With dazzling charisma, a booming voice, and personal experience as a multi-business owner, NBA Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson addressed the Association of Washington Business during a dinner conversation at the the group’s 2021 political summit on Wednesday.
Johnson is famous for playing 13 seasons with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards during that time. But he now owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment firm he started after playing in the NBA.
“My mission is always to improve the lives of minorities,” Johnson said, adding that he was also trying to support women-owned businesses.
Through the company, Johnson owns stakes in business entities such as the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Equitrust, a life insurance company.
Kris Johnson, chairman of AWB, said the group chose Johnson because members wanted “to find a speaker who has a long history of involvement in urban communities.”
“We wanted to find a speaker who is truly linked to the mission of diversity, equity and inclusion and who has proven credibility in this space,” he said. “We discovered this in Magic, (which also) built the ecosystem in urban communities.”
KHQ presenter Sean Owsley facilitated discussion with Magic Johnson as he reflected on his journey from “legend to legacy,” detailing his experiences as a young child in Lansing, Mich., To a British superstar. NBA and life after the league. Johnson paired personality with business for a colorful, but savvy main discussion.
He chose random people from the audience, using their names to set up past storylines. He walked around to make eye contact with people deep in the crowd. He told stories about his father making him redo the trash and snow haulage in Michigan, which built a strong work ethic that propelled him to NBA greatness and commercial success. Johnson joked about the Boston Celtics and his first visits to Washington state while playing the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conference Finals in his rookie season.
As customers finished their dinners of ratatouille and roasted chicken breast, Johnson reflected on his past business ventures like investing in movie theaters in urban communities.
Johnson has spoken of the uphill battle as a black man, even with his fortune he built on hardwood floors. Banks refused Johnson eight times before the ninth decided to invest in his first ideas. But, even from the start, Johnson focused on ethnic and diverse communities. He recalled times when his friends emphasized the power of customer service and community training.
Johnson has sprinkled on moments from his own career and corporate victories, but much of the discussion revolved around AWB’s primary focus on creating opportunities and investments in communities that are generally underserved.
“When we think of the legacy, we’re all good (in this room), but what about everyone on the outside? Johnson said. “Part of your legacy is how many other people you’ve done good? “