When I was invited to a conference call with NBA and Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, I was awe struck. I grew up in Boston with the Celtics-Lakers rivalry dominating the sports world in the 80′s. I can still recall my early teens watching CBS on Sundays witnessing the epic battles between Magic and Larry Bird. As a Boston sports fan, this was my first taste of winning prior to the new millennium.
It always seemed to come down to the Celtics and Lakers and Magic and Larry. They met three times in the NBA finals in ’84, ’85 & ’87. Larry and my hometown Celtics taking the first series but dropping the next two. I still recall being in my eighth grade field trip in 1987 in Hershey, PA watching Larry Bird’s shot clank off the rim as the Lakers were headed to another championship.
Did I hate the Lakers? Yes. Did I hate Magic Johnson? No.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson was an opponent that you had to respect. He played the game the right way. Along with Larry Bird, he helped save the NBA which was poisoned by rampant drug use. He had and still has a smile a mile long. Magic was someone that you could talk to about anything. These are all the same qualities that Larry Bird saw in him and that’s why they are great friends until this day.
So to say I was excited to hear one of these legends speak is a vast understatement.
Magic spoke to media from around the world this past Wednesday. He was fielding questions on the current state of the NBA, the Magic/Bird Broadway Show, his playing days and his ESPN documentary film called “The Announcement” regarding his positive testing for HIV back in 1991.
Here are some highlights from Magic’s one hour call.
Current State Of The NBA
On The Lakers-“Kobe is a good leader and a good teammate.” “The Lakers don’t have enough to go to the Finals.”
On Jeremy Lin-“Jeremy Lin can create for himself.” “The Knicks have an exciting team.”
Magic’s Pick To Win The NBA Championship-“Best team is the Miami Heat and they will win it.”
Magic/Bird Broadway Show
On creative input-“Larry and I had a big part in selecting what was going in the show, we signed off on what would be acted upon.” “Larry put everyone through a big test regarding historical accuracy.”
On taking this story to Broadway-“Who would of thought that Lombardi would be that successful, that’s why we felt confident about bringing Magic/Bird to Broadway.”
On the actors-“I met both actors and have had Kevin Daniels in my office.”
The ’92 & ’12 Olympics
On the Dream Team-“There will never be a team like the Dream Team”
On who would win between the ’92 team or the ’12 team? – “The ’92 team would crush ‘em.”
On how the ’12 team will do in London - “It won’t be a cake walk for Team USA.” ” Spain, Italy, Greece & Argentina will all be challenges.”
HIV Announcement, the ESPN documentary & The ’92 All-Star Game
At his press conference on 11/7/91, Magic said, “I’m going to be here awhile to bug you guys.”
During the conference call, Magic was asked, “How much did you believe it (that you were going to survive)?” With a chuckle, he said, “100%.” “My mindset, attitude and working out enabled me to remain positive.” “I always smile like my Dad and always remain calm like my Mom.”
On the ’92 All-Star Game- “I have to thank the fans for voting me in, Tim Hardaway for stepping aside and Commissioner Stern for letting me play.”
Best All-Time Team
Magic’s response, “I can’t pick a team, but get me, Larry and Michael on a team and we would play and beat anybody.”
I have only been writing for 3 years, but I can say this is one of my career highlights. I want to thank Joe Favorito for this incredible opportunity.
Damn, I can still see Larry and Magic posting up against each other in the old Boston Garden on Sunday afternoons in June.
*some of the quotes were paraphrased because I just can’t write that fast.