Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson spoke at Trask Coliseum on Oct. 11, to
University of North Carolina Wilmington students, members of the community as
well as more than 600 middle school students.
Magic came to the university as part of the Wilma Daniels Distinguished
Lecture Series engaging the audience in his perspective on a variety of issues,
but his main points were focused toward the local middle school students in the
audience. His speech included stories from his personal life, on and off the
basketball court, and stressed the value of an education.
Johnson rose to national prominence when he was in college
at Michigan State University and led the Spartans to the 1978-1979 national
championship over rival and future NBA legend Larry Bird of Indiana State
University. After the 1979 season, Magic was the National Basketball
Association’s overall No. 1 by the Los Angeles Lakers and immediately became a
superstar by winning an NBA championship in his rookie year.
With a prominent career in basketball, and ranked
consistently as one of the Top 10 players in NBA history by sports writers, it
was his life off the court and the importance of a good education that he
stressed the most in his speech.
When addressing the students Johnson said “I don’t want you
to try to be like Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, get your education.”
Johnson told the audience about his time as the editor of
high school newspaper and his concentration on academics while in high school
and at Michigan State, even though he faced issues of poverty throughout his
childhood. When Johnson was in the ninth grade he said one of the greatest
things that ever happened to him occurred that year: he was bussed from his
home school which was predominantly African- American to the predominantly
white Everett High School in Lansing, Michigan. Johnson talked about how this
transition was so great for him because it made him learn how to get along with
people that looked different than he looked
Johnson relayed stories like this to demonstrate how he
became a successful businessman after his playing days. Johnson said that he
always wanted to be a businessman and that he had critics who doubted him along
“You got to go in thinking you’re going to win. Don’t let
anyone define who you are,” Johnson said.
It was this attitude that led Johnson to start Magic Johnson
Enterprises, which currently has a net worth of $700 million. His businesses
include Magic Johnson movie theatres and Magic Johnson Entertainment, which
targets customers in urban America about which he prided himself as an
entertainment pioneer. Johnson said that he was so successful in creating these
enterprises because there was a “high demand in the community and no
Johnson also spoke about one of his most personal struggles.
He was diagnosed as being HIV positive in 1991 and, since then, has been a
prominent speaker in educating people about the disease. One of his most
touching stories of the night came when he retold his announcement to his wife
after he had just found out that he tested positive for HIV. He compelled the
audience, when he said that his wife told him that she would be with him no
matter what. He also joked that when he asked his wife if she wanted to leave,
she hit him upside the head.
Johnson resonated with middle school students, college
students and members of the community and had a special message for the young
adults in the audience.
“I was just like you and I made it because I took care of
school, I was a good kid, stayed out of trouble and made my dreams become a