MAGIC JOHNSON, 43
Founder and CEO, Magic Johnson Enterprises; VP, Los Angeles Lakers
Forget the five championships and three MVP awards. Johnson, a vice president with the Lakers, has been just as successful in his postbasketball life, bringing several businesses to 65 sites in primarily lower-income areas. Magic, who owns 5% of the Lakers, aspires to buy his own team and raise $1 billion for affordable housing.
EUGENE PARKER, 47
While most top agents are based in a major city—generally on one coast or the other—Parker works out of tiny Roanoke, Ind. He specializes in NFL players and has more than 40 clients, including Emmitt Smith, Ray Lewis, Curtis Martin and Rod Woodson. According to Woodson, players trust the deeply religious Parker because of his values.
CRAIG LITTLEPAGE, 51
Athletic Director, Virginia
Hanging on the wall opposite Little-page's desk is a lithograph depicting a person with an elongated arm stretching to dunk a basketball into a peach basket atop a pole. The painting, by former NFL offensive lineman Ernie Barnes, is titled High Aspirations, which aptly describes Littlepage's approach to life. Littlepage became the first African-American athletic director in Atlantic Coast Conference history in August 2001 and quickly established himself as a prominent and respected figure in college athletics. Most significantly, he was named in March 2002 to the NCAA's prestigious men's basketball committee, on which he will serve for five years.
At Virginia, Littlepage oversees a $32 million budget and has implemented an ambitious five-year plan to consolidate the department's fund-raising efforts and increase donations by $13 million, substantially higher than current levels. He has also created a lofty mission statement for the department, including graduating 100% of all student-athletes. (According to the latest NCAA figures, Virginia has graduated 44% of its men's basketball players and 88% of its football players over a six-year period.) "It would have been very easy to have moved forward while maintaining the status quo," Littlepage says. "But I want to do something extraordinary."
In a sense he already has. Littlepage was born and raised near Philadelphia in the predominantly black town of LaMott, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the abolition of slavery. He played basketball at Penn, and after serving as an assistant coach at three schools, he returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1982. After guiding the Quakers to the NCAA tournament in '85, he moved to Rutgers, where he went 23-63 in three seasons. In '88 he went to Virginia as an assistant coach and two years later became an assistant athletic director.
Just like the elongated figure in Barnes's painting, Littlepage has at times stretched himself thin. Before the Virginia-Florida State football game last August in Tallahassee, Littlepage, who had gotten little sleep in the previous 72 hours due to a hectic business travel schedule, collapsed outside Doak Campbell Stadium. In five minutes he regained consciousness, and doctors later determined that he had not suffered a heart attack or a stroke. The diagnosis? Fatigue and dehydration. "I had nothing wrong with me," he says, "except I was trying to do too much."
STU JACKSON, 47
Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, NBA
Call him the NBA's Dean of Discipline, though some lighter-in-the-wallet players and coaches surely have their own pet names for this former coach and G.M. He has significant influence within David Stern's cozy inner circle and chairs the league's competition committee, which recommends rule changes to the Board of Governors.
ALLEN IVERSON, 27
Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
Revered for staying true to his roots—and for playing bigger than his 6-foot frame—Iverson may have more street cred than any other professional athlete, and that translates into big bucks. The 2000-01 MVP, Iverson has a lifetime contract with Reebok, which produces a top-selling Answer 6 sneaker, worth more than $7 million a year.
MIKE GARRETT, 59
Athletic Director, USC
One of the most prominent minority ADs in Division I athletics, the 1965 Heisman Trophy winner oversees a department with a $34 million budget at the school where he ran for glory as a tailback. In 10 years at USC, Garrett has added 42 women's scholarships and boosted athletic fund-raising to record levels.