ESPN hosted a media conference call this afternoon with NBA Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Earvin “Magic” Johnson to discuss the 20th anniversary of his MVP performance in his final NBA All-Star appearance, his upcoming ESPN Films and NBA Entertainment documentary The Announcement and the Magic/Bird Broadway play. Full audio replay.
Q. I know you were obviously talking about a lot of things, but I know it’s been a busy week as far as the Lakers are concerned. How do you process everything that’s been going on with the team’s current play, Kobe calling out management and speaking on behalf of Pau, and Mitch’s statement that he’s not going to withdraw anyone from trade talks?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think first of all we have to remember now it’s not Mitch’s situation anymore. He’s not running the team. Jim Buss is running the team. So Mitch has to follow the direction of Jim Buss and what he wants.
I wouldn’t say Mitch is the problem or anything. He’s going to do his job. But I think it’s great that you can see that Kobe is supporting his teammate. That’s a great thing.
I think what Kobe really probably wants is to just be informed. As a leader, as a future Hall of Famer, as a guy who has brought five championships to the Lakers and the fans of Los Angeles, he just wants to probably have more communication probably like he did when Phil Jackson was there, and he worked well with Mitch.
I don’t think Kobe feels he’s probably got that type of relationship or the communication has been there with Jim. So I think what has to probably happen is, hey, sit Kobe down. Jim, sit him down, and say, hey, Dr. Buss was a master at taking you to lunch or taking you to dinner and really going over what he thought about or what he was thinking and what he wanted to do with the team, and Jerry West was great at that as well. So I think that Kobe, Mitch and Jim just got to get on the same page and things will be okay.
As far as the play, I think the Lakers, if they can play like they did against Portland, I was there, it was an amazing game. I loved the way they played against Portland. So hopefully we’ll see more of that.
The Lakers have been inconsistent. I think that’s been their biggest problem. They have yet to be a team that’s really been consistent. Until they get that, I think that it could be an up‑and‑down season.
Now, if they could make a trade here or there, if they can make a trade, they’ll be right there competing for the Western Conference Championship. But if they don’t, I don’t think they’ll compete.
I think that Oklahoma is better. San Antonio, those teams are playing better than the Lakers right now. I think we’re still lacking the point guard like we’ve been saying for the last year or two, so we have to get better there. So we’ll see what happens. But I’m proud of Kobe for being a good teammate, being a good leader and voicing his opinion.
Q. A couple questions regarding The Announcement. What was the determination for you and ESPN to do this now? Is it in connection with the All‑Star Game? The 20th anniversary, as you well know is last November. What is the story behind putting this together for a television special now?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Well, I think we had to do it last November when it was 20 years, and it didn’t really have to happen during the All‑Star Game. First of all, ESPN is great at doing documentaries. I’m a big fan of some of the ones that they’ve done already. I think that the timing was just right, and I wanted to do it. They wanted to do it.
I have to say, they did a wonderful job as well. So people are going to be ‑‑ they’re going to touch every emotion of everybody. It’s going to make you cry. It’s going to make you laugh. You’re going to see great things happen. So I don’t think it’s like we planned it out that it had to happen this way for any reason. I think we just both wanted to do it, and it goes with their series on what they’ve been doing on other people and their documentaries. So that’s really about it.
Q. Have you been thinking about getting involved in a documentary for several years now? Is this the first time that somebody was really serious about doing a documentary about this? Have you had other offers?
MAGIC JOHNSON: No. I wasn’t thinking about it. I think that the Bird and Magic documentary did so well, and then this follows that. The Bird/Magic play comes behind that on April 11th. So I’m excited about The Announcement on ESPN, and it’s going to be great on March 11th. It’s going to just let the world in on what happened and all the behind the scenes things.
I wasn’t thinking about it. You don’t think about this. The thing that makes it great is you have to have the right partner, so ESPN is the right partner, and I was ready to do it.
Q. Magic, I think everybody is in agreement that the 1992 All‑Star Game was more than a game down here. What impact do you think that day had on people given the circumstances surrounding it with you?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think it had a great impact on the world. When you think about it for ‑‑ well, let’s recall all the things that happened. First the fans voting me in, Commissioner Stern allowing me to play, and I want to thank him. Then I have to thank Tim Hardaway for letting me start in his place. Then there was some uncertainty with players who didn’t know if they could play against me, what would happen. So then also people saying can he still play? So all of those things were factors and uncertainties in terms of before the game started.
Then once the game started, we started playing basketball, and it was fun, it was great. Then Dennis Rodman really I think he took it upon himself to show people, hey, he’s going to play hard. He’s going to play aggressive. And I think that that’s really calmed everybody down.
Then, really, the way I played and performed let people know that I could still play. Then winning the MVP, hitting those three three‑pointers in the fourth quarter just showed people, okay, Magic is back. He can play. He’s okay. Yeah, you can play against him. Nothing’s going to happen. Those type of things.
So it did a lot for the world. It did a lot for HIV and AIDS all at the same time. It did a lot for people dealing with not just HIV but anything else, that they can go on and live a productive life. So the NBA, that All‑Star Game in Orlando educated the world, and it was great therapy for me.
So I want to thank the City of Orlando and the fans that came out that day. It was so special, and it was so loud. They were cheering everything that I was doing. Even if I probably would have missed all 15, 20 shots that I took, they probably still would have been cheering, and I appreciated that.
Q. I just want to get your thoughts on the state of the point guard position. Can you recall a period when there was so much depth at the position? What do you think has contributed to the fact that there are so many dynamic players coming in in the last couple years?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Oh, man, the point guard position has changed the game and turned it back around to the exciting game that we were seeing some time ago. Back when I was playing with all the great point guards. You know, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, on and on and on, Marv Jackson, all the point guard that’s we had back in the day. Isiah, you know, you can just keep going. Tremendous point guards, Maurice Cheeks. I mean, you had so many of them. D.J. was playing point, really.
So you think about that time and that era, and that’s when the ball was moving. That’s when the teams were scoring. Now we return back to that. You look at Deron Williams. You look at Jeremy Lin who is not on that level yet, but he’s made it exciting for Knicks fans and he can really create for himself and his teammates. That’s why Knicks fans are enjoying basketball because they now have an exciting team. Not just a pass and one‑on‑one team anymore.
So you think about Chris Paul and what he’s done for the Clippers in this town, it’s been great. They now are a serious team to contend for the Western Conference Championship. So you think about Rondo over in Boston, and leading them to the championship and also leading them back to the finals as well, twice. So there grows the MVP. Amazing.
I don’t think we’ve seen a point guard quite like Derrick Rose with his quickness and speed and his athletic ability, you know. The way he can take a blow and still finish at the rim as well as shoot from the outside. Then I think when you think about Russell Westbrook, this guy as far as an athlete is probably number one at point guard. He’s so amazing, so big, so strong, and yet can beat you in a number of different ways.
Then you have guys like Kyrie Irving coming in who is the Rookie of the Year. You’ve got Rubio coming in. I mean, these guys, we’re finally now seeing the point guard be the highlight again. Before we had scoring point guards, but that hurt the game. That really hurt the game. Now we’re back to pass first then shot second point guards.
Then the old favorites like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, those guys have really set the tone for the young guys who are coming behind them. So you’ve still got to give a lot of credit to Jason and to Steve, guys that have been doing it for a long time.
So I’m really impressed with the point guards. I could talk about it more, but those are the guys that are really doing a tremendous job. And Deron Williams, man, what he’s doing in New Jersey, I’m really impressed with him. He could be upset, sulking and really disappointed on how the team has been playing in the last two years or year and a half that he’s been there. But he’s really been a professional.
I like the way he came back against Jeremy Lin and the Knicks, because the last time he didn’t perform well, and he came back in that second game and scored 38 points. He was just outstanding. And that’s what you’ve got to do. He willed his team to a victory. The game is healthy now because of the point guard position.
Q. When you made the announcement that you were HIV positive, it was almost like you were saying there, there, everything’s going to be all right to everyone else. Where did that strength come from and how did you feel about it?
MAGIC JOHNSON: You know, I’ve always been a strong person. God just blessed me with that inner strength. But my dad, I probably take after him because he’s a strong man, and I’m just like him. I smile like my mom.
So I’ve always been about others. My teammates. I’ve always wanted to make sure that I remained the leader that I was and the leader that they knew. So when I had to announce that I had HIV, I’m still Earvin Johnson, even though I’m dealing with HIV. I’m still that leader, I’m still that positive person. I’m still that person who is the guy that gets everybody going. So I wasn’t going to change. It was important that my teammates saw that, as well as Dr. Buss, the fans, and the community, the HIV and AIDS community as well.
Q. Why do you say Kyrie is the rookie of the year over Rubio?
MAGIC JOHNSON: He’s the Rookie of the Year. He’s doing it all. Kyrie is so explosive. The young man, the difference is everybody game plans for Kyrie, and he still dominates. He’s still good. They don’t game plan for Ricky. They game plan for Love and other guys, and I think that’s why Kyrie is the Rookie of the Year.
Q. I wanted to ask with the London Olympics coming even closer, fans in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK are excited their leading player, Luol Deng has been selected for the All‑Star Game this year. Do you think his participation is overdue or has he like many outstanding players have been overlooked because of the style of his play?
MAGIC JOHNSON: First of all, those who are in the NBA and those who have played in the NBA know how good
Deng is. I think this year he became more explosive because he can hit the three‑point shot from outside now. So he’s always been a great defender, a great slasher, a great mid-range player, and now he’s added that three‑point shot with consistency. And he is really the key for the Bulls, because we all know that Derrick Rose was the MVP. But he needs Deng to play well and defend well because Luol has to take the best player on the other team night in and night out, and he’s done an amazing job. He’s great.
It must be great for all of you just like it’s great for us to see his growth and see his maturity, and see him just getting better and better every year. Looking forward to seeing you all of you at the Olympics. You guys should take great pride in seeing Deng play in the All‑Star Game, because he deserves it. He probably could have been in last year as well, but it’s great to see him this year.
Q. Your Lakers team toward the end of the ’80s were aging, and guys weren’t productive and kind of set in and the Pistons came and the blazers were a factor. When do you know as a player or general manager when it’s kind of time to blow things up? I guess there was a question with the Lakers when do you try to turn the page? How tough is that decision?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I’ll start with the last one first. It’s the toughest decision because you have guys that help you win championships; help the franchise become a championship franchise. The fans love them and adore them. So night in and night out that team had performed to a level that the fans were accustomed to, and a level of winning and consistency.
Then, what makes it hard is the owner and the general manager had to look at it and say the fans are going to be upset, but we’ve got to blow it up. You have to do it, no matter what. No matter how the fans are going to feel, you know that there comes a point when everybody can’t do it the way they used to do it. They can’t perform at the level they used to perform at, so now you have to make the move.
Yes, you’re going to go through one or two years of it’s not going to be pretty, and the Lakers went through that of about three or four years, it wasn’t pretty. Then here comes Shaq. Then Kobe and everything went back to being great again. But you have to go through those down periods, and years that fans, it looks ugly, but it’s not the same Celtic basketball. It’s not the same Laker basketball, but you have to go through that to get back to the level of playing at championship basketball once again.
What is really sickening is the fact that you’ve got to let go of great Celtics or great Lakers. It’s not easy to do that.
Q. Magic, you were talking about the point guards earlier, about how dynamic they are these days. But do you feel at all that passing has become a lot of art? If so, why?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Well, I think that it’s not that passing has become a lot of art, it’s the way you pass that has become a lot of art. I don’t think you see as many bounce passes, and you don’t see as much guys really understanding the angles. That’s why we love Jason Kidd and we love Steve Nash, and now Jeremy Lin. He understands the angles. So that’s what’s different.
Other than that, I don’t think that passing is gone. I think you’ve got a lot of great passing teams. I think Miami is a great passing team. I think Chicago is a great passing team. You look at Oklahoma City as a great passing team. I would say the Clippers and the Lakers are a good passing team.
That’s what makes a championship team is whether you have five or six guys that will pass that basketball and know how to pass that basketball. But we’re not seeing as much great passing teams, so that’s what’s hurting a lot of teams. Maybe one guy can pass, but the other ones can’t.
Q. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches and I talked to Larry Bird about this last night. Has AAU basketball affected that?
MAGIC JOHNSON: No question about it. It’s affected the fundamentals of the guys, and also working on their craft because when you were working on your craft, you did it with pick‑up games. The guys now are so busy in AAU that they don’t play pick‑up basketball anymore.
If you look at Detroit, you look at Chicago, you look at New York and probably L.A., but those three first, that’s where we made our bones in pick‑up basketball. Those three cities are known for that.
Q. With the Olympic games played in ’92, how do you think the games have changed? And who is your top player of all time?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think the game because of the ’92 Dream Team has definitely changed. I think the Dream Team opened the game up to the world. The world was fascinated by the play of the Dream Team. Then I think that allowed more international players to come in and enjoy the NBA basketball.
I think that now as you can see, the NBA and basketball is a world game now. So the game is much better in terms of the league and the NBA and the game of basketball is much broader now and better because of the Dream Team, and because we can all enjoy now people from around the world and those countries can enjoy the NBA as well because they have their countrymen playing in the NBA.
My greatest team of all time, I would say I can’t come up with a team, but I would come up with Michael and Larry. I would take them any day. I’ll join them and we’ll play anybody.
Q. Magic, you announced the new venture with the cable network Aspire yesterday, and you also have a potential ownership of the Dodgers coming in two months. Can you talk about what your responsibilities would be with each of those? One happening, one that might be happening, and how you would basically juggle both of those responsibilities?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Well, Aspire, I’m the chairman of the board, and we’re going to hire people who will run it day‑to‑day. It’s going to be based in Atlanta. I’m owner, but I have people who will run it who have the expertise in the TV business. But I will make sure from a distance that we’re running on budget that we’re making sure that we’re doing the right things. And I have a guy, Eric Holoman from my office who will be chief of operations and making sure that they’re doing everything they’re supposed to do and he will report to me.
I’ll only say about the Dodgers, I’m excited. We’ll have to wait to see if we win. I can’t go into what will happen. Will I be involved? You bet. Will it be day‑to‑day? Yes. But I can’t tell you anything other than that.
Q. We’re having a killer season for players. Some teams are playing back‑to‑back to back, and really pushing themselves to the edge. So I have two parts to my question. First of all, what kind of effect does it have on the top players who we’re going to see in the All‑Star Weekend? Besides that, in a season like this, a shortened 60 game season, isn’t having an off weekend kind of a luxury?
MAGIC JOHNSON: The players know that the All‑Star Weekend is about fun and entertaining the fans, and they’re going to do that. I think it won’t have any effect on them at the All‑Star Game other than they get ‑‑ actually, the All‑Star Game will probably mean more to them now than any other year because they get to actually just relax a little bit and take a break from that tough schedule that they had to endure.
But I would also say that it’s nothing like an All‑Star Weekend, an NBA All‑Star Weekend is the most fun that a fan could have. So the fans will enjoy the three‑point shooting contest, the dunk contest, the skills contest, and then they’ll enjoy the game, of course, on Sunday. And all the fan experience things that the NBA puts on is just great.
I think the things that have hurt is this season has been so packed in terms of back‑to‑back-to-back, three in a row. It’s hurt some of the play, in terms of the quality of play. But we had to fit all these games into a tight schedule.
I’m just hoping and praying that guys don’t get hurt. I don’t think they will. But fatigue has been a factor. But you have to give teams like Chicago and Miami credit. They’ve gone through it, and they still have great records, and Oklahoma City still has a great record. So there are teams that are still performing well.
San Antonio just went on an 11‑game winning streak. So you have to give some of these teams a lot of credit, because they’ve still been performing well even with a tough schedule.
Q. Magic, you’ve talked about the importance of passing a couple times in this press conference. Can you talk about how Michigan State’s team shares the ball this season and also a little bit about their overall play and the season they’re having, especially coming off of last year?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think they share the ball. This is the best passing team we’ve had probably since Mateen’s team, Mateen Cleaves and them. Also the way they play with each other has been outstanding. They really pull for one another. This is Tom Izzo type team, Coach Izzo type team. He has done a wonderful job of coaching them.
I tell you, if he’s not Coach of the Year, he’s done an amazing job. I’m really proud of him. I would say also that we got a great leader in Draymond Green. I’m really impressed with Appling the way he’s improved. It was tough to go from a shooting guard to a point guard. He has really adjusted very, very well. Dawson has played well as a freshman. I think he had to learn that coming from high school to college, it took him a while to adjust, and he is now playing well.
Thornton is shooting the ball coming off picks. He was just a defender before, he could always shoot, but he never shot the ball. So now he’s shooting. The key for them is going to be Nix and Payne. If they can perform well in March Madness and the tournament, I think the Spartans can go all the way to the Final Four.
So those two big men have to perform well. They have to stay aggressive. They have to continue to hit the boards. We went back to Spartan basketball. Great defense and outstanding rebounding and that’s how they’re going to win and it’s been the trademark of Coach Izzo’s teams. And they’re back to doing just that.
Last year was a disaster for Michigan State. But this year has been great and great recruiting by Coach Izzo.
Q. You were talking about pass first point guards. When Rubio was introduced here last summer, he mentioned one of the key things in his development was way back when hearing a quote from you saying that you make a basket, you make one person happy. You make a pass, you make two people happy. What are your impressions of him? Take away the five inches different in height, do you see any of yourself in his game?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I do see a lot in him. He mirrors my game in terms of he’s always got his head up, his eyes are always scanning the floor, and he can make any type of pass. I think that’s where we’re similar is that we can make all types of different passes and he’s always trying to create a shot as well for his teammates.
The play may break down, but he knows how to make a shot and make not just his man commit to him but another defender commit to him, then he can kick it off for a shot for his teammates.
I like that he’s having fun. I’m happy that he’s finally here in the NBA because he’s really caused excitement in Minnesota, and we’re all happy that he’s performing well.
Ricky is going to only get better. And I think everybody’s really shocked about he really plays the passing lane very, very well on defense, because you come up with a lot of steals. So he’s performing well.
Q. You talked about the importance of the Dream Team when you set the tone of the Olympic Games. Looking at the games, which players could have the same global impact such as you and Michael Jordan back in the day?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think that LeBron, Kobe, those guys, Dwyane Wade, the guys that are going to play for the United States team will definitely have an impact on the world. We’re going to field a great team.
But too they’re going to have a lot of competition, too. It’s not going to be easy for our team to win, because as we all know, Spain is going to be great again, and they have a lot of NBA players on Spain’s team. Italy will be tough. Greece is always tough. Argentina with Ginobili is always going to be tough. Then you think about Russia, Lithuania, all those teams.
So there are going to be some heavy competition, Germany. So you have teams that have now a lot of NBA players on playing for their country, I should say. And it’s not going to be easy. But I would think that LeBron, Kobe, Dwyane Wade, these type of guys will have an incredible impact on the Olympics. And fans will be really excited to see them play.
Q. I was wondering if there’s a defining memory or moment from the ’92 All‑Star Game that’s more vivid or more poignant for you?
MAGIC JOHNSON: For me, I hit the hook shot over Rodman, and then the three‑pointers in the fourth quarter those two moments are probably the biggest moments for me. Then when the players came and hugged me at the end. So take those two things and then I have to add the reception from the fans. Oh, my goodness.
So I would say the reception from the fans, the hug from the players, the hook shot, and then the three, three‑pointers. There you go, you have all the moments.
Q. My memory is fading with my age, but I recall the game didn’t end after four. Wasn’t the game shortened because the way you were being ‑‑
MAGIC JOHNSON: I hit the shot. You have to remember, I hit the third three‑pointer that I hit, that’s when everybody came and started hugging me.
Q. To go back to the Dream Team analogy, people have talked about comparisons over the years from ’92. Looking at the team that will likely come to London this year, who would win ’92 or 2012?
MAGIC JOHNSON: That’s easy. ’92 would crush them (laughing). You’ve got to remember, you’ve got guys that had so many championships on our team. Michael, Scottie, Larry, myself, you know, that team was an amazing team. When you think about David Robinson, Karl Malone, you think about Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullen, Drexler, Stockton, I mean it was just an amazing team that really understood. And Christian Laettner, the college player knew how to play. They played well together. We had a fantastic coach, and we want to bless him. Then you think about the personality and the dominant play over Charles Barkley, it just was an amazing team, an amazing time, we did amazing things. We won the Gold Medal.
Now, 2012 will be outstanding. I’m excited to see the team play, but there would never be a team like the Dream Team. There never has been, and there never will be.
Q. When you had the experience or the performance that you did at the ’92 game, a lot of the guys that were All‑Stars were just kids growing up. Over the years have any of today’s stars reflected on your performance with you? What impact did your performance in ’92 have on them growing up?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think they haven’t reflected with me personally, but I’ve seen articles and things like that. They watched the game, and they were blown away by my performance. What makes it great is that NBA TV replays these games all the time, so those young players of today get to see the game and get to see how I play, how I performed. So that’s what makes it great that we’re still replaying all the old games.
So these younger fans as well as younger players get to see not only see me play, but also Michael Jordan and some of the other guys or all of the guys that have played in NBA history.
No, they haven’t come to me and talked to me about it, but I’ve read some stories.
Q. You already talked about the special moments of the ’92 games. What about that famous kiss before the tipoff, and then the one‑on‑one against Isiah and Michael?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think Isiah and I always greeted each other like that. So whether we were playing each other in the final or regular season game, it really wasn’t famous to us. It was just regularly what we did.
Then, it was just having fun. That’s what the All‑Star Game is. So Isiah, he took me, and we went and had our fun going one‑on‑one. He missed the shot, and then I went down, and then got it, so I challenged him. You know, we were just having fun.
The crowd just ate it up. I’m just happy that both of those guys decided to do that with me, to entertain the crowd because I had missed that. I had missed playing against Isiah. I missed playing against Michael. So it was fun for me. It was more fun for me than it was for them.
Then you think about playing in that game in itself just being among the greats once again, being among the players once again, that was the therapy that I needed to, I think, continue to live the rest of my life. So it was just a great, great moment for me.
I just want to thank every player that played in that game and the fans of Orlando. It was amazing. An amazing, amazing time and an amazing day for myself.
Q. You mentioned Draymond Green earlier real quickly. Seem to be a lot of varying opinions on him. Do you see him as an NBA player? If so, why do you think NBA players would be interested in Draymond Green?
MAGIC JOHNSON: He’s definitely going to make it in the NBA. He can rebound, he can pass, he can shoot and he’s smart.
When you can pass, rebound and shoot, you have a nose for that basketball like he does, and he’s a leader. He’s going to definitely make it. Also he’s a great teammate, so I feel that he’s going to definitely back up somebody in the NBA. I think he’ll be probably late first round.
The problem is he’s a four‑year guy, so a lot of franchises are going to be looking for that type of guy who went to school, who can come in and play right away and be a sub right away. Draymond is going to be perfect for that role for some team in the late first round.
So you don’t see guys that are a triple threat like that anymore. You usually see guys that can do one of two things. They can either rebound, they can’t score. They can score, can’t rebound. This guy is almost, what, he’s got more double‑doubles. He’s one of the leaders in double‑doubles in the country. He can take you all the way out to the three‑point line. He’s definitely going to make the NBA, no question in my mind.
Q. Who is going to be the NBA champion this season?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I’m going to throw back a simple answer to you. I don’t know (laughing). No, I think the best team right now is Miami, and I’m picking them to win it. If I had to make a choice, it would be the heat.
Q. Magic, a two part question about the Broadway show. What impact did you have on its creation, and what did it feel like to have your life story told on that big stage?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I was a big part of selecting in terms of both Larry and I ‑‑ I can’t say that I was the only one. Because first Tony met, who is the producer, met with both Larry and I, and then the writer met with both Larry and I. So we made sure that our voices, that the writer could capture our voice. We made sure that we signed off on what was going to be acted out in the play in terms of the scenes. Larry is tough, so they had to pass a big, tough test with Larry.
I’m just happy that Tony and Fran, the producers, made sure that we had the best director. We’ve got the best writers that captured our voice. Then we both are still pinching ourselves. We’re blown away by the fact that we’re going to be on Broadway. Who would have ever imagined that the two of us would have a play on Broadway. It’s just really amazing.
But we were really happy because Tony and Fran did such a wonderful job on the Lombardi play, that we felt they could do the same thing with our play. I think that’s probably the only reason we’re doing it is because if we hadn’t been the first one with the sports play, in a sense, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. But because Lombardi had so much success and they did an outstanding job that we’re just happy that they’re doing this play. Also partnering with the NBA as well, because that was important to Larry and I as well that the NBA be a part of it, and they are.
So it’s going to be something else. Both Larry and I are excited about April 11. We can’t wait to get there. We have both met the actor whose are playing Larry and Kevin who is playing Magic, myself. He’s been in my office a couple times. So I’m going to go to rehearsal, watch him rehearse it, and then it starts. The tickets are selling well accident so I’m excited.
Q. Wanted to follow up with you about Kevin Daniels who is set to play you in the play. Tell me about the meetings in your office. He’s speaking glowingly about the meetings. How do you think he’s going to fare in portraying you based on your meeting?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think he’s going to do great. He has an incredible personality. He’s very excited about playing Magic. He’s tall, so that’s good. He has a big smile, like myself, so that’s good. Everything is good.
The meeting went great. He just wanted to understand my mindset on winning and how I reacted with the announcement and things of that nature. So we sat down, had a great conversation. You know, I just told him remember that I’m a winner, and I wanted to win every game, and I love challenges.
So he took those notes, and I said Larry and I were the same on the basketball court, but we were different people off the court. So just remember keep that beautiful smile going and that winning spirit, and you’ll be okay. So he got it.
I was excited to meet him because he’s excited to play Magic. So now I can’t wait until April 11th so we can see the finished product and see it live.
Q. I have to ask you something about Dirk and Dallas. What do you think about the Mavericks? Do you think they are still in their prime or do they have problems?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Well, I think that Dirk has been especially on a tear these last ten games. He’s been rounding into shape. He’s looking like the Dirk of old and just playing outstanding basketball. I think Dallas lost something in losing Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. I think it’s going to hurt them in the playoffs because they bought something you can’t replace, Tyson with that defense and also his activity. He was really active.
Then J.J. Barea was the spark plug off the bench. He brought a toughness and aggressiveness that you can’t replace. I think J.J. made Jason Terry better, and Jason Terry made J.J. better. Now I think Jason Terry is suffering by not having J.J. Barea there.
So, the way they won in the playoffs was Dirk played outstanding. Every playoff series Dirk was great, but also that bench was outstanding with J.J. and Jason Terry. They just played great. I think they can’t recapture that. It’s hard to recapture that.
But I think they’re still one of the best teams in the West, no question about it. I still think that Oklahoma City right now is the team to beat, and you have the Clippers, San Antonio and of course Dallas and the Lakers not ‑‑ I don’t think are going to go to the finals. They don’t have enough fire power to do that.
Q. When you have the news conference at the forum to announce that you were retiring, one of the famous statements you made besides the way you addressed it by saying you attained the HIV virus, you also said as you entered the news conference, hey, I’m going to be here to bug you guys for a long time, talking to us in the media. When you said that, how much did you actually believe it?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I believed it a hundred percent. I’m a competitor. You know me. I never thought I was going to die. I thought I would be around fair long time. That’s been my mindset and attitude. So I believe besides the medicine, my mindset and attitude, and also working out has been the key for me being around for a long time.
Q. When you decided that you were going to become the face of this, you ran into some political pressure and resigned from the committee and everything. Do you feel that you could have had even a bigger impact than you’ve had, if you had the political support of the President like he said he was going to give it to you?
MAGIC JOHNSON: Well, I think probably the impact would have come faster if I would have had that support. But I think now 19 years later, we’ve had the impact that we wanted. Now the medicine is better. The people, we’ve educated people better even without the administration 20 years ago.
So it’s been amazing how much we’ve been able to do in these 20 years, and I think that we will continue to work hard to do the same thing around the world to educate people about HIV and AIDS to make sure we try to raise enough money to take care of people living with the disease as well. So, yeah, I’m happy about the progress, but we’ve got a lot of work still ahead.
Q. It’s All‑Star week and games this coming weekend. The fans had a say in who play this is time around. Will there be any surprises for you? Were you happy with the selections and who are you rooting for?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think I wasn’t really too surprised. You always know that some guys are going to be left out because that’s just the way it is. Everybody can’t make it unfortunately even guys who play well. But I’m not rooting for anybody. I’m just rooting for an outstanding game and a great show at the same time.
I think as long as the point guards keep the ball moving up‑and‑down the court, we’re going to see the show that we’re looking for. It’s always so great to see that many great players on the floor at the same time. When you think about LeBron and Dwyane Wade and Rose and all those guys playing together, Paul Pierce, I mean, it’s outstanding just to be there and be in that atmosphere. Then when you think about it on the other side, Kobe and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and Bynum, all those guys from L.A. playing together. You have so many great stories within the story.
One thing about the NBA, they do it better than anybody in terms of All‑Star Weekend. There is no comparison. They do it better than anybody else. So I look forward to the game and look forward to the festivities during the weekend.
Q. Looking back on your past 20 years what’s been the biggest joy for you? What’s been the biggest sadness for you?
MAGIC JOHNSON: I think the biggest joy is that I’m still here and the work that we’ve been able to do both in HIV and AIDS world and also the work in Urban America, I think those two have been the biggest joy.
Then what’s been the biggest disappointment? Hmm. Not too many of those in 20 years. But I would have to say right now the way the Lakers are playing. How about that?