It seems like everything Magic Johnson has been involved in when it comes to sports has been a success. He won a National Championship while at Michigan State, he won five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, and will always be remembered as one of the best players to ever play the game. Now Johnson is trying to bring his success to the baseball diamond as he is part of a group that recently purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have a ton of tradition but recently they have been nothing more than a middle-of-the-road team in the majors. With his history of sports success and the people he surrounded himself with in terms of this hire, it shouldn’t be long before Johnson works his “magic” and the Dodgers are back to being relevant.
Magic Johnson joined WJOX in Birmingham on The Opening Drive to talk about how excited he is about his new venture with the Los Angeles Dodgers, how important rivalries are in sports, what he makes about the one and done rule in college basketball, and what he thought about LeBron James joining Dwyane Wade last season.
How excited he is about his new venture with the Los Angeles Dodgers:
“I really appreciate it. Yes as everybody knows myself and the Guggenheim group, Mark Waters and Stan Kasten, who used to run the Braves, we purchased the Dodgers and it was a great, great purchase for us so far. We still have 30 days before we take over but I’m excited, especially living here in Los Angeles. Between the Lakers and Dodgers, they mean so much to the community here and the Dodger brand, they have won so many World Series and so I’m excited. For me to go from the basketball court to the board room was a dream of mine and it got started a long time ago with Magic Johnson Theaters and then I went from there to Starbucks, I built 125 Starbucks with the Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, and all my businesses were in the inner city, urban America. I wanted to bring pride to the community, employ people, and give them retail and shopping options in the inner cities. It really has worked out well, not just for myself, but for all those people that I have been able to employ and it has brought a lot of pride to the community.”
How important it is to have rivalries in sports:
“You have to have rivalries because rivalries, what happens is, that person or that team makes you better and makes you work on your game. You work harder because you want to keep up with them. I always wanted to keep up with Larry and make sure he didn’t get too far ahead of me. He made me a better person, a better basketball player, a better man but more importantly he definitely made me a better basketball player and I knew Larry was shooting a thousand shots per day so he made me shoot 1500 per day. I knew Larry Bird was working on a new move so I had to work on a new move over the course of the summer time. I would always watch the standings of the Celtics or watch their games on TV to keep up with how the Celtics were doing and how Larry Bird was doing as a player. He made me Magic and I hope that I made him better as Larry, the basketball player. Alabama makes Auburn better and Auburn makes Alabama better. That’s what it is all about. Rivalries are important in sports and what makes sports. I think it is no different than Larry and I. I wanted to have more championships than him and he wanted to have more than me. He wanted to have more MVP’s than me. I wanted to have more than him. It just worked out great. Now we’re great friends and the Larry Bird-Magic play starts Wednesday on Broadway in New York. Isn’t that crazy that they would have a play about Larry and Magic on Broadway in New York? The shows have been selling out and it’s incredible.”
What he makes of the one-and-done rule in college basketball:
“First of all I wish all college students would stay longer. I stayed two years myself and it definitely helped me mature as a young man and get physically and mentally ready. I think one year really you still have a lot of growing to do both on the basketball court and as a young man because you have to mature to play. You go from playing 30 games to 35 games and maybe two games per week in college to now you are playing 82 games in the NBA and four in five nights. You have to get used to things like that and your mind is not ready for it and your body definitely is not ready for it. I wish we had a rule that you had to stay two years. We just have to get used to these are the signs of the time but I will tell you what, I wouldn’t trade anything that I did. I had a chance to leave after my freshman year. The Kansas City Kings wanted to take me number one and I knew I wasn’t ready and I turned it down and went back. Plus the goal for me was to win the National Championship so I returned to school to make sure I was physically and mentally ready and then also to win the championship. God blessed me with that opportunity to win the Championship and then I felt I was ready to go. What we’ve seen is a lot of these young players who have come into the NBA young, if you take ten guys, only about less than half of them make it as superstars. The others have a short career and then out because they’re either physically not ready or mentally not ready or a combination of both. Just because you excel in college doesn’t mean you will excel in the NBA or NFL so you have to remember that.”
What his thoughts were when LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade last year:
“Fans hate it and ex-players like myself hate it. If you’re a competitor you say ‘hey I want to go beat that guy.’ I don’t want to join him, I want to beat him. I didn’t want to join Michael Jordan, I wanted to beat him. I didn’t want to join Larry Bird, I wanted to beat him. That’s what it’s all about. The competitor has to come out in you, the will to win has to come out in you and that’s why you go and practice every day because you want to go up against the best and you want to beat the best because you want to become the best. It’s too bad he felt he couldn’t get it done in Cleveland but if he was patient enough he probably could’ve gotten it done. We saw what happens. Even though you put a collection of superstars together that doesn’t mean you’re going to win the championship. We saw that last year where a team, that being the Dallas Mavericks, beat individuals, that being the Miami Heat.”