Magic Johnson may have hung up his basketball shoes, but that hasn’t kept him on the bench. The businessman and new L.A. Dodgers part-owner is a model of ambition.A woman, nice as can be, tells me, “Wait here. I’ll bring in Magic and introduce you.” Quite considerate. Not necessary.
I was in Lansing, Mich., on the day in 1979 when the peerless point guard of Michigan State’s national championship team announced that he was turning pro at age 19. I had a front-row seat beneath a Philadelphia hoop in 1980 when he played center in place of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, scored 42 points and took the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA championship at age 20.
I was in Inglewood, Calif., on an eerie 1991 afternoon when a 32-year-old physical marvel in his prime revealed that he’d contracted the deadly HIV virus. I was at a tiny airport in the remote town of Reus, Spain, a few months later when this same man and his “Dream Team” teammates touched down for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and proceeded to demonstrate to everyone on Earth exactly how great a game of basketball could be.
Right now, at 9 o’clock in the morning, I am on the seventh floor of a Los Angeles executive tower, inside the offices of Magic Johnson Enterprises, where attached to every door is an engraved plate that bears a reminder: “No one person wins championships.” On a cabinet, on display like fine china, are ceremonial keys to the city that Earvin Johnson Jr., sports and business superhero, has been given by what seems like every metropolis or small village on the map.
On a wall is a blown-up photograph of a stately baseball stadium, an indestructible one that the Los Angeles Dodgers have called home for half a century. Pictured along with the park is this old team’s new face, the likewise indestructible Magic Johnson, who, presto, now appears before my very eyes, right on time. He gives me a hug. Guys his size seldom give me hugs.
“I’ve decided to call you Air Johnson,” I say.
Michael Jordan won’t mind, I assure him.
“I hope not,” he says. “You better hope not.”