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The L.A. Lakers in the 1980 s were a basketball powerhouse with household names such as James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kurt Rambis who would doubt it. They had class and displayed it on the court. Kareem could pull up for his patented sky hook, they could dish to Worthy for the dunk and Rambis could pull down a rebound, but without a certain Magic there would be no showtime in L.A. A certain young player who had it all, a flashy smile and a great no look pass. That certain player was a true point guard, Earvin Johnson Jr. There are five magic parts to Earvin Johnson Jr. s life.
On August 14, 1959 in Lansing, Michigan, Christine and Earvin Johnson gave birth to their third child, a beautiful baby boy named Earvin Jr. Earvin Jr. was born into the middle of a family of seven children. Quincy, Larry and Pearl were older and Kim and the twins, Evelyn and Yvonne were younger. This whole family squeezed into three small bedrooms and one bathroom. The place turned into a real madhouse before school every morning, when we all lined up to use the bathroom. You learned to be quick. said Earvin once. (Johnson, p.4) Both of Earvin s parents played high school basketball. Earvin played basketball a bunch with his older brother Larry. (Brenner, p.44) Earvin would wake up early and play basketball before school started. People thought I was crazy, Earvin remembered. It would be seven-thirty and they d be going to work and say, There s that crazy June Bug, hoopin . (Lovitt, p.5) June bug was what many people called him, but his parents called him Junior and his friends called him E.J. (Johnson, p.4) When it snowed Earvin would go out and shovel the court. Earvin meet Jay Vincent, a child the same age of Earvin, who displayed the same love for basketball. The two became best friends. (Brenner, p.44)
Earvin was suppose to go to Sexton High, but since of busing Earvin was forced to go to Everett a mostly white school. The Lansing School Board had to bus some kids to Everett to mix the races and to stop the growth at Sexton. Earvin lived a half of a mile away from Sexton and a mile and a half away from Everett. Pearl and Larry hated Everett and Larry was always in fights. The only Johnson who didn t have to go to Everett was Quincy who was already in high school when the board made it s decision. Earvin made up stories saying he was living with friends and even appealed the school board. After the hours of work put up by Earvin, he ended up going to Everett. The Everett Vikings were a terrible basketball team. Earvin emerge as a leader. The black students at Everett wanted to listen to their own kind of music during lunch and Earvin got it so they could. Many of white students even started to like what Earvin had suggested.(Johnson, p.23-25)
In basketball, he was Everett s top-scorer and rebounder in all most every game. Earvin had became close friends with Reggie Chastine, Everett s point guard. Reggie was one year ahead of Earvin and he was five foot six. (Haskins, p.11) Coach George Fox was a good coach and an excellent teacher. He taught Earvin to always work on his fundamentals. Earvin s freshman year they were picked to finish last. After a game, Fred Stabley Jr., a sportswriter for the Lansing State Journal, called Earvin, Magic and the nickname stuck. That year, Everett only lost one game and they went all the way to the state quarterfinals.(Johnson, p.27-29) The next season, in a game against Sexton, Earvin scored fifty-four points and set a high school record for most points in a game. Later, the record was broke by Evelyn (Earvin s sister). The next game, Earvin s shooting was off and he ended up with sixteen assists. The Everett Vikings again did not pass quarterfinals. In Earvin s junior year, the Vikings got on a roll and made it to the state semi-finals, but were knocked out in a sixty-eight to sixty loss to Detroit Catholic Central. Earvin fouled out with 1:29 left in the game. He had scored thirty points and nine rebounds and he blamed himself for the loss. He had let Reggie down since he was to short to play college ball. Reggie made All-Capital Area Conference and Metro-All Conference first teams. Earvin was named All-Conference Most Valuable Player And United Press International s Prep Player of the Year in Michigan. That summer, Reggie was killed in an auto accident. Earvin was devastated by the death of one of his closest friends. Earvin started to receive five to six letters a day. In his senior year, Earvin started off the season averaging forty points a game, but Coach Fox told him to remember his teammates and Earvin started concentrated more in assists. The Vikings beat the Birmingham s Brother Rice High School in the the Championship game. It was an exciting game that Everett won in overtime, sixty-two to fifty-six. Earvin was named United Press International s Prep Player on the Year of the whole country. Earvin narrowed down his decision to two colleges. He decided to go to either the University of Michigan or Michigan State University. He decided to attend MSU. Jay Vincent his longtime playground basketball friend was also attending.
Michigan State University was on the east side of Lansing, so Earvin was close to home. He still stayed in a dorm on campus which he shared with Jay Vincent.(Johnson, p.57) Earvin first game the Spartans played against Central Michigan and Earvin played really bad. Basketball became huge at MSU. For example, the practices used to be open to public, but because of how many people started to show up it was forced to be closed. Earvin was coached by Jud Heathcote. Coach Heathcote didn t mind turnovers or missing a rebound as much as he minded mental errors. (Johnson,p.51-53) They finished off the season with twenty-five wins and five loses. That season the Spartans won thirteen straight games, a new school record. MSU won the Big Ten conference title and Earvin was first in assists, tied for third in scoring and sixth in rebounds in the Big Ten. MSU only made it to the elite eight where they were knocked off by the number one seed Kentucky Wildcats. Earvin played horrible in the tournament. After talking to his parents, Earvin decided to stay at MSU for another year. (Brenner, p.56-57) Earvin was majoring telecommunications. He met a beautiful woman named Cookie and he asked her out to dinner. This didn t happen to much in college, but Cookie was pleased. Cookie understood Earvin s main focus was basketball. (Johnson, p.58-68) Earvin appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated for a college basketball preview. Earvin emerged in a tuxedos to show how classy college hoops were. Sports Illustrated favored MSU to finish near the top, with star five of their six players returning like Greg Special K Kelser, Jay Vincent, Robert Chapman and Earvin Magic Johnson and receiving practicing against teams in Brazil. Coach Heathcote told the players at the start of Earvin s sophomore season, I told the players it will take five things for us to win. In order, they are: teamwork, the fast break, defense, field-goal shooting accuracy and offense. I let Earvin take care of the first two and I handle the rest. That year the Spartans record was twenty-one wins to six loses, they also took the Big Ten conference. In the Big Ten championship game Earvin sprained his ankle and came back in the same game to beat the Ohio Buckeyes eighty-four to seventy-nine. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, MSU beat Lamar ninety-five to sixty-four, behind Earvin s ten assists and Greg s thirty-one points. The next game the Spartans rode Earvin s twenty-four points and twelve assists to a joyride over Louisiana State in the sweet sixteen. They took out the top-seeded Norte Dame, Greg scored thirty-four points and Earvin dropped thirteen dimes in the regional championship.(Brenner, p.58-59) They were going to Utah to play in the national semifinals. When they arrived in Utah they went to a ski area and ate dinner. The skiing blew them away because none of them had ever seen it or the huge mountains. In the national semifinals, MSU wasted the University of Pennsylvania, MSU won by thirty-four points. Earvin had never seen the tall, blond white man everyone was comparing him till the game where Indiana State played Depaul. That white man was Larry Bird, the sharp shooting forward. After they watch the game in practice Sunday morning Earvin was Larry Bird. To show the team how to play defense on Bird, Coach Heathcote told Earvin to play as Bird. MSU played a box and one zone on Bird so he also was being doubled. At halftime at the championship game, the Spartans were up by ten points. Five minutes later, they were up by sixteen, but when Greg was on the bench with four fouls, the Hoosiers pulled with in six points with ten minutes to play. That didn t last long because when Greg came back, the Spartans increased their lead. It ended perfectly with a full court pass from Earvin to Greg for the monster jam. The Spartans won seventy-five to sixty-four. Bird shot seven for twenty-one in that game. (Johnson, p.80-83) The decision was final through Earvin was definitely going to make the jump to the NBA.
In 1979, the L.A. Lakers picked Earvin Johnson. He signed a 600,000 dollar contract with the Lakers. At first we couldn t believe it, said Jamaal Wilkes of Earvin. He was so enthusiastic. We didn t know if it was genuine. But it was. That s him. Earvin s first game against the San Diego Clippers. It came down to a sky-hook that Kareem knocked down to win the game one hundred-three to one hundred-two and Earvin ran over and gave Kareem a big bear hug. With Earvin s passing and enthusiasm, the Lakers went to the Finals his first year. With the Lakers leading the series three wins to two against 76ers and the Lakers missing Kareem who was out with a sprained ankle, Coach Westhead put Earvin at center. The Lakers needed one more win to the NBA championship and Kareem would be back in the next game. Earvin scored forty-two points, pulled down fifteen rebounds and dished out seven assists. The Lakers won 123 to 107. (Lovitt, p.29-32) Earvin was the first rookie to receive NBA finals MVP honors. (Fifty Greatest) In the 1980- 1981 season, Earvin injured his left knee in a game against Kansas City. He tore his cartilage, had surgery to repair his knee and he missed forty-five games. When he came back he helped the Lakers make it to the western championship where they lost to the Rockets. Earvin renegotiate with the Lakers even through his contract didn t end until 1984. He signed a contract for one million dollars for every year for the next twenty-five years, this meant the Lakers wanted Earvin to coach or run things after he retired. In the 1981- 1982 season, Earvin and Coach West head got in an argument about the offense. Earvin soon asked to be traded and Westhead was fired. Pat Riley, who was the assistant coach became head coach for the Lakers. People felt Earvin running the team. (Haskins, p. 48-40) Earvin became one of three players to register seven hundred or more points, rebounds and assists. That season in the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Suns and the Spurs to advance to the NBA Finals. The NBA Finals the Lakers beat the 76ers in six games.(Brenner, p.73-74) Earvin was the finals MVP.(Lovitt) The next season, Earvin had sixteen triple- doubles and thirty-five double doubles, but it wasn t good enough the Lakers were swept by the 76ers in the NBA finals. In the 1983-1984 season, Earvin averaged thirteen assists a game. In the playoffs, The Lakers swept Sacramento, derailed Dallas with a four to one win ratio and beat Phoenix in six games. In the finals, the Lakers faced Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics. After a grueling seven games, the Boston Celtics prevailed on top and beat the Lakers to win the NBA Championship. Riley expands the lost, It took a long time to get over that loss. It took us a month into the next regular season to get over it. The next season, the Lakers came roaring into the playoffs seeking a NBA title, they swept the Suns, pounded Portland in five games and murdered the Nuggets in five games. The faced the Boston Celtics in the championship showdown, but this year the Celtics gave the Lakers no problems. The Lakers won the NBA championship in six games. The 1985-1986 season, the Lakers started out hot winning twenty-four games and only losing three. They finished off the season with impressive numbers also winning sixty-two games and only losing twenty, but the luck didn t hold out in the playoffs when the Lakers were swept by the Rockets in the western conference championship. That sparked Earvin who averaged about twenty-four points and just over twelve assists a game. The Lakers finished with sixty-five wins and seventeen loses and Earvin received the MVP for that season. (Brenner, p. 74-80) In the playoffs, they barreled over the Warriors in five games and swept the Sonics in the western conference championship. (Haskins, p.56) Earvin sunk a sky hook with two seconds left in the sixth game and that put the Lakers on top in the NBA championship against the Celtics. Earvin was the finals MVP and the first player ever to win both a regular season and a finals MVP in the same season. The next season, the Lakers beat Isaiah Thomas and the bad boy Pistons for the NBA title. Then, in the 1988-1989 season the Lakers were swept in the NBA championship by the Pistons.(Brenner, p.40) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retires.(Haskins, p.62) In the 1989-1990 season the Lakers fell short of another championship series, Earvin is named MVP. (Brenner, p.40) In the next season, the Lakers played the Bulls in the NBA finals, but lost in six games.
Earvin married Cookie on September 14, 1991. On October 25, 1991, Earvin learned that a test for the HIV virus done on his blood had came back positive. Luckily, Cookie and their baby, Earvin the third, didn t get the virus. Dr. Mellman advised Earvin to quit basketball. Earvin then told everyone close the terrible news. After that Earvin announced his retirement. Earvin was voted to play in the All-Star game that season. At the All-Star game, Earvin played one-on-one with his friends and received the All-Star MVP. Then in 1995, Earvin tried coaching the Lakers and stunk it up. In 1996, Earvin put back on a Lakers jersey, laced up his shoes and played the second half of the season and playoffs. He wrote his autobiography, My Life in 1992. Earvin now has hot lines, movies, a foundation and speaks out against AIDS and HIV and discusses safe sex.
Earvin Johnson Jr. has had five magic parts in his life. Earvin is and always be a great role model. He is so classy on and off the court. His fun loving attitude is a great example of what we all should be. His courage to speak out and help others deal with AIDS and HIV is amazing. From June Bug to Magic, Earvin Johnson Jr. will always be a great man.
Brenner, Richard J. Jordan*Johnson. New York: East End Publishing, 1989
Haskins, James. Sports Great Magic Johnson Revised and Expanded. Springfield:Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1992
Lovitt, Chip. Magic Johnson. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991
Johnson, Earvin Magic. My Life. New York: Random House, Inc., 1992
The Fifty Greatest Players in NBA History: Magic Johnson. www.nba.com/. NBA Properties, Inc., 1996
*Reader these next two documents were not used in the product, but are good resources of information.
Johnson, Magic. World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia Standard Edition. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1997
Magic Johnson. www.caphis.usc.edu/ yungkail/magic.html
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