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A Tribute to Earvin "Magic" Johnson

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    A Tribute to Earvin "Magic" Johnson

    Where: Shrine Auditorium , Los Angeles, CA

    When: Thursday, Feb 12th, 2004 08:00 PM OR watch the ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 14th 6-7 p.m. ET exclusively on TNT. Let the truth be told.


    American Express Salutes the Rewarding Life of Earvin "Magic" Johnson. This red-carpet tribute celebrates the inspiring & rewarding life that Magic Johnson has led both on and off-the-court.

    A star-studded gala at Shrine Auditorium features musical performances by Big Boi of OutKast, Jessica Simpson, Earth, Wind & Fire and others, along with special guests Charles Barkley, Andy Garcia, Earl Monroe and dozens of other NBA and Hollywood stars.


    Magic Johnson - All-Star 1992 MVP

    Since All-Star is just a week ago, click Here, and go to the video link of All-Star 1992 under Magic Moments. It's Magic Johnson's lifetime performace at the All-Star game when he came back from retirement to win the All-Star MVP.

    • Interview with Magic Johnson

      Named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, Magic Johnson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

    • Q: What was it like to finally make it into the NBA?

      Well it was definitely a dream come true, you know, when you started off playing shirts and skins and finally from there you would move up to playing in the playground to your first real team. Then along with that real team came your first real uniform, right? From then you move up from Pop Warner and all that to playing junior high and you get the uniform and the uniform top

      So then you go from junior high to high school and you get the uniform and the uniform top, but you get your name all over it and some pants. Then you hit college and you get free sneakers with your uniforms…all the free sneakers that you want. What caps that all off, and the reason why you are going through all that is for one reason, and that is to get to the NBA.

      That first game, I was so excited and so nervous that I ran out of the court leading my team out. I'm trying to be cool but not show that I'm so excited. By the time I get down there, I'm about to lay it up…the first layup, I trip and stumble and started rolling. (laughs) That's how nervous I was. I turned around and they (his teammates) were just dying laughing at me.

      The game was so exciting. It was on CBS, a televised game on Friday night. It was tape-delayed at that time, and none of this is live stuff. So we get out there and World Free lit me up. He had 46 points. Oh my goodness! He was hitting shots all over the place. World has got the old kick shot, you know he'll kick his feet out wide and got that jumper behind his head all ugly shot but it went in. I could remember that it was a tight, tight game and finally it came down to the last second and coach (Jack) McKinney diagrammed a plan for Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) to come across the lane and we would dump it into him. He hit a hook shot from the free throw line to win the game. I went crazy. I've never seen a guy hit a hook from the free throw line and it was the end of the game and so I was running over there all speed up and jumping up on it and choking him. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” He turns…Kareem's so serious. He turns, now I'm going crazy. I'm going crazy. He said, "Buck" they called me Buck, "Buck, we got 81 more games, quit choking me!"

      It was exciting and something that you always waited for. You know how you pictured it in your mind already. You've already played that interview out before you got to the interview. You know you say, what do I say? Will I say the same thing that everybody says, “Hi mom and dad?” Would I go crazy? What would I do? Once Brent (Musberger) stuck the mike in my mouth I didn't know what to say. You know when you go “ahhhhhhhh, stage fright!” (laughs) and tongue tied at the same time. But I’ll tell you I was just a guy who really loved being interviewed. I think I was nervous and I always said that word that most athletes say over and over again, “and, uh and uh, you know.” Before you really know how to do an interview, you say those things over and over again.
    • Q: I guess people didn't appreciate that when Earvin Johnson was a rookie, he was nervous. He was tongue-tied.

      And people wouldn't believe you today. You know I was a shy guy and people didn't know that and still don't know it today. I'm sure basketball brought my shyness out because of the fact that you have to do interviews, and that people are always talking to you in terms of the fans and everything. I met wonderful people playing in the NBA. Whether it is the officials, the scorekeepers, all the people who work for the NBA, not just for the Lakers, but I'm talking about just for the league itself. Whether it was the people who shot the photographs all the time. Whether it is, on and on and on -- the writers. You had to talk to them all the time, all these people. It brought the shyness out of me and I am glad it did.
    • Q: You sometimes refer to the fact that there are two people, there is Earvin and there is Magic.

      Magic is crazy. He is that crazy wild guy on the basketball court that is very intense and very serious. He is the guy who lives and eats and breathes basketball. Magic is a guy who would stand for nothing but winning and really prepared himself as well as he prepared his team. Earvin is the complete opposite. He is that freelance, easy going (guy), that doesn't like to say a whole lot. He likes to be at home just chilling. Likes to go to parks, take long walks, goes to movies. Those type of things. That is Earvin. You’ve got Earvin but Earvin knows when to transform into Magic and Magic knows when to transform into Earvin. Both go together though, and Earvin wouldn't be anywhere without Magic and Magic wouldn't be anywhere without Earvin. I guess you can understand that can’t you? (laughs)
    • Q: Not many people know that you are a student of the game, you used to study it with your dad.

      Every junior high, every high school game I had, the next day I would get together my dad and go over the game and what happened and same thing happened in college. Mentally I felt that I was able to play in the NBA, but I found out physically that I wasn't quite able to come in and take over this league because one thing about the NBA is that they are the world's greatest players and they teach you that right from day one and that's why World Free had 46 points.

      I guess when people ask what is the biggest transition to the NBA from college, it is definitely defense and the mental part. And the mental part I was ready for but the defense part I wasn't because the next night (George) Gervin had 40 on me, Paul Westphal the next night had 38 on me. (laughs) So defensively I was not ready but mentally I was ready.

      I had played against pros all my life. Terry Furlow, George Gervin, George McGinnis, all these guys I've been playing against my whole life. I was ready to take the team in my hands and run it but there was a lot of things that I had to learn. And I had great teachers. Norm Nixon, Kareem, all these guys who were really good at helping me out. Jamaal Wilkes too.

    • Q: So how was that rookie year?

      It was the greatest because he I am doing something that I really loved to do, and finally I am where I want to be and that is in the NBA. I mean all of us have been watching Kareem all our lives and I’m sitting here pinching myself. There he is sitting right across from me. I mean I'm sitting here being on the same team as Kareem. My phone bill must have been $1000 a month because I'm calling home. "I can't believe it, dad, I'm playing with Kareem.” I'm calling all my boys. I mean I'm wearing them out too.

      When I still ran out on the court and saw him posting up and he'll throw that one hand up all the time, I was just blessed and lucky to be playing with him and with all the rest of the guys, the Lakers. I mean God was really looking out for myself and Larry Bird. I mean Lakers, Magic. Larry Bird to Boston. I mean it was just a storybook.


      • Lakers unveil statue of Magic at Staples Center


        LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Magic Johnson and Showtime made their debut outside Chick Hearn Court at Staples Center on Wednesday.

        They will be there forever.

        A 17-foot bronze statue of the former Los Angeles Lakers star was unveiled at dusk before several hundred fans and a handful of former teammates and dignitaries including NBA Commissioner David Stern and Mayor James K. Hahn.

        Appropriately, the sculpted figure shows Johnson dribbling with his right hand and pointing with his left index finger as if leading a fast break, which he did so often for the Lakers from 1979-91 and briefly in 1996.

        "Man, 25 years ago, coming here to this great city, I never expected anything like this," Johnson said. "This statue represents every player that I played with. It's not about me, it's about the team and the way we played together.

        "I am so amazed. This is just crazy. What a day! Wow! What a day!"

        Now 44, Johnson was the maestro of Showtime of the 1980s, when the Lakers won five NBA championships. The team played at the Forum in nearby Inglewood during that time, moving to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles in 1999.

        Johnson's Hall of Fame career was cut short in November 1991 when he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. He returned to play the second half of the 1995-96 season before retiring for good.


        A minority owner and vice president of the Lakers, Johnson has been very successful in the business world. He also established the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has worked to raise funds for community-based organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS education and provide programs to meet the educational needs of urban residents.

        "He's been more than a basketball player, he's been more than a winner. He's been a person who's left his mark on the city of Los Angeles, the NBA, all over the world," said Jerry West, a former Lakers star player, coach and executive.

        "For all of his accomplishments, the thing I liked most about him is he's been so approachable," said West, now president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies. "I think he smiles in his sleep."

        It was Johnson's magnetic smile and unique style of play that breathed life into the NBA in the 1980s -- after popularity had waned.

        "He played the game with flair, but he had more substance than he had flare," West said. "You win the game with substance."

        Former teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recalled Johnson's first game with the Lakers. A last-second shot by Abdul-Jabbar off a pass from Johnson meant victory, and Johnson immediately put a bearhug on his older teammate.

        "All of I sudden, I thought I had become a Siamese twin," Abdul-Jabbar recalled with a smile. "I was trying to stand up straight and enjoy this victory. Magic had me in a hold. That type of enthusiasm was infectious."

        Abdul-Jabbar took Johnson aside in the Lakers' locker room afterward, reminding him there were 81 games left on the schedule.

        "That story epitomizes Magic's energy for the game," Abdul-Jabbar said.

        The first person Johnson acknowledged following the unveiling was Hearn, the Lakers' longtime play-by-play announcer who died at age 85 on Aug. 5, 2002 of head injuries sustained in a fall at his home three days earlier.

        Among the fans on hand was 40-year-old Joseph Bruce of Inglewood.

        "I've supported Magic over the years," said Bruce, who wore a jersey with Johnson's name and No. 32 on the back. "He was one of the greatest team players of all time. He's been an inspiration for what he's done on the court and in the community."

        Johnson also had a statue of himself unveiled at Michigan State last fall. He led the Spartans to the NCAA championship in 1979 before leaving school early to turn pro at the age of 20.


        Outkast stole the show. Jessica Simpson was whinny..Arrghhhhhh can't stand her, man!

        I was delighted to see Magic's high school and college day highlights. Shaq's kissing Sir Charles' tind ( ) was the highlight of the event when Charles embraced Shaquiile in the league of NBA's top players and MVP. Later, 80's Showtime LAKERS were introduced to the auidence and each member of the 80's LAKERS saluted Mr. Johnson!

        Another point, American Express has donated two hundred million dollars to The Magic Johnson Foundation. KOOL! There ain't enough words to describe this man's greatness be it on or off the court. Go Magic...You Da Man!
        • Friends, Old Foes Honor Magic

          The joy of watching Magic Johnson play basketball was always the way he involved his teammates. So it was fitting that a highlight of a night in Johnson's honor presented by American Express at the Shrine Auditorium Thursday night was a reunion of the Showtime era Lakers.

          Longtime Laker announcer Lawrence Tanter introduced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and A.C. Green, then Johnson joined them onstage. They had already taken advantage of some time to reminisce and clown around backstage and during the red carpet arrivals, telling stories from the days when the Lakers won five championships in nine years, taking advantage of their time together.

          "It becomes more special, because it doesn't happen as often the older we get," Wilkes said.

          Their onetime rivals from the Detroit Pistons, Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman, were on hand. So were NBA legends Bill Russell, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and George Gervin. Laker owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak attended, as did Johnson's Michigan State teammate Greg Kelser.

          "I've been to a lot of these that somebody else was being honored," Johnson said. "And now to come to one and they're honoring me, I don't know how to act. It's a different role for me. It's a rewarding feeling. It's just letting you know that you're doing the right thing."


          one of the greatest ball player ever on the face of planet earth.
          If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone. Michael Corleone