That game, in fact, started what I've always called The Laker Show. It sparked us to become the team of the '80s. We led the series three games to two, but we were underdogs that night because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, our best player, was back home in Los Angeles with a sprained ankle. We all thought we were going to have to return to Los Angeles for Game 7. We just wanted to give our best in Philadelphia and survive without any more injuries. Still, I wanted everyone to know that we were going to be all right no matter what happened, so during the team's flight east, I sat in 1C, the seat that was usually reserved for Kareem.
By the time the game started, we had no pressure on us at all. I was even trying to keep from laughing out loud as I walked onto the court and took my place in the center of the circle against Caldwell Jones. Here I was, a snot-nosed, no-jumping 20-year-old kid, playing center. Most people remember my 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals that night, and the fact that I played every position on the floor at some point during the game. But what I remember is that every one of my teammates raised his own game to another level. Jamaal Wilkes scored 37 points, his career high. Brad Holland hit three key baskets down the stretch. Michael Cooper's head once hit the floor so hard, it sounded like an explosion. But he got up and played a big role in our victory.
I've probably watched the tape of that game a thousand times. It's almost always in one or another of the VCRs in my house. Whenever I'm down, I watch that game. In the last few days I've watched it more than once.
I'm not sad about my retirement, because from the day I was drafted, in June 1979, I started preparing myself to be able to walk off the court and move directly behind a desk. I always knew that my basketball career could end in an instant. I might blow out a knee or snap an Achilles tendon and be out of the game in the wink of an eye. So I studied the business opportunities offered by my game almost as much as I did the game itself. I wanted to make sure that the day after my departure from pro basketball, whether it was planned or forced, I was going to be busy. I didn't want to wake up that day and say, "What am I going to do?"
In terms of my business interests, I'll spend more time in Washington, D.C., where I am part-owner of a Pepsi distributorship, and I'll continue to manufacture T-shirts and other sporting goods through Magic Johnson T's. I'll also start pursuing my goal of owning an NBA team, preferably in my adopted hometown of Los Angeles.
Since I went public about my infection, the business community has been very supportive. Lon told me that he was faxed messages by corporations—Pepsi, Nestle, KFC, Converse, Nintendo, Spalding and so on—reassuring him about my endorsements, and a couple of companies even offered to make public-service announcements about HIV. He said nobody's backing away from mc. I've heard people say that might change in the future, but it sure hasn't happened so far.
Certainly I'll miss the game. I'll miss the competition, the locker rooms, the sweat, the fellas. I'll even miss the travel and the little injuries that seemed to become big injuries as I got older. But what I'll miss most is something that might seem trivial to most people: the uniform.
That sounds silly, I know. But it was always the uniform that made me feel special—in high school, college and the pros. That's why I never sat on the bench in street clothes for games in which I couldn't play because of an injury. When I walked into the locker room on my first day as a Laker and saw my gold uniform hanging there, I cried. Off the floor I've always been Earvin. But in uniform I was Magic.
Not that I won't ever wear a uniform again. Next September I'll host my seventh-annual A Mid-Summer Night's Magic, a charity event to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. If I'm feeling as well as I do now and my doctors give me the green light, I'll play.
But I might not have to wait that long. Don't count me out for the '92 Olympics in July. If I'm healthy, I might very well be on the floor for the opening tap in Barcelona. I agreed to play in the Olympics because I wanted to be there for my country, something I'd never been able to do before. I wanted to play on the same team as Michael and Larry, something that would give me the kind of high that...man! I get goose bumps just thinking about what it would be like to be on the floor with those guys.