June 24, 2023 – Earvin “Magic” Johnson, An Example of Black Excellence

Magic Johnson Image

According to Forbes magazine, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, has a net worth of $1.2 billion most of which was earned as a businessman. Magic earned around $40 million while playing with the Los Angeles Lakers. At his peak, he brought in between $1 million and $4 million in endorsements.

He built his wealth through business opportunities, including joint venture partnerships in movie theaters, Starbucks franchises, real estate and healthcare. The majority of his fortune comes from a 60 percent ownership in life insurance company Equitrust. Since Magic took over in 2015, that company has grown from $16 billion in assets under management to $25 billion.

He is a co-owner of the National Football League’s Washington Commanders, Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Women’s National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Sparks and Major League Soccer’s LAFC.

Earvin Magic Johnson Jr. was born on August 14, 1959. His father was an assembly line worker at General Motors and his mother was a school janitor. Johnson learned to work hard from his parents.  His mother spent many hours after work each night cleaning homes. His father did janitorial work at a used car lot and collected garbage.  Magic often helped his father on the garbage route and was teased by neighborhood children who called him “Garbage Man.”

Johnson was bussed to a White high school where the basketball team was so racist at first that they wouldn’t even pass him the basketball.  They learned. 

Johnson’s moniker ‘Magic” was first given to him when he recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists. In his senior year, he was named the best basketball player to come out of Michigan. He attended Michigan State University in East Lansing where he took his team to the NCAA tournament championship in 1979 against Indiana State led by Larry Bird.  Initially, Johnson did not aspire to play professional basketball but he changed his mind and entered the NBA draft in 1979.  He was chosen first by the Los Angeles Lakers and played alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

As a professional athlete, he played 13 seasons in the NBA and has been considered the greatest point guard of all time.  He retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV. He returned, retired, returned and retired for the third and final time.  He has been named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. His friendship and rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird in three NBA championship series is well documented.

Magic is an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention.  His public announcement of his HIV-positive status helped dispel the stereotype still widely held at the time that HIV was a gay disease and that heterosexuals need not worry.

He is a part owner of the LA Lakers and was the team’s president of basketball operations from 2017 to 2019. He was part of a group of investors who purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014. During Johnson’s ownership, the Sparks won the 2016 WNBA Championship, the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series and the LAFC won the 2022 MLS Cup. 

In 1985, Johnson hosted a charity event entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Magic” which included a celebrity basketball game and a black-tie dinner. Donations were given to the UNCF. 

Johnson’s mentor was Jerry Buss, a former NBA player.  Buss bought the Los Angeles Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 and drafted Johnson thereafter.  Buss eventually sold Johnson a stake in the LA Lakers team in 1994. 

In addition to basketball, Johnson is also involved in the music industry.  He started  Magic Johnson Music with MCA and signed R&B artist Avant.  He also co-promoted Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope Tour.

Johnson was a visible personality for professional basketball.  Magic was a NBA commentator for Turner Network Television (TNT) for seven years and a studio analyst for ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” in 2008.

His Magic Johnson Enterprises has a net worth of $700 million with several subsidiaries including Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters, and a film studio.  He also created a pre-paid credit card, called the Magic Card, with the goal of assisting low-income people to participate in electronic commerce.

Magic launched a cable TV network called Aspire featuring programing targeted at African American audiences.  He was also a motivational speaker.

Magic consulted Michael Ovitz, CEO of Creative Artists Agency, for advice on how to avoid failure after retiring from professional sports.  Ovitz encouraged Johnson to read business magazines and to use every connection available to him which he did. 

He became a voice on how to invest in urban communities. He bought 125 Starbucks stores and invested in real estate and insurance services companies.  He was part of a syndicate that bought the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, then the tallest building in Brooklyn, for $71 million and converted the 512-foot building into luxury condominiums.

In May 2023, Magic’s Equitrust partners purchased the lone remaining Black-founded and owned insurance company, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, headquartered in Atlanta, GA. The corporation was founded by Alonzo Herndon, a former slave and savvy entrepreneur.  He became Atlanta’s first African American millionaire.  Herndon believed in protecting many of Atlanta’s at-risk citizens, including that of the late great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In July 2023, Magic was part of an ownership group that purchased the Washington Commanders. At $6.05 billion, the sale was the largest for a North American franchise.   

Magic’s success as an athlete, businessmen, philanthropist, spokesperson, and motivational speaker clearly define him as an example of Black excellence.

150 150 Ethel Mitchell

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