Magic Johnson's New L.A. Story
Feb. 5, 2014 Ė Earvin "Magic" Johnson's story speaks for itself. National champion at Michigan State. Three-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Five-time NBA champion. The Junior Sky-Hook. The emotional, inspirational 1992 NBA All-Star Game performance. The Dream Team in Barcelona. Slam-dunk member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But, with Magic, the accomplishments didn't stop when he stepped off the floor. Neither did the story. He's now Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. Part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation charity.
And for WNBA fans, Johnsonís latest chapter is particularly page-turning.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles icon produced the ultimate Hollywood ending, joining forces with Dodgers controlling owner Mark R. Walter and other local investors to swoop in at the last minute to save the day in L.A.
But unlike the make-believe magic of Tinsletown, this Magic is real, and heavily invested in a new sequel: Sparks as WNBA Champions, Part Two.
"I love to win. I hate to lose. And I am raring to go," said Johnson to WNBA.com after the big press announcement at STAPLES Center. "This town is about championships, we all know that. L.A. is about winners. And we are very excited about the players and coaching staff and front office staff here. We will build on last season -- we didn't go as far as we wanted to go -- but we can build on that."
Johnson said that, in reigning MVP Candace Parker, he has just the Leading Lady to lead the Sparks in 2014 and beyond.
"We have a good starting point with having the best women basketball player in the world in Candace Parker," said Johnson before elaborating on the 2013 WNBA MVP. "Physically, Candace has it all. She can go inside. She can go outside. She can shoot it. She can pass it. She can dribble it -- with both hands. But her knowledge of the game, her Basketball I.Q. is off the charts. Candace knows the right basketball play to make and when to make it. That ability and her ability to make her teammates better -- which is the true sign of a champion -- that is what sets Candace apart."
A longtime supporter of the WNBA, Johnson was almost giddy when discussing his personal history with the Sparks and the opportunity to lead the franchise to new glory.
"I've been a fan since the first game, I was in the arena cheering on the Sparks in their first ever game. My wife, Cookie, and I have been going to games since the beginning," Johnson reminisced. "And I think the brand here, with this franchise -- which started with Lisa Leslie and my boy Coach [Michael] Cooper who led the Sparks to championships -- is strong, and our fan base is strong and we can grow even stronger."
Chief among Johnson's goals for the Sparks is to implement a few things he's learned over time, dating back to his days with the Showtime Lakers and his current experiences with the resurgent L.A. Dodgers.
"I remember with Dr. Buss, he made Lakers games THE place to be in L.A.," said Johnson. "The fan experience of an exciting brand of basketball and winning basketball games -- and championships -- was what it was all about. And with the Dodgers, our group has taken a team that was middle of the pack in attendance and excitement, and is now among the league leaders. We will work hard to improve the fan experience for our Sparks fans, who deserve it because they are the best basketball fans in the league."
One thing you likely won't see is Magic remonstrating on the court during games.
"No, we are not micro-managers and with a great coach like Carol Ross and her staff, and our great front office, I won't be involved on that level. I'll let the excellent people we have do their thing," said Johnson. "Now, if someone asks for advice for how to do something on the court, and the coaches are fully aware and supportive of my sharing my opinion, I would do that, of course. I'm a team player and it's all about winning."
Magic Johnson and the WNBA. A pairing straight out of central casting that Sparks fans hope will end up with Candace Parker and Company walking arm-in-arm with a WNBA Championship Trophy into the sunset.