Earvin “Magic” Johnson - Lifetime Achievement Award

smitchell@tri-statedefender.com | 10/24/2007, 7 p.m.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson

When Earvin “Magic” Johnson distinguished himself as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, few may have dreamed that his post-basketball business accomplishments would exceed his stellar career on the court. In 13 years of professional play, he won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, garnered three MVP awards, played in 12 NBA All-Star games, and brought home a gold medal with the American team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Today, he is CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company credited with re-investing $1.3 billion in urban revitalization with construction of entertainment complexes, restaurants, and retail centers in underserved communities. The Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than 800 scholarships to deserving college students, and currently operates 23 Magic Johnson Empowerment Centers for youth.

“It is a blessing to stand before you to receive this honor. What a blessing to rub elbows with these two incredible, smart, classy people who have given themselves to others.
“I had six sisters and three brothers, and when you played sports, you would be the last one to the dinner table.
“I was poor, but I did not have poor dreams. I turned out to be a pretty good basketball player wearing $1.99 special tennis shoes. We must change our mind and attitude about what is important. We dominate sports and entertainment, but we don’t dominate money. That has to change….
“God had another game plan for me. He let me do my thing on the basketball court with those little tight shorts for 13 years. But it was only to set the stage for what he really had for me to do.
“Today, there are more Black millionaires than there have ever been. But there are fewer Black businesses than there were in the 1960’s.
“All this money that these rappers and entertainers are making – Black sports figures. If everyone would come together and re-invest in our own community, we would experience growth and wealth. We must work and invest disposable income in our community. We should have our own retail options like everyone else.
“In the suburbs, a dollar touches 20 hands before it leaves that community. In the Black community, a dollar touches only three hands. Before our communities can experience economic growth, we must invest in our own community. We are largely consumers. That has to change. We’ve got to become owners.
“I own 115 Starbucks stores and other business enterprises, which have employed more than 30,000 people in urban communities. When people can work in urban communities, they also buy in urban communities.
“I’ve talked with your mayor, and I will be investing a lot of money here in the city of Memphis.
“It is just such a blessing for me to be with you here today. It has been 16 years that I was diagnosed with AIDS. I was supposed to be dead, but here I am. Over 50 percent of the new AIDS cases are African American. That has to change.
“I see the other two honorees, and I wonder if I am worthy. People have died in the struggle for freedom; their stories are remarkable. I haven’t done enough. There is a lot more that I need to do. I don’t know that I’m worthy, but I thank you for allowing me to be a part of this.”

(Compiled and reported by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell • Photo by Earl Stanback.)