With February being Black History month, the idea came to me to write an article or two about individuals from the African American community who are inspirations and role models for me and others. This piece will therefore focus on a legendary basketball player not for his accomplishments on the basketball court, but for what he’s done since retiring in the business world. This person is Ervin “Magic” Johnson.
My favorite NBA basketball player growing up was Michael Jordan because of his ability to score at will and individually dominate the game. Years later however, after looking back at footage of Magic Johnson, my appreciation of his game has grown due to his ability control games not only by scoring points but also by rebounding and assisting the ball. More importantly he provided strong leadership to his teammates. “I just want to win,” he would say in multiple interviews, and he would continue winning long after hanging up his purple and gold #32 Laker uniform.
Magic’s success in the NBA was just the beginning of his accomplishments, and since retiring he has become a hero to me for reasons other than basketball. He has not only survived and overcome his HIV diagnosis, but he has also become an entrepreneur and has continued to grow his brand and his empire of businesses year after year.
On Feb. 5, 2014 Magic Johnson continued building his business empire by partnering with Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Waller to purchase part of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Sparks franchise, saving it from relocation and contraction. While at lunch with some coworkers, the announcement broadcasted live on NBA TV, and my attention continuously drifted from my coworkers to Magic Johnson’s speech on the monitor directly above our table.
While watching Magic give his announcement, my thoughts focused on his many business successes since retiring from basketball:
• Starting his own record label; Magic Johnson Music in a joint venture with MCA
• Co-promoting Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope tour
• Running Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company having a net worth of $700 million
• Starting Magic Johnson Theaters
• Creating the Magic Card
• Creating a contract food service with Sodexo USA called Sodexo-Magic
• Opening 125 Starbucks franchises, many of which are in minority communities
• Becoming a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1994
• Becoming part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a partnership with the Guggenheim Partners and Stan Kasten
Magic’s accomplishments stand out to me because he is a success story in terms of professional athletes and their lives after sports. In 2013, ESPN produced a really good documentary called Broke in its 30 for 30 series. The documentary examined how and why many professional athletes have gone broke and continue to go broke after earning large sums of money. Likewise every couple of weeks, there seems to be a new article published about another athlete filing for bankruptcy, or a football player having to sell his Super Bowl ring in order to make ends meet.
More importantly going back to Black History month, Magic is a very good example for African American youth who are frequently exposed and susceptible the images of material consumerism and the material indulgences and excesses portrayed and glorified in the media. Magic is an example that you don’t have to take your money and blow it on depreciable items. He has shown that you can take it, invest it smartly in business ventures for example, and make more money while helping out your community at the same time.