Magic Johnson, born Earvin Johnson Junior on the 14th August 1959 in Lansing, Michigan, USA is one of the most famous basketball players ever to have graced the courts of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Not only was Magic voted one of the best 50 all time players of the NBA, he is a winner in every sense, since he refuses to be beaten by the life threatening virus, HIV. During his career as an NBA player, sports commentators had to make up a new term just to describe his scoring per game statistics – the triple double. This refers to double figures in any three statistics out of – assists, steals, points, rebounds or blocked shots. He won the coveted Most Valued Player (MVP) title three times, an Olympic gold medal and featured a total of nine times in the NBA first team. In his career as a philanthropist and public commentator, Magic Johnson has helped to bring worldwide awareness to the realities of a deeply misunderstood sexually transmitted disease that threatens the lives of millions.
The Early Years
As a youngster growing up in Michigan, the young Earvin Johnson Junior was obsessed with his basketball. He used to sleep with it, dribble it down to the shops and was known round the neighbourhood for being on the local court by 7.30 am, practising his moves.
Earvin Johnson earned the title of ‘Magic’ at the age of 15, while playing in a game for Lansing Everett High School. Fred Stabley, a sports writer for the Lansing State Journal thought the young man’ basketball skills were nothing less than magical and while Johnson’s mother thought the moniker blasphemous, his nickname stuck and has remained with him ever since. After Magic’s school teammate, Reggie Chastaine, was killed in a tragic car crash the team vowed to win the year’s state basketball championships in honour of his memory. They came good in their promise and Magic continued to perform for Everett High, leading them to a 27-1 win record in his senior year.
Johnson in the NCAA
Upon graduating from High School, Magic Johnson chose to stick to home turf, enrolling in Michigan State University. Playing in the college team The Spartans, alongside future NBA players such as Jay Vincent and Greg Kelser, Magic led them to more record breaking victories as a college freshman and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) finals in 1979. The ’79 finals saw Johnson and the Spartans pitted against the Indiana State University team, led by sharp shooting Larry Bird. The Spartans won through and this was the beginning of a long standing rivalry between Johnson and Bird. One was tall and black, the other short and white – two diametric opposites. Sharp shooting goal scorer Larry Bird’s technical prowess was to be pitted against Magic Johnson’s wild flair and creativity, in a rivalry that breathed new life into the NBA pro game, sending viewing figures and salaries rocketing in later years.
By 1979 Johnson had reached the highest point he could in College Basketball. That same year he decided to leave college two years early and announced that he was available for the new season’s NBA draft. He was number one choice and got snapped up by the Los Angeles Lakers who gave him a massive salary of $600,000 dollars per year. Straight away, the young Magic started to prove value for money. At his very first game he showed off the exuberant spirit that was to be one of his trademarks as he ran round the court high-fiving everyone. Initially this prompted worries that the ‘young buck’, as he was known, may burn himself out. He quickly proved that there was a method to his madness, as he unleashed his own brand of high-octane super fast basketball play that was so different from what went before it and so pleasing to watch that it earned its own title – ‘Showtime’.
One of Magic Johnson’s finest moments came in the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Centre player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was taken off the court with a sprained ankle and on came NBA rookie , Magic Johnson at 20 years of age. The young Johnson blazed on to court and led the Lakers to victory, winning them 42 points, 3 steals and 15 boards. Johnson’s basketball skills stunned both the press and players alike and made him the first ever rookie to win the NBA finals MVP award.
Johnson vs AIDS
11 years of stunning career later and the now near legendary Magic Johnson shocked the world with the announcement that he had contracted the deadly HIV virus. HIV and AIDS were at the time grossly misunderstood conditions. AIDS was seen as a gay white man’s disease and for a black sports player to have contracted it was unheard of. Against early hostility, Magic’s unwavering pragmatism and honesty won the basketball fraternity over. After having initially resigned, he returned to play pro basketball. Along with long term rival Larry Bird, he made up part of the 1992 ‘Dream Team’ that took home Olympic Gold from the Barcelona Summer Olympics. Fellow athletes stood by him and there were many public shows of solidarity for the HIV positive basketball player, not least of all, a warm embrace by each and every one of the Spanish Olympic Basketball squad.
Magic Johnson has been happily married to wife, Earlith Cookie Kelly, since 1991 with whom he has had one son, Earvin III. Happily, neither his wife nor child contracted the HIV virus. To this day, Magic Johnson continues as one of HIV’s biggest if not ‘its single biggest’ celebrity spokesperson. As a business man, philanthropist and entrepreneur, Magic Johnson has used his status as one of basketball’s greatest ever stars to head countless projects working to improve the quality of life for impoverished people living in America’s inner cities and AIDS sufferers worldwide.
Magic Johnson Links
- Magic Johnson Enterpises represents all of Magic’s business and philanthrophic enterprises besides the The Magic Johnson Foundation, The Magic Johnson Development Corporation and The Magic Johnson Fan Club.
- IMDB contains all the information on Magic Johnson’s Film and TV performances to date and some upcoming projects too.
- Magic Johnson’s Stats can be found in detail for every game he has ever played in at the NBA official website.
- Buy Magic Johnson Posters online showing the man himself making NBA history in dynamic full colour prints from famous sporting moments.