Earvin Johnson Jr was born in 1959 and you might think he has lived a blessed life to date. However, as with many of the greatest sports’ people, his journey through life has been marked with ups and downs, trials and tribulations. While his trickery on the basketball earned him his name Magic, there is a lot more power to be found in his life story. If you are seeking some inspiration and need a guide on how to live through strife, there is no one better to turn to than Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson Jr.
His meteoric rise
Johnson’s early basketball career is well-documented. The awe-inspiring stats tell the story of a man blessed with natural talent and skill. He had ultimate control over the court and the ball – hence for 13 seasons, he was the LA Lakers choice for point guard. He was blessed with success from the start, drafted in the 1979 NBA draft, he won a championship and NBA MVP in his rookie season.
Over the years with the Lakers, he aided them to 5 NBA championships and 3 other NBA finals. He was NBA MVP three times and an NBA all-star 12 times. Due to his insane contribution to an outstanding team of his time, the No. 32 shirt was retired when Johnson retired from playing for the team.
A fall from stardom and a brilliant return
If all Johnson did was play basketball brilliantly, then we would just acknowledge him in all-star line-ups through time. Indeed, he was named in the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. Magic ability – there is no doubt. However, magic also suggests mythical. There is nothing about Johnson’s ability on the court that couldn’t be replicated in another player coming through. In short, Johnson’s legend as the best point guard in history is waiting for the next shining light to pop up and challenge him.
Therefore, we need to look beyond the court to Earvin Johnson’s wider story to assess why he deserves the name Magic. In 1991, Johnson’s playing career looked to have come to an abrupt end. He retired upon learning of his status as HIV positive. Living in 2020, it is difficult to appreciate the fear and the shock that would have come with this diagnosis. First, there was a strong belief that it was a death sentence. HIV progressed into AIDs and from there to a nasty death. Second, it was a diagnosis that was highly stigmatised. It is likely that even though he had heroic status as a basketball player, many of the time would have refused to play alongside him and against him.
30 years ago, this HIV diagnosis would have been linked wrongly to those who were homosexual or drug users and would have felt like the end of his career and reputation. Thankfully, attitudes have changed over time but it was not surprising at the time that he retired from the game. However, what is astonishing is that he returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. The respect of his sport was still with him. However, there were protests from fellow players and he was forced to retire once more. Another knockback that could have left Earvin Johnson broken and bitter.
However, in 1996, with attitudes evolving, Johnson returned to play for the Lakers again. At the age of 36, he played 32 games. He also became a prominent figure in the AIDs awareness movement, using his star name to help change the attitudes that had cost him 4 years of his playing life. It is this resilience and fighting spirit that defines the magic in this man more than anything. He became a defining symbol that helped to dispel the idea that HIV was a “gay disease” and that heterosexual men should practice safe sex too. By making his status public, he began the journey towards an understanding of the condition among a wider audience – and was an insanely brave decision in the context.
Despite all the challenges to his self-respect and position, Johnson maintained his aura of star appeal. He is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame thanks to this aura – first in 2020 as an individual and then in 2010 as a member of the Dream Team.
The magic of Magic Johnson extends beyond his sports’ career, He is also an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a broadcaster and a motivational speaker. He has been named by Ebony magazine as one of the most influential black businessmen in America. He has part ownership in several sports franchises, including the Lakers.
However, some may question the heroic status of Johnson because of his recent step down from the position as President of Basketball at the Lakers. However, for us, this is yet another sign of the man knowing himself and knowing what he wants to achieve. Although he was given free rein to revitalise the fortunes of the Lakers, he was constantly being charged by the NBA for the comments he made in public. At his heart, Magic Johnson is an activist. When he said he left the position so he could be himself again, it is worth taking him at his word. He felt hampered in his front office position and could not have the influence he loved.
In essence, Johnson magic is the strength of character to live his life on his terms.