L.A.'s Disney of Dunk Is Back, and Pro Basketball Is Once Again Magic's Kingdom
What did Magic have planned for an encore? Well, for starters, he proved that he's mortal. Five weeks into this season, Johnson went one way and his left knee another in a game against Kansas City. After surgery for torn cartilage and 96 days of painful rehabilitation, he returned to the Lakers' lineup last month. The Magic was back, but a mite rusty. His first two passes were errant, but before the night was through Johnson had a delighted L.A. crowd on its feet.
Whenever he plays, the 6'9" Johnson brings more to the court than just talent. "The kid's always smiling, and he attracts people to him," says Laker fan Bo Hopkins of ABC's Dynasty. "He has what most actors would die for: total charisma." Magic has begun cashing in on his personality with a lucrative schedule of speaking engagements, endorsements and TV commercials. The windfall from these outside interests easily matches his estimated Lakers' salary of $600,000 a year. Do his teammates feel slighted? "Yeah, sometimes," admits forward Jamaal Wilkes. "But Magic has the kind of personality that's important to basketball. Besides, the kid is a winner."
Success hasn't gone to his head. Credit for that goes to Christine and Earvin Johnson Sr., who raised their future All-Star as one of 10 children. While his father worked double shifts at the local Fisher Body plant and his mother supervised a school cafeteria, young Earvin was busy shooting baskets. When it rained, he would ball up his siblings' socks and practice indoors. After high school, he spent two years at Michigan State before turning pro. Wilkes recalls Magic's entrance to training camp: "We didn't know what to make of him. He was so enthusiastic, we couldn't believe he was for real. But that's just the way he is."
Magic's zest for the game carries over into every aspect of his life—whether he is playing third base for the Magic Johnson Enterprises softball team in Lansing or partying far into the night at chic L.A. hangouts like Pips. "I do like the ladies," Johnson confesses. "I used to chase them; now they chase me." Two old pals from Michigan State—both female—even drop by his two-story condo in Culver City to cook dinner for him every so often. "They aren't girlfriend girlfriends," says Magic with a smile. "They're friends. Sometimes I cook dinner for them."
Despite his sudden wealth, Johnson's principal extravagance is a champagne-colored Mercedes, which he garages next to his Buick Riviera. He has bought a new home and a car for his parents, and is investing in land under the tutelage of his more savvy teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "I'm going to be okay financially," says Magic, "but that's not all there is to living. I want to finish school during the summers and get my degree in communications. I want to, and my parents expect it." At the moment, though, the irrepressible Magic has his eye on another goal. "I'm going to play boom-boom basketball like crazy," he vows. "I want another championship—real bad."
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