Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr., the world famous retired professional basketball player and current president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, has three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations to his name. Here are some very interesting facts about the American professional basketball player:
He was born Earvin Johnson Jr. on August 14, 1959, in Lansing, Michigan, to Earvin Sr. and Christine. His father was a General Motor Assembly worker apart from holding two part-time jobs. His mother was a school custodian.
He took to basketball following in the footsteps of his family’s favorite sport. He was often seen dribbling or playing in the local basketball courts. His father, mother and his older brother all played the game.
He grew up idolizing Bill Russel, Earl Monroe and Marques Haynes. He was called ‘Junior’ or ‘June Bug,’ in his neighborhood for he would be on the court by 7:30 many mornings and practice all day. He would dribble to the store with his right hand dribble back with his left hand.
According to the Unites States practice of Desegregation busing, he was sent to predominantly white Everett High School. He was subjected to racism even at basketball court which he eventually came to accept and according to him is the best things that ever happened to him.
The nickname ‘Magic’ was given to him by Fred Stabley Jr. of the ‘Lansing State Journal,’ when he saw Johnson record a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists, during his sophomore year.
He averaged 28.8 points with 16.8 rebounds per game in his high school final year and Lansing Everett went on win the state championship. He had earned two all-State selections and was named to the 1977 McDonald’s All-American team.
With an intention being close to home, he accepted a scholarship to Michigan State.As a freshman he averaged 17.0 points with 7.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. He led the Spartans to 25-5 record on the way to Big Ten Conference title.
In the 1978-79 season, he guided Michigan State to NCAA Championship title, defeating Indiana State in the finals 75-64. Johnson was voted the ‘Most Outstanding Player’ of the final four and made it to the All-American team with his performance.
He was picked first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. As a rookie he averaged 18.0 points with 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. He was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team and was named in the NBA All-Star Game.
Johnson is the only rookie to win the ‘NBA Finals Most Valuable Player’ award. He recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals with his all court game in game 6 of the finals, when the team missed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar due to injury. His performance in the finals is still regarded as the finest in NBA history.
In the first month of 1980-81 season, he tore his left kneecartilage, when Tom Burleson of the Atlanta Hawks fell on him. He missed 45 games and returned in time for the play-off.
At the start of the 1981-82 season, he signed a contract extension worth $ 25 million, which was then the highest. He had a great season averaging 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.5 assists and a league high of 2.7 steals per game, to help Lakers win the NBA Championship. He won his second NBA Finals MVP award.
During the season he was booed across the league even by Lakers fans following coach Westhead’s firing. The coach Westhead wanted to restructure the offense, which Johnson believed would have reduced his role. He exploded in the locker room after a game in Utah and requested to be traded.
Johnson earned his first All-NBA First Team selection even as Lakers were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-0 in the NBA Finals of 1982-83 season.
Johnson was inconsolable after the finals of 1984 NBA Championship against Boston Celtics. In the decisive Game 7, Lakers trailed by three points in the final minutes, when the opposing point guard Dennis Johnson stole the ball from Johnson and the game from Laker. Throughout the finals he had made some crucial errors which cost the Lakers the championship.
Johnson started ‘A Midsummer Night’s Magic,’ a yearly charity event which included a celebrity basketball game and black tie dinner. This event eventually came under the ‘Magic Johnson Foundation,’ which was founded in 1991.
In the 1986-87 season Johnson earned his first regular season MVP award and his third NBA Finals MVP title. In the Game 4 of NBA Finals against Celtics, he hit a last-second hook shot over Parish and Kevin McHale, dubbed as ‘junior, junior, junior sky-hook’ to win the game 107-106 and helped Lakers to win the championship.
In 1991, he married Eatlitha Kelly in a small wedding in Lansing and they have a son Earvin III and have adopted a daughter Elisa, in 1995. He has also a son Andre Johnson from his earlier relationship with Melissa Mitchell.
On November 07, 1991, Johnson made public that he tested positive for HIV and that he would retire immediately. Although he was clueless initially he lateracknowledged that it was through having multiple sexual partners.
His announcement became a major news story in the United States, as only a small percentage of men had contracted it from heterosexual sex. The ESPN named it in 2004 as the seventh-most memorable moment in the past 25 years. Many article praised Johnson including former U.S President George H.W Bush, who called him a hero.
Despite the announcement and opposition from former teammates, Johnson returned from retirement to lead Western Conference to a 153-113 win and was named All-Star MVP with 25 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds. When he scored the last minute three-pointer he was congratulated by both the teams.
Johnson was selected to represent United States at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, dubbed as ‘Dream Team’ and went on to win the gold medal. Hisparticipation was hampered by knee problem, but he received standing ovations from the crowd.
His attempt to make a comeback for the 1992-93 season was thwarted by several active players. He was deeply heart and wished ‘if I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have retired.’ He said that he retired because he didn’t want to hurt the game.
Post retirement he took-up several business ventures, wrote a book on safe sex, worked as a commentator for the NBC, and toured Asia, Australia and New Zealand with basketball teams.
On March 22, 1994, Johnson returned to Lakers as its head coach to replace Randy Pfund. The Lakers won five of the six games initially under him before losing five games at a trot forcing Johnson to resign.
Johnson returned from retirement for one last time and joined Lakers for the 1995-96 season. He had very intense workout at the gym and played his first comeback game against Golden State Warriors on January 30, 1996. At the end of the season he bid goodbye once and for all.
In 1999, he joined the Swedish club M7Boras and also became its owner. The project of Magic M7 failed after one season and he joined theGreat Danes of Denmark, which was renamed Magic Great Danes.
In 1994, he became a minority owner of the Lakerswith$ 10 million, before selling it to Patrick Soon-Shiong in October 2010. He continued as its unpaid Vice President before returning in 2017 as an advisor to Jeanie Buss.
Johnson was voted as one of the ’50 Greatest Player of All Time’ by the NBA in 1996 and was inducted into the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’ in 2002. He tallied 17,707 points, 6,559 rebounds and 10,141 assists in 905 NBA games.
He was the main speaker for the United Nations World AIDS Day conference in 1999 and has served as its ‘Messenger of Peace.’