But out of
attention to detail comes money. Magic met a fan of his on the beach in Hawaii
in 1986 and immediately turned her into a UNCF donor. She made a small
contribution. Magic followed up with notes and has sent her a birthday card
every year. In the return mail, the UNCF now gets an annual six-figure
contribution. "He's a fund-raiser's dream," says Bryson. "I deal
with the heads of Arco, Security Pacific and Lockheed, and Magic has all their
leadership qualities. He will make a very nice CEO someday."
Despite all this,
Magic is not always selfless, not entirely without vanity. A proposed
one-on-one with Michael Jordan on cable TV, eventually nixed by the NBA last
January, was only partly inspired by Magic's desire to throw $2 million or $3
million from the pay-per-view to charity; the two players would have made some
Sugar Ray Leonard money as well. And Magic may have wanted to prove he could
beat Jordan at his own game. "When we had it all but signed," remembers
Rosen, "I finally said, 'Look, do you really think you can beat this guy? I
mean, it's not too late [to back out].' " By then, Magic had developed some
strategies. He was certain of victory.
doesn't mind terribly if he's seen in public. Not long after M.C. Hammer called
him up onstage to dance behind him, Magic complained that Hammer didn't have to
bring him up quite so prominently. It was, well, embarrassing. Yet, Joe Smith
remembers seeing Magic at the following night's concert and hearing Magic say
he had been onstage the night before. Smith asked if Magic wanted to be on
again. "Well," said Magic, "I'll be right downstairs." Smith,
resigned, went backstage to see Hammer, one of his artists, and reported to
him, "Earvin wants to be on again."
But when it came
to the UNCF, Magic didn't want his picture on the cover of the game program.
Bryson had to insist on it. "People's motivations for doing good work,"
Bryson says, out of experience, "are sometimes suspect. People have all
kinds of needs and sometimes expect the charity to meet those needs. Bui Magic
has the most unselfish attitude I've ever seen. He is not interested in
Anybody who has
watched him play should not be surprised by that For Magic, it's just a matter
of passing to the open man. Why doesn't everybody do it? "I don't
understand when these guys are not involved,' he says of his fellow athletes,
"when they won't go speak or appear Somebody helped them once. I know
somebody helped me out."
All kinds of
people have helped Magic. In the fifth grade he and some friends complained to
their teacher Greta Dart, that there was no organized basketball program for
them. She conscripted her husband, Jim, who became their coach and, more
important, a second father to Magic. Dart, who has graduated from the
ginger-ale route to wine distribution—"It's classier," he says—doesn't
think of his involvement with the Hall of Famer-to-be in heroic terms. "It
was a good time for my wife and me," he says. "We were childless, and
having Earvin around...." Magic ^^dedicated his third MVP trophy to the
Ferguson and Eaton. Never mind that Ferguson, having made it big out of the
neighborhood, returned to pave the Lansing school basketball court in time for
Magic's blossoming (who knows on what tiny event greatness turns?). Ferguson
fired Magic's imagination with his own ambitions. "He'd come home, we'd go
in the office and close the door and play checkers," Ferguson says of
Magic. "But I have no doubt that osmosis was going on." Ferguson owns
16 blocks of downtown Lansing—he owns office buildings.
There was Erving.
At the end of Magic's sophomore year at Michigan State, when he was wondering
whether to come out for the draft, he called Erving out of the blue, seeking
advice. Erving, who might have kept it to a phone conversation, instead invited
the kid to Philadelphia. It was during the NBA playoffs, when the Doc might
have thought he had better things to do. When Magic speaks of Erving, it's
clear he doesn't admire Erving as much for the growth of his Coke business as
for his class.
There were Smith
and Ovitz, patrons of an aspiring mogul. Magic, who does not seem to have any
room in his house for mementos (you could find a can of Coke there easier than
a trophy), knows their value to others. He has given championship rings to
these two men.
And there's Buss,
in whom many of Magic's dreams are crystallized. Buss is self-made, flamboyant,
big business all the way. Owns the Lakers. Appears to have fun. As Buss spends
more and more time in San Diego, and as he continues to inquire into other
sports properties, it is increasingly likely that he will not be buried in gold
and purple after all. There is speculation, in fact, that Magic is his heir
apparent. Buss discounts that, saying only that he and Magic have talked in
vague terms about team ownership. But Magic, who has said he will play only
three more seasons (he is already hedging on this, thinking he could go more),
says, "If both of us get out at the same time, he'd like me to buy it. If
he doesn't have another franchise to buy, he won't get out. But if he does, I
know I would have a shot." Magic, in addition to telling Buss his
intentions, has informed NBA commissioner David Stern that someday he expects
to work in the league in a new capacity.