“I’m proudest of my life off the court. There will always be great basketball players who bounce that little round ball, but my proudest moments are affecting people’s lives, effecting change, being a role model in the community.”
Magic Johnson, regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, retired from the NBA over 20 years ago, and since then has gone on to apply his vision and work ethic to business, philanthropy, and activism, in an enduring effort to empower underprivileged and minority communities. Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, broadcaster, and motivational speaker. He has also ensured that Magic Johnson Enterprises, which he founded toward the end of his basketball career, the Magic Johnson Foundation, and the many other businesses and organizations he has been involved with all serve a common interest: providing health, education, jobs, and unlimited support to the people who need it.
He was born Earvin Johnson in Lansing Michigan, where he grew up in a sports family, with parents and siblings who firmly instilled in him a lifelong love of basketball. He was dubbed “Magic” Johnson as a sophomore in high school, when a sports writer for the Lansing State Journal remarked on a game where he recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists. Johnson played college ball at Michigan State for two years, the second of which, 1979, he led the Spartans to a National Championship victory over Indiana State and Larry Bird.
Johnson was drafted first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, who he would play with his entire 13-year career. His rookie season, the Lakers battled their way to the NBA Finals to face the Philadelphia 76ers. Johnson scored 42 points in the final game, won the Finals, and became the only Rookie to ever win the NBA Finals MVP Award. He went on to play 12 more seasons with the Lakers, winning four more championships, mostly against the Celtics and Larry Bird, which grabbed the attention of the sports world, reinvigorated a declining NBA, and became known as one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.
In 1991, Johnson publicly announced that he had been diagnosed as HIV positive and would be retiring from the NBA. That same year, he founded the Magic Johnson Foundation to educate people about HIV/AIDS. Since then, he has expanded it to develop programs and support communities in various crucial ways. The foundation now offers, along with its HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention efforts, a scholarship program, and community empowerment centers, which are established in urban communities to give youth access to resources and further education.
Johnson became the face of the HIV/AIDS prevention movement, fighting against the stereotypes and discrimination that come with the condition. He also worked to show people how to support friends or family who have HIV/AIDS, or how to live with it themselves. The most important things, Johnson stresses, are education and prevention: “We have to drive the numbers down, especially in the minority community. All the different misinformation and the rumors and the myths, we’ve got to stop that, and we’ve got to read and get the right information.”
In the course of his basketball career, he set records and became a great star, but when he retired, Johnson’s life and career were far from over, and he was finally able to move on to the second component of one of his lifelong goals: success in sports and business. Since retiring from the game, he has been a motivational speaker, worked as an entrepreneur, appeared on NBC as a commentator, and written a book called What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS. He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate that includes the subsidiaries Magic Johnson Productions, Magic Johnson Theaters, and Magic Johnson Entertainment. Johnson is also the current president of basketball operations for the Lakers, owner of the WNBA team the Los Angeles Sparks, and was previously a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Johnson’s partnerships and ventures in business and sports have had an enduring impact, prioritizing minority-owned companies, investing in resources and opportunities for underprivileged communities, and asserting a broad positive impact in every corner of our society.