Tag: Magic Johnson

Michael Jordan

What four guys would Jordan choose for a pickup game? Pippen, Magic, Worthy, Olajuwon


Fairly safe to say Michael Jordan in his prime could have selected me, Seth Rogen, Sammy Hagar and Dave Navarro and we would win virtually every game and stay on the court.

But when the folks at NBA 2K asked him (as they promote the 2K14 Next Gen features) he went a different direction. The four he picks to hold the court: Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon. That group is pretty good, too.

Remember that Pippen, Magic and MJ were part of the Dream Team in Barcelona that won the gold. I totally get the Olajuwon pick too — he can post guys up and run the floor, defend, basically do everything well. He is arguably the most well-rounded big of all time.

Worthy? That’s a North Carolina nod. Remember they were teammates in college who won the 1982 national title together.

Magic Johnson leaves ESPN’s NBA Countdown

Magic Johnson

I have to get my bias here out up front: Magic Johnson is my all-time favorite player. I think his combination of size, handles and passing skills were unique in the sport and let to the most entertaining basketball we’ve seen. Plus, he had cultural impacts far off the court that are even more important.

But he was a terrible analyst. Just awful. I just could not watch him on ESPN’s NBA pregame countdown shows.

So I didn’t shed a tear when it was announced by ESPN on Thursday that he is out of the NBA Countdown show this season. Johnson released a statement through ESPN:

“I love ESPN. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role. I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much.”

The timing of this, three weeks before the start of the season, is a surprise.

There were reports that Johnson feuded with Bill Simmons (who is tight with Jalen Rose, making up half of the pregame show), but Simmons disputed that and I know Johnson and Simmons were friendly off air. Mike Wilbon’s role is being reduced as well.

Who is in? Doug Collins for one, the former Sixer coach signed on and we knew he’d have a larger role. There also could be a role for Doris Burke who was going to be in the studio on Wednesday’s but could do more, reports the USA Today.

For my money, more Burke is good. She is smart, professional and knows the game. We’ll see how the chemistry shakes out between all of them, but this show may take a step forward this season.

Its biggest challenge is trying to match the incredible chemistry and just watchability of Inside the NBA on TNT Thursdays, with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. That show is the gold standard.

David Stern was all business, and that was good for the game

NBA Commissioner Stern holds a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals basketball series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in Miami

David Stern said Thursday as he talked about stepping down as commissioner that he is not a big fan of the “L”word — legacy. So we’ll call it his story. It could make a good novel.

David Stern’s story is a uniquely American story. His is a story about a smart, savvy, businessman chasing the dollar on behalf of the other, richer men that hired him. He could be genial, he at times was ruthless.

David Stern was all business with the NBA.

The result features so much good — you can argue he saved the NBA and today players and owners prosper because of his vision. But there is a ying to the yang — two lockouts to start with, there are fans in places like Seattle left wanting. Good or bad, everything on his ledger is a result of him chasing money. He will tell you about the good of the game, but for him what is good for the game is seen through the prism of dollar signs.

Ultimately, how you look at Stern’s legacy speaks to how you look at America’s corporate culture. Above everything else Stern was he was a businessman. Adam Silver, the incoming commissioner when Stern steps down in 2014, both embraced and praised that about Stern.

“David has transformed an industry, not just the NBA, and he has done it over 30 years plus…” said Silver at a press conference Thursday, adding that Stern had been the NBA general council before he became commissioner. “I think David is the one who turned sports leagues into brands, if you want to speak business. As (Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor) pointed out, 40-fold increase in television revenue, all kinds of other business metrics we can look at that would define David as one of the great business leaders of our time.”

Stern was a great business and marketing mind, and what great business minds do is seize on an opportunity.

That opportunity came first in the form of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, then Michael Jordan after them. Those were transcendent personalities, people who made you want to tune in and watch basketball because it was fun and graceful and part work of art. Then they could sell the game afterwards.

But Stern knew how to market those men and to lift the entire NBA by doing so. In 1981 four of the six NBA finals games were shown by CBS on tape delay, but a few years later the NBA was must watch television. Stern knew how to market his stars and while some complain about the NBA being star driven not team driven, the bottom line is that stars drew eyeballs.

If it had not been for Stern and his vision for the television product, the NBA would not be close to what it is today.

He was a marketing man, and that made the NBA owners a lot of money. You don’t get to keep your job as commissioner for 30 years unless your bosses are happy, and the owners have been happy. Franchise values rose with those television deals, which led to new arneas, which led to more and more revenue streams. He grew the league by adding team. He grew the revenue by pushing the league internationally

And the players benefitted, too — they get a cut of all of that revenue. Players’ salaries are required to be a part of the league’s revenue.

But any chase for money has unpleasant consequences.

It was how share all that revenue which led to Stern’s darkest hours — the two NBA lockouts under Sterns watch. His rich owners wanted more money and Stern was happy to be their bulldog and get it from the players. To take that profitable league he built and say how owners couldn’t make money any more came off as condescending, but it didn’t slow him down.

Stern was good was finding rich owners and not really worrying about what they wanted — which led to Seattle being screwed out of a franchise, and the five other cities that saw teams move while Stern was owner.

Even down to the simple things — the NBA’s dress code of a few years ago was aimed at softening the hip-hop image of players and making them more palatable to the older, more conservative, more suburban people paying for the ever-more-expensive luxury boxes and corporate seats near the floor.

In the end, that chase for the almighty dollar may have hurt some but it left us with a better game. It’s a game we can now see for free on our HD televisions almost nightly. The NBA’s rule changes — like the no hand checking on the perimeter — opened up the flow of the game and made it more entertaining. Even things like taking the three-point line from the old ABA helped space the floor and has led to a better product. David Stern understood how to get a product that fans want and could be more easily sold.

The NBA and basketball in general are better off and more popular because of Stern. His legacy is not without scars and tarnish, but in the end the league was better off because of his nearly 30 years in charge.

And through it all, David Stern was all business.

Magic Johnson sued for firing personal flight attendant

Magic Johnson

Here is my first takeaway from this story: I need a personal flight attendant. I suppose that means I need a personal plane, which means I need to find a way to make boatloads more money. But I need one.

Magic Johnson had one, but now she is suing him for how and why she was fired last month. Like taking seven minutes too long in fetching turkey from a local deli.

That is what the woman, Latina Thomas, is saying in a lawsuit filed against the NBA Hall of Famer and current Dodger owner and ESPN NBA studio analyst. From the ABC News report (hat tip The Big Lead):

Thomas, 45, is suing Magic Johnson Entertainment and Clay Lacy Aviation, her joint employers, in LA County Superior Court for age discrimination, wrongful termination and multiple labor code violations. Among other things, she claims the defendants failed to provide meal and rest breaks, pay her overtime, or keep accurate records of the hours she worked. She is seeking “compensatory damages” for the wages she was allegedly denied since she began working for him in 2004….

On Sept. 6, after trying to waiting at a deli counter trying to get “two types of specific turkey” for Johnson’s sandwich, she arrived at the plane seven minutes late. Two weeks later, Thomas was fired for being “15 minutes late” for the September 6 flight–a pretext, she alleges, for age discrimination, noting that she was immediately replaced with the (younger) woman who had filled in for her when she was on medical leave.

I’m not going to begin to comment on the veracity of the lawsuit. What I got out of the full article was the Magic wants his plane stocked with Red Vines and they have to be fresh and soft (Thomas claims she had to squeeze them to make sure).

I hate hard Red Vines. See, this is why I need a personal flight attendant.

Meet the new Basketball Hall of Famers: Jamaal Wilkes


Legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn used to call Jamaal Wilkes baseline jumper a “20-foot layup.” It was that automatic. Magic Johnson would drive the lane, kick it out and you knew it was two.

And that shot, with its eccentric form that would make Shawn Marion wince — Wilkes swung the ball behind his left ear and shot it from basically behind his head — was how we often remember Wilkes.

But he was a lot more than that. He was a great player on both ends of the floor seemingly always overshadowed by being on the team with some of the best and most flamboyant ever — Bill Walton in college at UCLA, Rick Berry first then Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA. Wilkes never really drew attention to himself, on and off the court. His nickname was “Silk” because he was that smooth.

Pat Riley said Wilkes’ shot “was like snow falling off a bamboo leaf it was so smooth.” That would probably be the most poetic line Riley ever uttered, but it is true.

You never really noticed Wilkes during the game, yet you’d look up at the end and he’d have 25 points.

Look at it this way: When you talk about the great individual games every played Magic Johnson’s 1980s Game 6 in the NBA finals comes up — Magic scored 42 points and played all five positions that night, scoring 42 points with 15 rebounds and 7 assists leading the Lakers to the NBA title.

Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds in that game, including 16 points in a crucial third quarter for the Lakers. But as always, he was crucial to the win but would be overshadowed in history.

He put up impressive career numbers in the NBA — 17.7 points and 6.2 points per game — but the accolades say why he is getting inducted: three-time NBA champion (one with Golden State, who drafted him No. 11 overall), three time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year, two time NBA All-Defensive team member. And as the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame covers all levels of a person’s career we can throw in two-time NCAA All-American and three time NCAA champion.

Come this weekend, he will not be overshadowed. It is Wilkes deserved time in the spotlight. And in the basketball Hall of Fame.