EARVIN Johnson, Jr. is nicknamed “Magic” for a reason. In every endeavor that he pursues, he transforms it into magic. In high school, he once scored 48 points and led Everett to a state championship. In college, his Michigan State University defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana State for the NCAA trophy.
In the NBA, he was drafted as the No. 1 pick and won for the Los Angeles Lakers the NBA title—in his rookie year. He was awarded The Finals MVP award. In the 1980s and together with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic won four more trophies for L.A. until his career was stopped in 1991 because he contracted HIV. He returned, retired, and returned in his final appearances in 1996 at the age of 36. In all, Magic played in a dozen All-Star games, saw action in nine NBA Finals and was awarded the MVP in ’87, ’89 and ’90.
Why this talk on Magic? Because Magic’s brilliance is needed by the only team that he’s known throughout his career. Just two days ago, he was named “President of Basketball Operations” for this glitzy, golden Hollywood team.
With a net worth valued at $500 million, the 57-year-old Magic doesn’t need the cash. What he wants is to help resurrect a team that has become an embarrassment. This season, the Lakers own a 19-39 record. Last week, the Phoenix Suns demolished them by 36, 101-137. They missed the playoffs for three years and last season posted a franchise-worst record of 17-65.
Embarrassing? No. Shameful.
"I wouldn't be sitting here if it was a good situation," Magic said last Tuesday. "I understand what I'm up against, but I'm here, and I'm here for the long haul, and eventually we will turn it around.”
Optimism, as expressed in that gleaming smile and charisma that only Magic possesses, is a trademark quality of No. 32. The fix won’t be easy or fast. The Lakers are up against the likes of Curry-Durant-Thompson or James-Irving-Love or the latest New Orleans twin towers, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
With no more Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are young. "I'm not naive to that," the new Lakers president said, "but I'm excited about that."
Magic added: “You don't know that I'm a control freak. You don't get to where I am without being one. I'm going to make sure that I set the strategy, that I set the tone and that this organization is going to be about excellence on and off the court… I'm a point guard, so I like to work with everybody.”
Magic’s magic? Let’s see.