooklyn, for $71 million and converted the 512-foot high landmark structure from an office building into luxury condominiums.
A five-point star engraved on a tile. In the center of the star are the words "EARVIN MAGIC JOHNSON". An image of a movie camera is etched directly below these words, though still in the star.
Johnson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
In 1990, Johnson and Earl Graves Sr. obtained a large interest in the Washington, D.C. PepsiCo bottling operation, making it the company's largest minority-owned facility in the U.S. Johnson became a minority owner of the Lakers in 1994, having reportedly paid more than $10 million for part ownership. He also held the title of team vice president. Johnson sold his ownership stake in the Lakers in October 2010 to Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles surgeon and professor at UCLA, but continued as an unpaid vice president for the team.In February 2017, Johnson returned to the Lakers as an advisor to Jeanie Buss.
In the wake of the Donald Sterling controversy, limited media reports indicated that Johnson had expressed an interest in purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers franchise.
In 2015, Johnson completed his planned acquisition for a "majority, controlling interest" in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, which manages $14.5 billion in annuities, life insurance and other financial products.
He is an investor for aXiomatic eSports, the ownership company of Team Liquid.
Sports franchise ownership
In January 2012, Johnson joined with Guggenheim Partners and Stan Kasten in a bid for ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. In March 2012, Johnson's ownership group was announced as the winner of the proceedings to buy the Dodgers. The Johnson-led group, which also includes movie executive Peter Guber, paid $2 billion for the Dodgers, the largest amount paid for a professional sports team. While Johnson is considered the leader of the ownership group, the controlling owner is Mark Walter, chief executive officer for Guggenheim Partners. Peter Guber, who is the co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, owns a small stake in the Dodgers along with Johnson. Johnson and Guber were also partners in the Dayton Dragons, a Class-A minor league baseball team in Dayton, Ohio, that sold out more than 1,000 consecutive games, a record for professional sports. Johnson and Guber sold their stake in the Dragons in 2014.
Together with Guggenheim, Johnson was also involved in the February 2014 purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks team in the WNBA. As such, in 2014, Johnson was named one of ESPNW's Impact 25. He won the WNBA championship as the owner in 2016. Johnson announced his co-ownership of a Major League Soccer expansion franchise based in Los Angeles on October 30, 2014. The temporary name was Los Angeles Football Club, which later became permanent in 2015.
A middle-aged Caucasian woman shakes the hand of a tall black man.
In 2003, Johnson met with Nancy Pelosi to discuss federal assistance for those with AIDS.
After announcing his infection in November 1991, Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV, although he later diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals. In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, a committee appointed by members of Congress and the Bush Administration. Johnson left after eight months, saying that the White House had "utterly ignored" the work of the panel, and had opposed the commission's recommendations, which included universal healthcare and the expansion of Medicaid to cover all low-income people with AIDS. He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999, and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
HIV had been associated with intravenous drug users and homosexuals, but Johnson's campaigns sought to show that the risk of infection was not limited to those groups. Johnson stated that his aim was to "help educate all people about what [HIV] is about" and teach others not to "discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS". Johnson was later criticized by the AIDS community for his decreased involvement in publicizing the spread of the disease.
To prevent his HIV infection from progressing to AIDS, Johnson takes a daily combination of drugs. He has advertised GlaxoSmithKline's drugs, and partnered with Abbott Laboratories to publicize the fight against AIDS in African American communities.