My Summer Lair Chapter #265: What Has More Magic: The Past Or The Future?
Welcome back to My Summer Lair NBA sports writer Roland Lazenby. The last time he visited the program we talked about his 2016 Kobe biography (Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant). Today we’re digging into his latest NBA biography Magic: The Life of Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
This is a dense book because it’s a dense life.
This conversation like Roland’s book starts by focusing on the historical racism that dominated so much of America’s past: from slavery to civil rights. Sometimes with history it feels like it’s history…something that happened in the 1890s or something.
In Magic…Roland documents Magic’s mother a Black woman who grew up in the era of coloured bathrooms. She wasn’t allowed to eat at certain diners or restaurants. Yet that woman who couldn’t go to a diner due to her skin colour birthed a son who grew up to own 3 national sports teams (ironically he’s a minority owner in Dodgers, Lakers and Sparks). Historically that’s a wild pendulum swing: from you people can’t eat here to I’ma buy the LA Dodgers.
That’s a stunningly surreal American experience. This is why America is often difficult to accurately sum up or even bottom line.
It’s a country with a dream and it provides incredible opportunities with of course incredible setbacks. It’s…clearly Magic.
This was supposed to be a basketball conversation but it became a discussion on race. Racial struggles are not something you typically associate with Magic Johnson. Roland’s book has crafted an astonishing context for Magic and his family.
That context has made his success so much more powerful. Magic Johnson is now a billionaire. The fourth athlete to achieve such a status after LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan. What you are about to hear is some of the story of how he got to that unique status.
I’ve never seen Magic play as he retired in 1991. I missed most of the small shorts NBA era. (I’m so grateful I’ve seen Jordan play, even in Detroit where he battled Joe Dumars. Amazing. So thankful. And I’m so grateful I saw Kobe play in LA at the Staple Center. That’s a wild experience.)
In the conversation Roland says Magic revolutionized international basketball as he was revolutionizing American basketball. That’s my bad as a host, I should have unpacked that because this is a vital part of Magic’s legacy.
I’m a huge fan of talented individuals who defy easy categorization. And I got a foam #1 finger for Magic…the ball player and the ancient practice.
Host Sammy Younan
Recorded: Monday October 23, 2023 at 12:10 pm EST
Stress free pop culture tastefully harvested for your divine delight. Once a week a carefully curated edition of My Pal Sammy goes directly to your inbox. Sign up for my newsletter so we can have some fun…like a sweet no look pass!