Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. (Lansing, August 14, 1959) is a former American basketball player, coach, and entrepreneur considered one of the greatest players in basketball history.
He has won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, gold at the 1992 Olympics and 1992 Tournament of the Americas with the US Dream Team, as well as an NCAA title with Michigan State in 1979.
He has been elected the best NBA player three times and the best NBA finals player. His name appears in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and in the list of the 50 best players in NBA history. His number 32 jersey was officially withdrawn by the Lakers on February 16, 1992.
Magic Johnson was able to revolutionize basketball: in fact, it played as a point guard, a role traditionally reserved for the lowest and most agile player on a team.
With its 206 centimeters in height, it was the highest play in the history of the NBA, but at the same time, it proved to be a dynamic player with an excellent vision of the game: it became famous for its dribbling skills, the passages behind the back, the alley-oops and the no-look passages.
During the eighties, he was the protagonist of a heated sports rivalry with the Boston Celtics wing Larry Bird. Until 1992, the year of Bird’s retirement, a total of eight NBA titles will be shared.
Magic has announced several times the withdrawal from the competitive activity. The first in November 1991, when it revealed to the world that it had contracted the HIV virus.
However, he returned to play on 9 February 1992, having received the authorization to take part in the 1992 All-Star Game; he then participated in the Olympics, after which he retired again.
He worked as a television commentator for NBC (1992-1994), briefly trained the Lakers in the 1993-1994 season, and was named the vice president of the team in the 1994-1995 season. He resumed playing in 1996, playing 36 Lakers matches and ending his NBA career.
In May 1999 he entered into a one-year sponsorship agreement with the Swedish team Borås M7, with which he played 6 Svenska basketligan games. In 2000 he repeated the experience with the Danish Great Danes, of which he became president and player.
In 1991 he founded the “Magic Johnson Foundation”, with the aim of raising funds for the fight against AIDS and to raise public awareness of the issues of prevention and treatment of the virus.
In March 2012, at the helm of the Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC entrepreneurial group, he acquired ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB baseball team, and in 2017 he became president of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Early years and high school
Earvin Johnson Jr. is the fourth of seven children of Earvin Johnson Sr. and Christine Johnson. The father, a native of Brookhaven in Mississippi, moved to Lansing, Michigan to work on the assembly line of Oldsmobile, one of the oldest US automakers. Johnson lived with his family in a modest house at 814 Middle Street.
He acquired the first basic notions of basketball from his father and developed the skills of assist man already in the fields of the Main Street School, an elementary school in Lansing.
From his father he learned the fundamentals of the game, various defensive schemes, pick and roll, the concept of aggressiveness on the field, but also particular situations such as two-handed shooting (although it was no longer used), the running hook, the throw after having suffered a foul contact.
Young Johnson grew up following Dave Bing, playmaker – guard of the Pistons at the Cobo Arena in Detroit. His other idols were Earl Monroe and Marques Haynes; the latter (who never played in the NBA but was a Harlem Globetrotters champion) was appreciated by Johnson for his excellent dribbling skills.
At the age of 11, he met another of his myths: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the center of the Milwaukee Bucks and of which Johnson would become a teammate at the Los Angeles Lakers during the eighties.
Earvin Johnson, Jr., nicknamed “E.J.” by his friends, played the first real basketball games on the fields of Lansing’s Main Street.
With his red Chuck Taylor All-Stars on his feet, he challenged himself in playground challenges in front of numerous spectators.
An important role in Johnson’s basketball growth was played by Jim Dart, coach of the school’s basketball team and husband of Greta, Johnson’s teacher. Dart taught him the movements of the pivot, the use of the left hand and the movement of the fire breaker.
The choice of high school initially fell on Sexton High School, a school with a majority of black students, located a few steps from home.
However, due to the scholastic integration policies implemented during the seventies, Johnson was forced to opt for Everett High School.
The choice was not much appreciated, both because Everett was a white majority, and because of the poor basketball tradition of the school basketball team.
Johnson was not initially well-received: a series of contrasts with one of his companions almost drove him to abandon the basketball activity, but coach George Fox convinced him to stay in the team.
Despite being the highest player in the squad, Magic was immediately deployed as a point guard due to his excellent athletic skills and passages.
Progressively he acquired a role as leader of the team, and already in the first year, he was elected best championship player.
Johnson played at Everett High School from 1973 to 1977. In the 1976-1977 season, he led his companions to a record of 27 victories and one defeat, which earned him victory in the state championship; Magic collected 805 points and 208 assists throughout the season, maintaining an average of 28.8 points and 16.8 rebounds per game.
In the final against Birmingham, Brother Rice of Bloomfield achieved 34 points, plus 14 rebounds and 4 assists.
It was over the years at Everett that the nickname “Magic” was born, which was given to Johnson by Fred Stabley Jr., a journalist from the Lansing State Journal, after a game in which he scored 36 points, collected 16 rebounds and served 16 assists.
College at Michigan State
In choosing a college, Johnson opted for what he had always wanted: supported by his father and his closest friends, he enrolled at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
With the Michigan State Spartans shirt, he played two seasons in Big Ten Conference, from 1977 to 1979.
In 1977-1978 he collected 30 presences, making 511 points; closed the season with an average of 45.8% in the shooting from two and 78.5% in free throws, in addition to 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.
The Spartans won the Big Ten Conference thanks to 25 victories and 5 defeats in the league after eleven years but failed to qualify for the NCAA finals as they were defeated in the regional final by the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The excellent performances earned Johnson the award for best freshman of the Big Ten Conference. Magic began to be known and appreciated as one of the best players in collegiate basketball.
On November 27, 1978, the cover of Sports Illustrated was dedicated to him: he was immortalized in a tailcoat at the moment of a dunk, with the title “Michigan State’s classy Earvin Johnson” (in Italian: Earvin Johnson the class player of Michigan State).
In his sophomore year, he managed to win the 1979 NCAA title. He kept the same averages as the previous season and led the Spartans to the first place in Big Ten Conference (level on points with Iowa Hawkeyes and Purdue Boilermakers).
In the regional final against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Magic achieved 19 points plus 13 assists, putting 2 steals on the scoresheet.
The Final Four of the NCAA championship in Salt Lake City saw Michigan State first committed against the Quakers of the University of Pennsylvania; Magic played a game of the highest level, in which he made a triple-double of 29 points (9/10 in shots from two; 11/12 in free throws), 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
The match ended 101-67 for the Spartans, who therefore had access to the final against Indiana State Sycamores.
The Sycamores were headed by Larry Bird, already elected the best player of the season. The 1979 NCAA final was the first chance to challenge Magic and Bird, which in the NBA will then have the chance to clash in three finals for the title.
It was the Spartans who won, also thanks to the 24 points of Johnson, who was later chosen as the finest player in the Finals and awarded the All-America.
First NBA season
At the 1979 NBA Draft, held in New York on June 25th, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the right to the absolute first choice after an agreement with the New Orleans Jazz. The Californians chose Magic Johnson, who signed a $ 600,000 contract per season.
The debut in the NBA confirmed the expectations: he played 77 matches, maintaining an average of 18 points and 7.3 assists per game. Magic led the Lakers to the playoffs for the title, and he became a champion during the finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
In race 6 he was deployed in the role of center, due to the injury suffered by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in race-5; the 20-year-old Magic Johnson played an excellent game: 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals.
The Lakers won the title on the field of the 76ers, and Magic was the first rookie in history to be named best player in the NBA finals; he was also the third player in history to win consecutively an NCAA and an NBA title, after Bill Russell and Henry Bibby (in 1987 it will also be Billy Thompson). In the same season, he had already been selected for the All-Star Game.
The injury and the recovery
On 11 November 1980, during the match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson injured his left knee after contrast with the Tommy Burleson center. Initially, the fight seemed not to have caused serious damage, but a week later it was discovered that the cartilage of the knee had suffered a serious injury.
Magic was forced to miss 45 matches and returned to the 1981 playoff challenge against the Houston Rockets; however, his subdued performance in race-3 (only 2 out of 13 at the shooting, and the error in the final decisive shot) cost the defeat and elimination of the team already in the first round.
In the summer of 1981, Magic Johnson renegotiated the contract with the Lakers, agreeing for a record $ 1 million per season for 25 years, for a total of 25 million; the new contract (the richest in the history of the NBA until then) came into effect in 1984.
The agreement was later modified further in 1988 when Magic agreed with the Lakers owner Jerry Buss for the reduction of the duration up to to 1994.
The 1981-1982 season saw the Lakers once again winning, winning the title by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers again in the final.
However, it was not a simple year for Magic, which from the beginning clashed with coach Paul Westhead regarding some aspects related to the new schemes which, according to Johnson, penalized his and the entire team’s offensive game. The company sided with the player: Westhead was dismissed after 11 games and replaced by Pat Riley, with Jerry West responsible for the offensive schemes.
Although the same Magic Johnson had denied his responsibility in the coach’s exemption, during the subsequent games the player was subjected to whistles and protests on many fields of the NBA, even by Lakers fans.
Magic played 18.6 points, 9.5 assists and 9.6 rebounds per game, becoming the third player in NBA history (after Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain) to score 700 points, 700 rebounds and 700 assists in the same season.
During the 1982-1983 championship Magic remained on the same averages as the previous season; this earned him the first of nine consecutive calls in the All-NBA First Team. The Lakers qualified for the 1983 finals, and once again the decisive challenge was against the Philadelphia 76ers of Julius Erving and Moses Malone.
Magic’s talent was not enough and, also due to the injuries of Norm Nixon, James Worthy, and Bob McAdoo, the Lakers were defeated 4-0.
The challenges with Bird’s Celtics
In the 1983-1984 season, his fifth in the Lakers, Magic Johnson achieved 1,560 total points between regular season (1.178) and playoffs (382). The team reached the third consecutive final (the fourth in five years), for the first time against the Boston Celtics led by the big wing Larry Bird.
Magic and Bird competed for the first time in their NBA playoff career, five years after they met in the 1979 NCAA title finals. The two had been teammates in college at the US national selection that played the World Invitational Tournament of April 1978.
1984 final, to the best of seven games, saw the Lakers take the lead thanks to the away win in race-1. Race 2 was instead won by the Celtics also because of the error of Magic that, not realizing that the regulation time was expiring, did not pull in time on the score of parity; the match then ended in extra time with Boston winning 124-121.
The challenge moved to the Inglewood Forum (Los Angeles); in race-3 Magic put on the scoresheet 21 assists in 137-104 for the Californians, but in the following match his errors in the final (a lost ball, two decisive errors in free throws) cost the defeat for 129-125 in extra time.
The following two matches saw the field factor (the winning Celtics in race 5, the Lakers in race 6) and therefore the title was awarded in the final match of the Boston Garden. With the Lakers below in the score of three points, Magic had the decisive ball twice in hand to equalize the score but lost it due to the defensive intervention of Dennis Johnson before and of Cedric Maxwell immediately after.
The Boston Celtics won for 111-102 and won their fifteenth title, and Larry Bird was named the best player in the finals.
The occasion for the revenge appeared already in the next season 1984-1985 when Lakers and Celtics met again in the final. During the Magic Championship, he kept an average of 18.3 points, 12.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. The series started badly for the Lakers, who lost 148-114 at the Celtics; the Californians then knew how to recover and move ahead 3-2. Race 6 was held at the Boston Garden, and was won by the Lakers for 111-100: it was the first victory in the NBA finals for the Lakers against the Celtics, after eight consecutive defeats.
Johnson performing a hook-sky against Dennis Johnson.
The domination of the Lakers in Western Conference in the 1980s was interrupted only in the 1985-1986 season by the Houston Rockets, who defeated the Los Angeles team in the Conference final for 4-1.
This prevented Magic from challenging Bird and the Celtics for the third time in the title final; however, the point guard has confirmed with his usual averages: 18.8 points, 12.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game in 72 appearances.
The Lakers-Celtics challenge returned again in the 1986-1987 season. In the championship, Magic achieved his career point season record: 1,909 in 80 games, which is an average of 23.9 per game.
Johnson was also elected the best player of the year for the first time, ahead of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The first game of the 1987 playoff final ended 126-113 for the Lakers, with a 29-point Magic Johnson, 13 assists and 8 rebounds; the same fate had race-2, with the Californians winning for 141-122. It was the Boston 6 race with Magic and his front in the 3-2 series; the match was quickly fought and the first half ended at 55-51 for the Celtics, with Magic scoring only 4 points. In the second half, however, the Lakers were able to reverse the result: Magic achieved 16 total points, accompanied by 19 assists and 8 rebounds; the final score was 106-93 for the guests, who therefore won the title. Johnson won the prize for the best player of the finals for the third time in his career.
1987 final is also remembered for an athletic gesture by Johnson, which allowed the Lakers to win race 4 at the last second, with the result of 107-106.
Magic achieved the decisive goal thanks to a “skyhook”, a classic movement by team-mate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in front of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, who tried in vain to stop him.
At the end of the race in the locker room, the same Magic defined his shot as a “junior, junior, junior sky-hook” (in Italian the sky-hook is the skyhook).
His rival on the field Larry Bird declared instead smiling: «You expect to lose for a skyhook. What you don’t expect is that Magic does it. ” At the end of the decisive challenge, which will be the last final that the two will play against, Bird himself admitted:” Magic is a great, great basketball player. The best I’ve ever seen. ”
Last NBA title
Before the start of the 1987-1988 NBA season, Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley publicly stated that the team would certainly confirm the title they won at the end of the 1987 NBA playoffs; at the time, the last to win two consecutive NBA titles were the Boston Celtics, champions in 1967-1968 and 1968-1969.
During the championship, Magic Johnson was able to confirm at his levels with almost 20 points, 12 assists and 6 average rebounds per game. The Lakers won 62 games out of 80 and in the playoffs they defeated the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz, and the Dallas Mavericks; therefore they arrived for the second consecutive time in the final, against Detroit Pistons led by the point guard Isiah Thomas.
The friendship between Magic and Thomas was so consolidated at the time that the two exchanged a kiss on the cheek before the start of race-1 of the final; the relationship, however, began to deteriorate in race 5, when the two clashed in a violent contrast (Thomas pushed Magic, who replied with an elbow), which caused the Pistons to point guard to fall.
The Lakers still won the title thanks to a 4-3 success in the series; for Magic, it was the fifth and last NBA career title. His average during the seven games was 21 points, 13 assists and almost 6 rebounds per game; despite the excellent statistics, his teammate James Worthy was preferred as the best player of the finals.
The Lakers-Pistons comparison was repeated also in the 1989 playoffs. Magic had won its second title of the best player of the year and appeared in the final with an average in the league of 22.5 points, almost 13 assists and 8 rebounds per game. Unlike the previous year, the series had no history: the Pistons won 4-0.
Magic was forced to play only the first game, and a few remnants of the next two: during race-2 he suffered an injury to the back of his thigh which prevented him from playing the last two-quarters of the match; he tried to return to race-3 but managed to stay in the field only for a few minutes.
The 1989-1990 championship opened without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who retired after 14 seasons at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic played an excellent year with over 22 points, 11.5 assists and 6.6 average rebounds per game, which earned him the third title of the best seasonal player.
In the playoffs, however, the Lakers were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Phoenix Suns.
The 1990-1991 season was instead that of the confrontation in the final against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Lacking James Worthy and Byron Scott in race 4 and 5, and with Scottie Pippen’s well-marked Johnson, the Lakers were defeated 4-1.
The HIV drama and the first retreat
After a routine check before the start of the 1991-1992 NBA season, Magic Johnson received terrible news: he had contracted the HIV virus.
Michael Mellman, a Lakers doctor, was the first to receive the results of the diagnosis on October 24, 1991; he then worried about immediately calling the player back to Los Angeles, playing a friendly match in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz; back in town the next day, Magic was informed of this in Mellman’s own study.
The playmaker had a hard time believing it, and requested a further test, which however confirmed the results of the first; still incredulous, he had a third test performed, which gave the same diagnosis.
In those days of October, Magic Johnson was not summoned by the Lakers, but the company never provided a detailed explanation of the reasons for the exclusion; even on November 5, coach Mike Dunleavy told the press to expect the player to return in a few days.
On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson publicly announced the news, at a press conference that shocked the sports world.
Magic also explained that the wife and child she was expecting were not HIV positive, and Dr. Mellman specified that Magic was not sick with AIDS, specifying the difference between being sick and contracting the virus. The doctor also added that the situation did not produce any immediate effect on the life of the player, who was however advised against continuing the competitive activity to avoid a possible worsening of the conditions of the immune system.
At the age of 32, with 12 professional seasons behind him, Magic Johnson, therefore, formalized his withdrawal from the basketball activity.
1992 Olympics and the second retreat
Despite the withdrawal, Magic Johnson was the fourth most voted player of the Western Conference among the 1992 All-Star Game candidates.
His teammates Byron Scott and A.C. Green declared that Magic should not have participated in the game because he was now an officially retired player.
Karl Malone, a great member of the Utah Jazz, said the risk of injuries and cuts during a game was very frequent, suggesting that the presence of Magic did not leave other players safe.
After receiving a favorable medical opinion, Magic Johnson chose to take part in the All-Star Game. He played an excellent match: he scored 25 points, plus 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 recovered balls in 29 minutes of play. At the end of the race, he was named Best All-Star Gameplayer for the second time in his career.
Magic decided to officially return to play, accepting the convocation of the US national team for the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, a qualifying continental tournament for the 1992 Olympic Games. He played all six matches of the event, and scored 58 points and 54 assists in total.
The United States won all the matches and qualified for the Barcelona Olympics.
The players called for the Games were the same as those who participated in the Tournament of the Americas. In addition to Magic, the likes of Jordan, Bird, Malone, Pippen, Barkley, Drexler, Ewing, Mullin, Robinson, Stockton and the university player Laettner were on the team; the coach was Chuck Daly, of the New Jersey Nets.
The team easily won the gold medal; Johnson played 5 of the 8 games of the Olympic tournament, achieving 48 points overall.
A month after the Olympic victory, Magic declared he wanted to return to play in the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, the NBA introduced a new rule, later called colloquially “Magic Johnson rule” (in Italian: “Regola Magic Johnson”) and still in force, which requires that a bleeding player (or shirt with blood on it) must go out from the field until the bleeding has been blocked.
In September and October, Magic Johnson played some friendly exhibition games, but before the start of the 1992-1993 season, he announced his retirement once again.
The reason was not linked to an aggravation of his health conditions, but to too many controversies raised by some players about the presence in the field of an HIV-positive player.
The return as a coach
Magic Johnson did not stay away from the world of basketball; in December 1992 he was hired by NBC as a commentator for the NBA meetings. In 1993 he was part of a consortium of entrepreneurs who proposed in vain the creation of a new NBA franchise based in Toronto.
On March 27, 1994, he officially returned to the NBA as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers; declared that he had not returned with the intention of continuing his coaching career, but simply to comply with the request of team owner Jerry Buss. In the 1993-1994 season the Lakers, trained by Randy Pfund, were coming from a record of 27 victories and 37 defeats; Buss exonerated Pfund, entrusted the interim of technical guidance to Bill Bertka for two meetings, and eventually hired Magic Johnson.
Magic debuted with a 110-101 victory in the challenge against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers won four more of the next five games but closed the season losing ten in a row: it was the negative record in the history of the team, which had never suffered such a long streak of defeats. On 16 April 1994 Johnson officially declared that he did not want to continue his coaching career.
The last season in the NBA
Magic never ceased to surprise the world of basketball: on January 30, 1996, he returned once again to wear the yellow-purple jersey number 32 of the Los Angeles Lakers, in the challenge against the Golden State Warriors. In a sold-out Forum, he played 27 minutes of the match, scoring 19 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds.
Magic Johnson finally succeeded in overcoming the skepticism of his colleagues, by now more informed and aware of what it meant to be HIV positive in the HIV test; Karl Malone himself, who had expressed great perplexity in previous years, declared: “Today we are all better informed. I spoke at length with Magic, everything is clear: it is welcome. ”
During the season Johnson played 32 matches; fattened up to 115 kilos, he was not employed in his classic role of a playmaker but in that of the strong wing.
The most awaited match was against the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, who also returned to the NBA after announcing the withdrawal in 1993; the Bulls won 99-84, and Magic scored 15 points, two fewer than Jordan. Magic ended the regular season with 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 average rebounds per game.
The Lakers managed to qualify for the 1996 playoffs but were eliminated in the first round by the Houston Rockets, who won 3-1 in the series. In the four games of the playoffs, Magic put in total scores: 61 points, 26 assists, and 34 rebounds.
The May 2, 1996 meeting at The Summit in Houston was the last of his NBA career, after 13 seasons in the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sweden and Denmark
The competitive activity of Magic Johnson did not cease definitively in 1996. In May 1999 it entered into a one-year sponsorship agreement with a basketball company based in Borås, in southern Sweden: Borås Basket; the team, therefore, assumed the official name “Magic M7”.
According to the contract, valid from May 1999 to May 21, 2000, Borås undertook to pay 900,000 crowns to use the name “Magic”; furthermore, the company was obliged to pay Johnson 70% of net profits.
Magic chose to sponsor a Swedish team because he was strongly impressed by the Scandinavian country when in 1996 he went there to play some exhibition matches with a team of former NBA players.
Johnson played six official games of the Svenska basketligan 1999-2000, the highest Swedish championship. He made his debut on 26 October 1999 against Sallén Uppsala, immediately putting in a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds; the Magic M7 won 84-60, ahead of over 3,300 spectators. He then returned to Sweden in January 2000, for a five-game tour.
He played and won two consecutive matches against Sundsvall Dragons, scoring 17 and 30 points respectively. In the 105-102 victory of 21 January against Norrköping Dolphins Magic made two decisive free throws five seconds before the end; he played all 40 minutes of the game and scored 34 points in total.
On January 23, 2000, the Magic M7 faced the Mölndals Kvarnby; won 88-65 and Magic Johnson concluded the match with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.
On January 24, 2000, Magic played his last official match in the league against the Alvik Stockholm: the Magic M7 had the better of 120-96 and he scored 15 points.
After the Swedish experience, at the end of 2000 Magic Johnson decided to sponsor the Danish company of Great Danes, in a similar way to the one done with Borås Basket. The team, which took part in the NEBL League, therefore changed its name to “Magic Great Danes”.
His debut took place on November 5, 2000, in Copenhagen against Žalgiris Kaunas; in 40 minutes he put 9 points on the scoresheet (1/6 on the two, 0/1 on the three and 7/8 free throws), 14 assists and 8 rebounds, which were not enough to avoid the 68-97 defeat.
The second and final official game of Magic in Denmark was played on November 7th against the Finnish Espoon Honka; the Magic Great Danes won 90-79 after an extra time, and Johnson’s match sheet (which played all 45 minutes of the match) was 8 points (4/6 in the two-shot, 0/1 in the three-shot), 11 assists and 12 rebounds.
There are 20 official Magic Johnson presences in the US national team, recognized by the USA Basketball. The first one is dated April 5, 1978, against Cuba, on the occasion of the first World Invitational Tournament game; the last was the final of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona when the United States defeated Croatia by winning the gold medal. In total, he made 197 points.
World Invitational Tournament 1978
The World Invitational Tournament of 1978 was a friendly, invitation-based tournament in which the United States, Cuba, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union took part. The US national team was made up of NCAA players, and it was the first time that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played together in the National team, which will happen again in 1992 on the occasion of the Tournament of the Americas and the Olympic Games.
In the first meeting, held against Cuba on April 5 in Atlanta, the United States won 109-64; Johnson made his first 4 points with the National team.
Two days later it was played in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, the Americans won 88–83 against Yugoslavia led by Dragan Kićanović (22 points) and Mirza Delibašić (19 points); Magic did not achieve any points in the meeting.
The last game was played on 9 April at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky; the Americans won the demonstration, thanks to the success 107-82 over the Soviets. The best scorer was Sergej Belov with 32 points, while Johnson put it on the score sheet 11.
Gagarin Cup 1978
The Jurij Gagarin Cup was a demonstration organized in August 1978 in Vilnius in the former Soviet Union, similar to what was done with the World Invitational Tournament. The United States, Lithuania, Mexico, and Czechoslovakia were invited; the Soviet Union participated in two selections.
In the first meeting won 106-68 against the Lithuanians, Johnson scored 16 points. In the next four games, the US national team lost only against the first Soviet selection for 104-99, thus finishing second in the standings. Magic closed the tournament with 76 total points scored (average of 15.2 per game) and 18 rebounds; he made 34 shots from two out of 54 attempts (average of 63%) and 8 free throws out of 9 (average of 88.9%).
Tournament of the Americas 1992
The fifth Tournament of the Americas of 1992 went down in history as the official debut of the Dream Team, the US national selection made up of the greatest NBA champions of the time, considered one of the strongest basketball teams of all time. The 1992 edition was valid as a qualification for the 1992 Olympics.
The United States easily won all six matches played, maintaining an average margin with opponents of 51.5 points per game, scoring 121.1 points on average. Magic played all the matches, and achieved 54 total points; his average points were among the lowest on the team, but he distinguished himself by the number of assists: he served his companions 54, that is to say, the average of 9 per game.
1992 Olympic Games
At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Magic played 6 of the 8 games played by the Dream Team, due to a knee injury suffered during the July 27 match against Croatia, in which he had already scored 4 points.
In the previous match, the United States debut in the event, Johnson had contributed 6 points in the 116-48 victory against Angola. Left out of the field against Germany and Brazil, he returned for a few minutes without scoring against Spain. In the quarterfinals against Puerto Rico, he scored 13 points in the final 115-77.
The semi-final against Lithuania was won 127-76 by the United States, and for Magic, there were another 14 points on the scoresheet. In the final, the Dream Team defeated Croatia with a wide margin: 117-85, even thanks to 11 points from the Lakers player. The final represented the last Magic Johnson game in the National team.
After the withdrawal
On February 20, 2017, he became the new president of the Los Angeles Lakers. With him in the management, flanked by Rob Pelinka as the new general manager, the Lakers conclude the transfer of LeBron James, who has just become a free agent after the experience at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On April 9, 2019, he resigned as president of the Los Angeles Lakers following a disappointing and under-expectations season, in which the team did not make it to the playoffs and improved the previous season’s record by just 2 wins. Just 13 days later it is announced that it will still help the Lakers recruit players.
Out of the field
Magic Johnson became a father for the first time in February 1981 with the birth of Andre, a son born out of wedlock with Melissa Mitchell. On September 5, 1991, he married “Cookie” Kelly: the two organized a wedding for 275 guests at the Union Missionary Baptist Church in Lansing, which was attended by close friends like Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre. The couple had a son (Earvin III, born in 1992) and in 1995 he adopted a girl named Elisa.
Magic Johnson founded Magic Johnson Enterprises in 1987, based in Beverly Hills, California. The company owns various businesses in the United States, including “AMC Magic Johnson Theaters” (AMC Entertainment’s multiplex cinema), over 30 Burger King, the “24 Hour Fitness Magic Johnson Sports Clubs” chain. Until 2010 he held joint ownership of Urban Coffee Opportunities, a company that owns over 100 Starbucks in the United States; Magic Johnson Enterprises then sold its stake to Starbucks Corporation.
In 1994, Magic acquired about 5% of the Los Angeles Lakers’ equity stake, also becoming the team’s vice president. In 2010 he sold the stake to Patrick Soon-Shiong, one of the richest men in the United States.
In 2001 a star was dedicated to him in the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, in recognition of the creation of Magic Johnson Theaters.
In March 2012, at the head of the entrepreneurial group “Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC”, he acquired ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to the winning offer of 2 billion dollars. In addition to Magic Johnson himself, the group includes entrepreneurs Mark R. Walter, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton, and Todd Boehly. In 2014 he became the owner, together with other entrepreneurs, of the Los Angeles Football Club.
Fight against AIDS and activism
After publicly declaring HIV status in November 1991, Magic Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation: a charitable foundation originally set up to raise funds for programs to fight the spread of AIDS.
Over the years, the foundation has expanded its objectives, dedicating itself to various social issues: it organizes school programs aimed at the inclusion of students from families in difficulty; promotes policies to facilitate access to medical care; has built more than 15 technology training centers to teach computer use and ensure adequate professional training. The “I stand with Magic” program, organized by the Magic Johnson Foundation since December 2006, has guaranteed more than 38,000 free HIV tests in 16 of the major US cities.
In 1992 he joined the National Commission on AIDS, at the invitation of the then President of the United States, George H. W. Bush.
In the following months, Johnson tried to inform and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, a syndrome that was still little known and considered dangerous almost exclusively for homosexuals and drug addicts.
He wrote the book What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS (in Italian: What you can do to avoid AIDS), took part in a television program on Nickelodeon called A Conversation with Magic Johnson (in Italian: A conversation with Magic Johnson) in which the young spectators could ask him questions on the subject.
In 1999 he was the main speaker at the conference held at the United Nations headquarters on the occasion of World AIDS Day; he has also been named UN Messenger of Peace.
Magic Johnson is a voter of the US Democratic Party: in 2005 he supported Phil Angelides in his nomination for the position of Governor of California; two years later he was one of the promoters of Hillary Clinton’s election campaign in the race for primary elections; in 2010 he was one of Barbara Boxer’s endorsers for the 111th United States Congress.
In 2012 he supported the electoral campaign for the re-election of Barack Obama, and three years later he spoke in support of Hillary Clinton.
In 1998 Johnson was the presenter of the American talk show The Magic Hour, which lasted only a few months. For several years he has been a sports commentator for the TNT network and for the NBA Countdown pre-set television program. He lent his image to Magic Johnson’s Basketball video games (1989), Magic Johnson’s MVP (1990), Super Slam Dunk (1993), and appeared in the role of himself in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show Magic Moment episode!
Statistics and awards
In 906 regular-season meetings, NBA Magic Johnson reported 17,707 points, 6,559 rebounds, 10,141 assists, and 1,724 steals. In the playoffs he played 190 matches, collecting 3,701 points, 2,346 assists, 1,465 rebounds, and 358 steals.
Figure in first place ever in the ranking by a number of assists per game both in the regular season thanks to the average of 11.2 and in the playoff games with an average of 12.3. It is in fourth place in the ranking for the number of total assists achieved.
He finished in the lead in the ranking of the most assisted players in the league in three seasons: 1982-1983 (829 total assists), 1985-1986 (907), 1986-1987 (977). In 1982-1983, 1983-1984, 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 seasons he was the NBA player with more media assists per game.
In 1988-1989 he held the absolute best average in free throws, with 91.1% of goals scored (513 out of 563). In 1990-1991 he was the one who lost more balls (341), while in 1980-1981 and 1981-1982 he was the one with the best average of balls recovered per game (respectively 3.4 and 2.7).
Magic Johnson is one of only seven players who have won at least one NCAA championship, an NBA title, and a gold medal at the Olympic Games during their career. Together with him are Clyde Lovellette, Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Jerry Lucas, Quinn Buckner, and Michael Jordan.
It was selected for 12 NBA All-Star Games: the first time it was in the 1980 All-Star Game, and then consecutively from the 1982 edition until 1992. In 1979-1980 it was chosen for the NBA All-Rookie Team, and from 1981-1982 to 1990-1991 in the All-NBA Team (always in the First Team, except in 1981-1982).
In his honor, on February 16, 1992, the Los Angeles Lakers officially withdrew the jersey number 32. The same privilege was reserved by the California company to Jerry West (number 44), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33), James Worthy (42), Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (8 and 24).
Since 2002, the name of Magic Johnson has been one of the members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest award in the basketball world; in 2010 the Dream Team of which he was part in 1992 was also admitted to the list. In 1996 he was included among the 50 best players of the 50th anniversary of the NBA. In 1992 he was awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, an NBA prize named after Walter Kennedy and handed over to the best coach or basketball player who is most involved in social work.
He is the only player in history to have won the Finals MVP award in the rookie year.
(Believing in Magic: My Story of Love, Overcoming Adversity and Keeping the Faith CD audio – Audiolibro, Integrale)