Great Sports Writing: “Magic Faces The Music”

Let’s continue with the theme of trying to figure out who exactly LeBron James is by taking a trip back to the 1980s to examine this curious piece on Magic Johnson.  Now that his career is long over, I think it’s fair to say everyone considers Magic one of the five greatest players ever…at least.  He’s widely celebrated as one of the biggest sports successes of all time having conquered the worlds of basketball and business with his gregarious personality and famous smile.  But that wasn’t always the case.  There was a time when he, like LeBron, was the most scrutinized athlete on the planet.  Take the time to go back and read this piece and examine how similar it is to the narrative surrounding LeBron right now.  The lesson, as always: winning heals everything.  From SI:

Whatever hurt Johnson felt then was only to intensify as the summer went on. He was stunned at the way he was carved up by the press that had once doted on him. He was particularly wounded by the suggestions that, with the championship at stake, he had choked. “I sat back when it was over,” Johnson says, “and I thought, ‘Man, did we just lose one of the great playoff series of all time, or didn’t we?’ This was one of the greatest in history. Yet all you read was how bad I was.” A headline that appeared on a column in The Los Angeles Times asked EARVIN, WHAT HAPPENED TO MAGIC? A month later, a columnist for The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner referred to Johnson as “the tarnished superstar” and “the goat of the series,” and pointed out that with the world watching him, and “right there against his arch rival, Larry Bird, he failed.”

“Those wounds from last June stayed open all summer,” says Riley. “Now the misery has subsided, but it never leaves your mind completely. Magic is very sensitive to what people think about him, and in his own mind I think he heard those questions over and over again to the point where he began to rationalize and say, ‘Maybe I do have to concentrate more.’ I think the whole experience has made him grow up in a lot of ways.”

“If you noticed, before when he was playing he used to smile a lot,” says Christine Johnson, “but now he doesn’t smile as much. It’s just a sign of his new determination. I see him settling down now and becoming more of a man.”

People always seem to be deciding that Magic Johnson has finally grown up, anticipating the arrival of his new maturity as if it were a long-overdue bus. And yet growing up and settling down are matters about which Johnson has remained largely ambivalent.

He came into the NBA in 1979, a magnificent child of 20, charming and funny and, in the way of most children, almost oblivious to any world other than his own. “I’ll never forget walking through airports with him,” says L.A. Clipper guard Norm Nixon, who played with Johnson on the Lakers for four years. “He’d have his Walkman on and all of a sudden you’d hear somebody singing, and there he’d be—stopped in the middle of the airport, singing his song and dancing with himself.”

Sound familiar?  Oh by the way, Pat Riley is now the President of the Heat and there could be no single person more capable of bringing LeBron through this than the man who was there with Magic.

Happy Friday everyone.

[Sports Illustrated]


Is #Magic Johnson Trying To Bring A Football Team To #LA Ari Gold Style?

A lot of people have been speculating after the former Lakers star recently sold off his ownership stake in the Lakers as well as a bunch of Starbucks franchises.  Everyone is trying to liquidate their assets right now, of course, but a liquidation of this magnitude has many people wondering if Magic is about to make a move into the big time.  A lot of reports initially linked him into ownership ties with the Warriors, Pistons, and even the Dodgers.  But an even more interesting topic popped up yesterday.  From the LA Times:

Magic Johnson, speaking for the first time Wednesday since he sold his interest this week in the Lakers and Starbucks, said he made the sale “because it was a business decision.”

Johnson said he has no plans on buying the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also said he has no plans on buying into the Golden State Warriors or Detroit Pistons, despite both ownership groups expressing interest in him. Johnson did have conversations with the Warriors, but that didn’t lead to anything getting done.

When asked if he has any interest in bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles, Johnson laughed long and hard before saying he hasn’t have any discussions with the league, but that he ‘really, really wants the NFL to come back to L.A.’

‘Would I be interested? Of course I would be interested,’ Johnson said. ‘Have I talked to anybody about it? No. But I would love … I would do that in two seconds.'”

If he could pull off the improbably and bring a team back to Los Angeles, does Magic Johnson become the most beloved person in LA ever?  Does he already hold that title?

[LA Times]


The Biggest Winner Of Free Agency: Kobe Bryant

by Eddie Moore

Fresh off his fifth and most meaningful NBA title, Kobe Bryant is livin’ large.


Amidst all the LebBron-mania and free agent frenzy, the black mamba has quietly become the biggest winner of this off-season. Besides winning his fifth NBA championship (now one title shy of Jordan) and grabbing his second Finals MVP, he was awarded with a mega three-year contract extension worth nearly $90 million back in April. After the Finals he was able to relax in South Africa and watch the World Cup while basking in the limelight for having just beaten the Celtics. His coach (“The Zen Master”) decided to return for another year for the sole purpose of adding another three-peat to his legacy. His team’s path to a three-peat is now much easier thanks to the departures of Carlos Boozer and Amar’e Stoudemire. And his current squad hasn’t lost any major pieces – yet.

Perhaps the greatest news for Kobe has been the formation of the Three Kings down in South Beach. The reigning MVP has transformed into a reviled, pompous a**hole to about 99.9% of the country in the matter of days for the way he made a mockery out of his decision process, and now the Heat have surpassed the Lakers as the team to beat in the NBA (according to Vegas at least).

So how has this all impacted #24? Kobe is now in excellent position to improve on his already impressive legacy and could potentially creep into “the top 5 players of all time” category. If Kobe were to win at least one more title by beating the Heat (a team with two of the top 5 players in the NBA), wouldn’t we have to start bringing up the Kobe-MJ arguments again? Hypothetical scenario: Kobe ends his career with seven NBA championships with the last two coming against Miami.  He now jumps Magic, Jordan, and Abdul-Jabbar in ring totals. He would now have four rings without Shaq. He finishes his career beating the Big Three of the Celtics and the Bigger Three of the Heat. That’s most definitely a resume worthy of being remembered as a top 5 player.

Beating Wade and LeBron in the Finals would obviously do wonders for Kobe’s legacy – and we know he’s up to the challenge. The Lakers have answers for all the of the Heat’s Big Three (Artest can contain LeBron; Kobe can limit Wade; Gasol/Bynum/Odom can hold Bosh), but the Heat don’t have answers for the Lakers’ depth. While I concede the Heat will win numerous championships and dominate the league in the years to come, I still trust to Kobe and the Lakers to prevail next year (and maybe the year after). Let’s not put those MJ-Kobe arguments to rest just yet…

It’s fair to say this this summer couldn’t have started off any better for Kobe – unless of course he could make amends for his atrocious 6 for 24 shooting performance in game 7.