An undeniable pillar in the world of sports, his community and family, Earvin “Magic” Johnson flawlessly embodies the characteristics of the famous nickname first given to him in high school. When you're magical, one does magnificent things and the father, legend and entrepreneur is a Black man who has transcended far beyond the scope of professional basketball.
Seemingly larger than life as a thriving leader in business, Johnson is the poster child for greatness. His social endeavors and philanthropy rival his massively impressive NBA resume, including the first overall in the 1979 NBA draft, nine NBA Finals appearances and three NBA MVP Awards.
During the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago, the 60-year-old walked with pure grace and humility as a gentle giant surprising the crowd at McDonald’s “Beyond the Court'' panel. The event promoted the franchise’s “Black & Positively Golden” campaign movement and included former NBA players, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Iman Shumpert. Johnson stopped by to drop knowledge to a sea of eager attendees who were there to soak up his wisdom, pearls of encouragement and business savvy, including advice to young entrepreneurs who struggle to find their start.
"Exhaust all your avenues. There may be a grant at your local community college, or your local city hall. Go see your alderman or alderwoman. There are things we must do before we say, 'No one believes in me,” said Johnson.
Stating his drive and motivation as "a hustler... from the streets," Johnson provided keen details about his road to success, despite the many roadblocks he too has had to face.
"I went to 10 banks before the first one said yes. I said, 'Oh! You said no? I'm going next door then.' I kept rolling until finally that one bank said yes. Guess what happened? Boom, now the other nine, who turned me down, want to give me as much money as I want. Tell them [young entrepreneurs] to read everything and get knowledge. Minorities…we need knowledge. Once we have the knowledge, we are incredible!"
Although still grieving the loss of NBA icon, Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash on January 26 alongside his daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others, Johnson made sure to honor his late friend and fellow Laker.
"There will never, ever be another Kobe. What he meant to his family as a husband and a father, a man, and to see him take time with his babies like he did. Black men don't often get the credit when we are good fathers. Kobe was an excellent father and loved his wife, and we already know what he meant as a basketball player."
Switching gears, the Los Angeles Laker former President of Basketball Operations is optimistic, yet realistic, in how the current yellow and gold team has fared against its hometown rival, the Los Angeles Clippers.
"The Lakers in the fourth quarters have had problems with the Clippers in the last five to six minutes. They close out the game better than we do,” said Johnson.
“LeBron [James] and Anthony [Davis] will figure it out in the playoffs. If you look at man-per-man, they're probably better than us on the bench, but I think Anthony and LeBron are going to be the key. They will have to dominate in that series. And then we're going to need a third scorer... that's one thing the Clippers have; Lou Williams, they have those dudes who can be that third scorer... I'm looking forward to them meeting in the Western Conference Finals."
Continuing his NBA commentary, the five-time NBA champion went on to offer his predictions of how the season will fare saying, "Milwaukee in the east as the team to beat. Boston, Toronto or Philly will be the team to play against Milwaukee."
When BET asked Johnson about the one thing he knows now, but wished he knew when he was 20 years old, he held nothing back, describing one of his biggest regrets in candid detail.
"At one time, it was only Adidas, Converse and Nike. Nike had just come on the scene two years ago. Phil Knight comes and says, 'I can't pay you what Converse is paying you, but I'll give you stock.’ Now, I never heard of stock at 19-years-old! So, I took the money…you know, I got to take this cash! Man... I would've been a trillionaire by now! Think about it, in 1979, getting that stock then, and what it's worth today? YIKES!"
Although missing out on that golden opportunity, admitting, "it kills me every single time I think about that," he made light of the mishap, naming one of his former basketball rivals.
"Man, Michael Jordan would have been making me so much money! I could've owned 300 McDonalds! I always think about that moment."
He went on to gush about his love for his family and the joy that comes with his favorite new role—grandad of two.
"This is the best life; to see my mom and dad be proud of me and being close with all three of my kids. Knowing that my son knows that his father and mother love him, no matter what. E.J. we got him! That’s a true blessing.”
And there's nothing more magical than that.
(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)