Ehe name of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson continues to be one of the biggest claims when it comes to talking about the NBA. However, he was one of the pillars on which what the league is today was built. However, the figure of the base goes much further and that is what he wants to show with ‘They call me Magic’, the documentary series that Apple TV + has just released and that shows all the edges of a character that has transcended sport. A story about his life that he shared with a few media outlets around the world, including MARCA.
- How did you know that the time had come to tell your story? What is the reason for doing it at this time?
- I think because until now I had not told my story. Some people have tried to tell my story, but they didn’t come out of me and turned out not to be the truth. Now I can tell my truth, my own journey from growing up in Lansing, Michigan, all the way to Michigan State, where I went to college, then my story in Los Angeles, playing for the Lakers, and then becoming a businessman. . Going through announcing that he was HIV positive 30 years ago. Then my son EJ came out and said he was gay and so many things. There have been many phases in my life, going from the basketball court to a board of directors. All these situations have forced me to reinvent myself. People are going to see the ups and downs of my life and now is the perfect time because people are ready for it.
- Now that you have decided to tell and share your personal and professional life, what have you discovered about yourself?
- I think I already knew almost everything about myself. I think it’s been more discovering what people feel about me [Risas]. About how I played basketball, about who I am as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a businessman and all the different facets of my life. I think it’s more about that, which has surprised me how people feel about me. That is what has caught my attention, because the other thing, telling my life, my journey, I already knew. It is true that I have been surprised by the level to which I have been able to grow. I never thought I could be where I am today. Never in my wildest dreams could I think of being known around the world as I am today, winning all those championships with the Lakers, or being as successful as I have been in business. I could not think so big and that is true that it has surprised me.
- Throughout his career his name has been attached to the concept of ‘Showtime’. The documentary ‘They call me Magic’ strengthens this concept and shows the audience his relationship with the world of cinema. A world that is now experiencing the golden age of epic sports stories. What makes these products so successful in today’s society?
- It’s easy. The world loves sport. It is part of our daily life. When you can reinvent yourself and become a businessman from a basketball court, people love those stories. And he loves those comeback stories even more. When I had to retire from the Lakers because I was HIV positive, then I had the opportunity to play on the Dream Team in the Games. What a story of a comeback! TRUE? People also love it when you give something back and through the foundation we have put many students through college and have helped the poorest communities in the United States. So when you think about what people like, I’ve been in a lot of those situations. [Risas]. I think that’s why people like Magic and I think that’s why people are going to love ‘They call me Magic. People will be given the opportunity to enter my world. And it’s not a perfect world, but it’s been a good one.
Some people have tried to tell my story, but it didn’t come from me and it turned out not to be the truth. Now I can tell my truth
- How much has it cost you to feel comfortable with being a role model for society, beyond sports?
- ufff. I think I’m still not comfortable with that, with the fact that I understand that you are a role model. I have always wanted to do things the right way and I have always been aware of what I have done and how I have done it. I also knew that making my decisions was going to affect a lot of people. I like to be a role model for others and I want to leave an impact on people’s lives. In this series you will see many NBA players talking about how I have influenced them to become businessmen. I love that. I like to open doors for people to show them that they can be successful beyond the sport they love to play. So yeah, I like being a model, even if it’s a bit awkward sometimes because you want to make sure you do everything the right way.
- In 1979 the NBA was not the league it is today. When did you understand that your style of play was going to become the image of the NBA and something more than basketball for the league?
- I’d say when Larry Bird and I first faced each other for the ring in 1984 and he was seen in the audience. Everyone in America wanted to see these games. It was amazing. In ’85 we met again and people sat in front of the television again to watch the Celtics and the Lakers, but above all to see Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. We were able to make the league what it is today and you will hear that from Michael Jordan in this documentary. “People say I changed the league, but I didn’t do it the way Magic Johnson did.” It’s amazing to hear Jordan say that. I think Larry and I together changed the league and then Jordan took it to another level.
Larry and I together changed the league and then Jordan took it to another level.
- Looking back, what is the legacy you are most proud of?
- I would say the winning mentality, the winning attitude, making your teammates better. I would also say my love for the game and for competing. I played with passion and enjoyed every game. I didn’t leave anything in the deposit, I gave everything on the court and I never cheated in the sport I love and that I continue to watch today with the same passion. I made my mark by winning and playing the right way… and also with the passes without looking [Risas].
- With this documentary, what are your fans going to see about you that they haven’t seen before?
- I am a very emotional person. They are going to see someone who loves his wife and his family. You’re going to find out that I ruined one of the biggest deals in history by not signing with Nike and returning all those shares in 1979. There’s a lot of new things you’re going to see, like how I grew up with the testimony of my parents and siblings, something that had never been told before and less by my parents and siblings. And they will also discover my colleagues talking about me, which I think is very important with documents and images that have not been seen before.
They’re going to find out that he ruined one of the biggest deals in history by not signing Nike and returning all those shares in 1979.
- One of those documents that hadn’t been seen before, not even by you, was the famous coin toss between the Bulls and the Lakers that ended with you in Los Angeles. Which part has impacted you the most?
- First, it is true that I had never seen that coin toss. So seeing a part that I had only heard about until now is amazing. I had always heard that the Lakers won, but I hadn’t seen it. It blew my mind to see the managers of the Lakers and the Bulls, the commissioner of the NBA and how Chicago chose tails and how it came up heads. I am very happy that I was able to see things that I have never seen before. And it’s not the only thing that can be seen with unpublished material about me. Different things that happened years ago and that are now going to be discovered.
- Your career is full of success both on and off the court, what have been your biggest challenges on both sides?
- On the court the challenge was always to win more championships and beat my two biggest rivals, who were Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. I was never able to beat Jordan in the Finals. We only met once and he won. But being able to beat my two rivals and compete at a high level to win championships was always the challenge. Off the pitch, it was knowing if he was going to be here 30 years after announcing that he was HIV positive. At that time it was like a death sentence and knowing that I am here talking to you and doing this interview 30 years later, I think it is a blessing. That has been the biggest challenge of my career, to be here 30 years later, to be able to make this documentary and to have been successful as a businessman.
On the court, the challenge was always to win more championships and beat my two great rivals, who were Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
- Has the success of ‘The Last Dance’ influenced the way you work on this series?
- It didn’t affect the way we work, but it did affect our decision to take the step of moving it forward. Because as successful as it was, people wanted more and the guy they wanted more of was Magic Johnson and that was the reason to put this all together and do it. We saw what happened with Michael and I wanted to do it my way, involving my family, telling how I grew up… All the elements of my life are here and we could have done more episodes.
- As someone who has gone down in history as Magic, what does Magic mean to you right now?
- Magic means that you can affect people’s lives in a positive way. That is the real magic. In the poorest communities in America we have been able to help them help themselves. We have given a voice to those who did not have one and we have empowered communities that needed it and deserved it or helping children without economic resources to go to university. Also educating people about HIV, especially in the black community. All those things, that’s real Magic. It has not been easy. People tell me that they want to be like me and I don’t know if people really want to be like me. Can you have all these faces, face adversity and come back? With all the anticipation that comes with the name Magic, are you capable of carrying those expectations? Thanks to this series people are going to discover the difference between Earvin and Magic and that had not been told either.
- If someone, 50 years from now, asks who Earvin Johnson Jr was, how would you like to see that question answered in one sentence?
- How would you define me? Winner, competitor, a man who cares deeply about his community and the people who live in it.
How would you define me? Winner, competitor, a man who cares deeply about his community and the people who live in it
- If you had to choose just one moment from your playing career, what would it be?
- Easy. The Barcelona Dream Team. Win the gold medal at the Barcelona Games and get the chance to play with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. There is nothing better than that.
- And who have been the three players you have respected the most and why?
- Larry Bird for his shooting ability and intelligence on the pitch. Michael Jordan for his jumping ability, how he floated through the air and created some of the most beautiful shots in basketball, and how he dominated the court. And the last one I would say is Kobe Bryant because of the ‘Mamba Mentality’.
- When you were a child, how many of your dreams have come true and how many remain open?
- I have achieved many of them: play in the NBA, become a businessman, be able to take care of my family, marry Cookie, who was my girlfriend in high school, travel the world, have my own house, help people …. When I think about those dreams I realize that I have fulfilled them all. I’ve met and worked with every president, I’ve been on tour with Michael Jackson… I think doing good and bringing everyone together and erasing any difference in our communities. I think that is the dream that I still have to fulfill.