America has had its fair share of persons with magnanimous achievements in the various fields, from medicine to sports, to politics and in business. The list of personalities in the Halls of Fame runs wide and contains key figures in the society. African Americans have made their great strides too and there are loads of Blacks with phenomenal accomplishments who continue to draw the support and the envy of all Americans. The latest entrance into the ever rich waters of public models is Barrack Obama. An earlier entrance however is of a man who continues to be worshipped in the field of sports, a man whose philanthropy and inspirations to millions of HIV/AIDS victims continues to be felt. This paper shall the focus on the life of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. It will present a clear analysis of his accomplishments and pinpoint what it is that has come to make him a darling of many Americans and the admiration of the world.
The prodigy of Magic Johnson lies in sports, it is on basketball that his star shone brightly to see him marshal his team to winning championships after championship.
He was born on August 14, 1959 in Michigan. He attended Everett High School where the unmasking of his potentials in basketball is well chronicled. He led his school team to wining the states tournament, a fete that had remained unaccomplished for many years. He proceeded to the Michigan State University joining the division one team. It is here that he would make his mark felt nationally after leading his team to a win in the 1978-79 NCAA Tournament. He was drafted into the NBA in 1979 joining the Los Angeles Lakers becoming “the first rookie to star in an NBA-All-Star game.” (Magic Johnson Biography). His star shown in the L.A. Lakers and he became a household name and an enigma in the pitch. Nothing can attest to this than John Baldoni’s (118) description of Magic Johnson referring to him as “the master choreographer of Lakers show time, up-tempo buzzer beating basketball that rocked the league and put fans in the seats.”
He acquired the “magic” nickname while still in high school and he went ahead realize that magic. He was able to bag a number of titles and accolades that put him in the same league with the likes of Bill Russell and also Same Jones, the Basket ball legends. Many have mused that his nickname was a pointer of the great things that Johnson’s future held.
A number of sports scholars hailing magic’s accomplishment in the field have particularly noted that he played a great role in transforming not only Basketball but the image of the Americans towards Black players. The entrance of African Americans into some of the most popular sports in the United States has been phenomenal. Blacks are slowly being felt in the sports arena even in the areas seen to be dominated by whites. In Golf for example, Tiger Woods has recorded a winning streak that has transformed the game. Magic Johnson played his role in basketball and in the words of Shaun (107) helped rescue the game by increasing its popularity. Shaun (107) further observes that he (Johnson) “came into the NBA with a smile to match his talent, making him non-threatening and refreshing, an extreme contrast to his more accomplished teammates.” Indeed as most analysts would agree, NBA games viewer-ship rates were transformed during Magic’s reign. This was so also in terms of sponsorship. It is during this time that the idea of African American athletes being sponsored by corporate bodies started gaining grounds. Basketball being a game dominated by African Americans was starting to find its way in the American culture. As Shaun (108) observes, after Magic Johnson, “major corporations that wouldn’t even consider using blacks in their advertising campaigns just a few decades earlier were suddenly hiring, especially in sports.”
Indeed Magic Johnson’s prowess in the pitch made him to be recognized as one of the greatest NBA player of all times. His twelve years reign with the Lakers led to his team winning five times. During this time he “was chosen player of MVP three times. He was a twelve All Star and the 1990 All Star game MVP” (Magic Johnson Biography)
Magic Johnson’s prominence in the public stature has not only been built in the court, his latest accomplishments have been bagged while out of the field. The second phase of Johnson’s life commenced on November 1991 upon the announcement that: “because of the HIV Virus I have obtained I will have to retire from the Lakers.” (cited in Cathy 149). In today’s world, this may have been a simple statement but by then HIV/AIDS was still highly stigmatized. The announcement by this phenomenal sports icon changed the face of AIDS and the media’s perception of the scourge. The announcement created and elicited Media’s curiosity into AIDS, dropping the earlier perception that it was a disease of gays and homosexuals.
Indeed the star of Magic in the court may have waned but the career path that the tragic discovery of his HIV Status found for him in continues to find joy in most people’s hearts. The society is yet to accept promiscuity and multiple partners in the celebrities but the fact that Johnson came to the open and admitted his prior sexual lifestyle endeared him to many. Before Magic Johnson, AIDS was a disease of homosexuals and drug users through injectibles. A look at most journals and scholarly articles on the disease reveals that most people considered it to be out of bounds for the heterosexuals. The announcement by magic regarding his HIV status and also his heterosexuality was an eye opener. He made immense contributions to the world of basketball; currently he is also having remarkable accomplishments in creating awareness about AIDS. He promised back then to “be a spokesman on the subject of AIDS and the HIV virus” and to sensitize the “young people to be aware of the importance of safe sex, and always use condoms when they participate in sexual activities” (James 113). This is a responsibility he still shoulders to date.
A trace of Johnson’s life since 1991 when he made the big announcement can indicate that he is a force to reckon with in the fight against HIV. Although he made some major comebacks to the NBA both as a coach and as a player before finally calling it quits in 1993, ever since he has dedicated his life to the fight against the scourge. The Magical Johnson Foundation for example was established so to lead in the bid to sensitize the youths. He was appointed by George HW Bush in 1992 to the National Commission of Aids but was to pull out a few months later citing the unwillingness of the commission to put more effort and allocate enough resources to combat AIDS. He has participated in major conferences and has been a key speaker in a number of international AIDS conventions ranging from the United Nations amongst others. He has made it his lifetime duty to preach abstinence to the youth as a way of avoiding HIV/AIDS.
Indeed Magic Johnson has built a solid profile and legacy. His prowess in basketball remains embedded in the memory of most Americans and his induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a true attestation of his accomplishments in the court. His subsequent activism against HIV/AIDS continues to endear him to the world and propels his status to an equal that of other famous philanthropists in the world. He is an all rounded role model; not only in the court and in the HIV/AIDS circles but also as a businessman with a 700-million-dollar worth empire to his name.
James M. Wall. Hidden Treasures: Searching for God in Modern Culture. The Christian Century Press, Chicago.1997, 112-115.
John Baldoni. Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004,117- 119
Elliott Kalb, Bob Costas. Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Basketball?: Mr. Stats Sets the Record Straight on the Top 50 NBA Players of All Time. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003, 30-36
Cathy J. Cohen. The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. University of Chicago Press, 1999, 141
Magic Johnson Biography. Retrieved on December 02, 2008 from
Shaun Powell. Souled Out?: How Blacks are Winning and Losing in Sports. Human Kinetics, 2008, 106-109