Even if Dwight Howard had chosen Hollywood over Houston, and even if Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tendon had proven as indestructible as his confidence, the Lakers still would have endured a substantial loss in 2013.
Because while the NBA was on its summer break, “Showtime” moved out of the Lakers’ home at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and rented a room about three miles northeast at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have fielded great baseball teams before, but they’ve never put on a show like the one we’ve seen this season. Cy Young Award front-runner Clayton Kershaw, hitting machine Adrian Gonzalez and rookie phenom Yasiel Puig have led L.A. to its first NL West crown and first MLB playoff appearance since 2009.
At the same time, Dodger Stadium has become the newest hot spot for SoCal’s A-List to be seen. David Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, The Game and George Lopez are among the celebrities who have been spotted in the crowd at baseball’s most star-studded ballpark, all of them sharing the stage with the new corporate face of the Dodgers: Magic Johnson.
Yes, basketball’s greatest point guard has become baseball’s most high-profile owner since George Steinbrenner was running the Yankees.
The five-time NBA champion and three-time MVP is part of the investment group that purchased the Dodgers for a reported $2 billion last year, and Magic’s new team is enjoying success almost as quickly as his first pro team did upon his arrival. Magic won a title in his rookie year with the Lakers. In just his second season with the Dodgers, his team is considered one of the favorites to win the World Series.
The Dodgers are the latest notch in the ever-growing win column of Magic Johnson’s business portfolio – the one that famously includes over 100 Starbucks franchises and a handful of movie theaters – headlined by Magic Johnson Enterprises and its reported $700 million net worth.
While there will always be a debate over Magic’s place in basketball history as a player (top three? top five? top 10?), this much cannot be disputed: Magic is the gold standard of what an athlete can accomplish after his or her playing days are done.
And yet, the man with the Midas touch wasn’t an immediate success. When Magic retired from the NBA, he did all the things you’d expect a retired NBA player to do. He tried to coach. He tried the TV thing. He tried to come back as a player. He made some questionable calls (“The Magic Hour”), endured some failures (Magic 32, a sporting-goods venture that closed in its first year) and embarked on some projects (e.g. studio analyst) that would take him years to master.
Success in business wasn’t easy for the man who made everything look easy on the basketball court. But just as Magic had spent time developing his on-court skills, he worked and worked until he was a star in business as well.