Magic Johnson talks business, basketball and big mistake with LeBron

Many modern athletes envision their legacy extending beyond the playing fields, seeing themselves building businesses and improving comm...


Many modern athletes envision their legacy extending beyond the playing fields, seeing themselves building businesses and improving communities. Magic Johnson helped create this mindset by starting a business Empire after the end of his career as an NBA player.

“It was just natural for me to go back to the community I grew up in to make change, build businesses, create jobs for people,” Johnson said on a recent phone call. “What was lacking in the black community were really quality products and services.”

Johnson has cited players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry as current players carrying on his legacy by inspiring others on and off the pitch.

Johnson was an unofficial NBA ambassador for most of his adult life, propelling the league into mainstream audiences through his rivalry with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1980s and helping to spread the game in the world as a member of the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Now that title is official with the NBA choosing Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Dirk Nowitzki, Bob Pettit and Oscar Robertson to represent different eras as she celebrates her 75th birthday throughout the 2021-22 season.

Johnson, who abruptly stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019, will also return to ESPN this season as a commentator on “NBA Countdown.”

He recently spoke to the New York Times about the state of the game, this era of player empowerment, and his singular regret for his tenure as head of the Lakers.

This interview has been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.

Will the NBA have real rivalries again, like when the Lakers apparently faced the Celtics every year in the 1980s?

I think the more you go to see the Knicks and Nets play, it can become one, right? Because now Brooklyn is a champion team. The Knicks are a playoff team. And so you will see that. So what’s going on is you have to be good at the same time. There must be real hatred for each other.

When we saw Philadelphia versus Boston, Dr. J [Julius Erving] and Larry Bird, Chicago vs. Detroit, Isiah Thomas, Bad Boys vs. Michael Jordan’s bulls, there was a real aversion to each other. So I think we’re starting to create some of these rivalries. I don’t know if it ever reaches the level of the Lakers-Celtics, but at least if we come to some kind of rivalry, that will be good.

Much of your legacy is the work you have done off the field in low income communities as a businessman. What have you learned about working in these communities, and what are some of the mistakes you’ve seen from big companies trying to make the same inroads?

So the retail industry made a mistake in thinking it couldn’t make money in the black community. And of course, we’ve proven that to be wrong with the Magic Johnson Theaters. We have proven the opposite with Starbucks. That’s why you see more big retailers coming to urban America than ever before because they know they can get a return on their investment.

They also seek to do good in our community. I always say, you can do well and do good at the same time. When the whole George Floyd situation happened, in terms of murder, you saw a lot of Fortune 500 companies – because young people were protesting. But it wasn’t just black people, it was also white people and other groups of people. That’s when everyone said, “That’s wrong. I have to do something. Let me invest in urban America.

A lot of CEOs called me and said, “Earvin, we want to do something. We have no idea what to do. I said, “Well, number 1, you could put some money in little black banks because the Paycheque Protection Program Failed Latinos, small business owners, Black small business owners, or women entrepreneurs. So if these banks had the money, then they could actually give loans to these entrepreneurs or to those who want to buy a house for the first time in the black community. Now they have more money to provide more loans, don’t they? So a lot of them did. Then I said, “Hey, your the board should reflect America, so you have to hire more people or get more people to your board and also at the management and senior level, you have to put more minorities at that level.

Are you interested in running an NBA franchise again?

This is the right situation, so if the right situation presents itself, I might think about it. It’s all about timing. It all depends on who this team is. I’m a Laker all day, so I’ll probably end up working with Jeanie Buss again, and I’m not laughing. It’s serious.

I had already had offers to own some of these teams and then declined those offers. But again, I love the game so much. I know the game. I know the players. I know agents. The great thing about me, I am set up where I know what works. I know what a winning and championing team looks like. So I know how to talk to players – you can ask Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball and all those guys, because I’m happy to see them thrive and do so well, and so just trying to help these guys reach their full potential. potential. It was my role, and then you see them reach for it. So it was really good to see that.

Is there anything you would have done differently while leading the Lakers?

No, I had a plan. We have exceeded the salary cap. I had a plan to get us out of the salary cap. We did it. I had to make some tough decisions. Julius was coming. I know Larry Nance Jr. was coming, so we had to make some tough decisions that worked for them but also for the Lakers. So I couldn’t sign them on these expansions because I knew LeBron was coming and Kawhi Leonard and all those guys, so I was trying to save enough ceiling space, so I could sign one of these superstars. , because you have to have a superstar to win a championship. So we did it right.

The only thing I probably would have done was probably talk to LeBron before I stepped down, because I felt I owed him that, so that’s probably the only mistake I made was not talking to Jeanie and talk to LeBron before doing so. . So yes, I would do it differently.

LeBron James arrived in Los Angeles late in his career. What can he do to rise through the ranks as one of the greatest Lakers?

You know the answer to that: just win. He must win another. Laker fans already love him. He’s already brought us one. He’s already got his jersey, he’s going to hang up, but most of the guys who’ve been with the Lakers have won multiple championships. So that’s all he has to do. You just have to win another one. Then it’s not just about the Lakers. It’s his legacy here, and it’s not just here – it’s in Hollywood. LeBron, he’s so amazing, not just as a basketball player, but he’s the biggest celebrity in a celebrity-busting town. So you have to give it credit for that as well.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Magic Johnson talks business, basketball and big mistake with LeBron
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