A "Magic" Moment

It was the latter part of 2002 and my workday in New York City (fundraiser) was a typical one - busy, exciting and never failing to enthrall.  Ending early, I was looking forward to a couple of hours of challenging basketball games at my gym, The Reebok Sports club.

The locker room was almost empty when I arrived at 4:30pm and I went to my normal locker. This was usually my quiet time as the noise and thrill of the basketball games above were consistently lively.

As I stood up and looked behind me, I was surprised to see my favorite NBA basketball player, Magic Johnson. I have been around plenty of celebrities during my ten years in Manhattan so I don’t get overwhelmed by famous people. I was surprised because it was rare to see a highly famous person in the general locker room area as there was a special VIP room for them.

Then, I thought about Magic and what I had heard about his love of people and social skills, along with his down to earth nature and realized that I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.

With this wonderful opportunity for a private chat, I immediately seized the opportunity! We talked about the choke of the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western conference finals – a series that the Kings should have won but were crippled by the famous Robert Horry 3 pointer at the end of Game 4 to lead Los Angeles to victory, which tied the series at 2-2.

If not for Horry’s heroics, the Kings would have been up 3-1, needing only one more game to end the series. The Lakers went on to win the NBA Championship. It was exciting to hear about Magic’s take on the series and how (in his opinion), the Kings weren’t ready to be champions.

We also talked about some Lakers history, my background and a bit about why he was in NYC.

As some of you know, I’ve been a Los Angles Lakers fan since 1979 – the year Magic joined the Lakers. Some of the best moments in my sports life have been watching Magic over the years, especially facing our arch enemy – Larry Bird and the Celtics. I never missed a single minute of those classic NBA finals or any series involving the Celtics.

What touched me the most about Magic that day was the humanity and kindness. He treated me as if I were an old friend, listening intently when I talked about my college years and giving me great insight about all the things I wanted to know from him. It was a moment I will never forget.

Seeing Magic’s business savvy over the years wasn’t unexpected after that encounter as he possesses some of the main ingredients for success – positivity, listening skills, engaging, a will to win and maybe the most important – the ability to make people feel good.

By playing the game so passionately, he made Lakers fans (and probably most basketball fans) feel good every time he stepped on the court.  In addition, he was one of the fiercest and most competitive players yet always seemed to have fun. And who could forget that smile, which was a common site on and off the basketball court.

It was inspiring to read about Magic’s recent success as the new co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers – an organization in dire need of his forceful energy. A quote is below:

"They swapped the biggest scoundrel in Los Angeles for the biggest prince, an East Coast carpetbagger for a West Coast institution, pursed lips for a glittery smile. Magic Johnson, the leader of the Dodgers' new ownership group, is a five-time NBA champion. Frank McCourt, the disgraced seller, is a loser too many times to count. McCourt made his money in Boston parking lots."

We could all learn a lot from 5 time NBA champion Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He has reached the top of the sports world and is on his way to doing the same in business. He's also been outspoken and positive about his HIV status and has undoubtedly inspired many who live with the disease. The 20th year of his 1991 press conference announcing his HIV was last November.  His aforementioned humanity seems to have played a large part in his sports, financial and health success.

My life has been filled with numerous moments of grandeur although this moment with Magic was one of my favorites.  I was grateful to be able to tell him how much his play inspired me and what joy I got from watching the Lakers dominate in the 80’s.

My Los Angeles Lakers circle is now complete.

Thanks Magic!

Happy Gswede Sunday!


My "American Basketball Coach in Sweden" is in its 8th year and will take place in May of 2012!

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