Presto! Magic’s purchase of the Dodgers puts him in exclusive owners club

Magic Johnson won the NCAA championship as a sophomore and the next season he won the NBA title as a rookie with the Lakers.

A group headed by former Lansing Everett High School and Michigan State University star Magic Johnson has won an auction for ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Details and formal ratification are pending, but the deal will get done.

So now the 29 other owners in Major League Baseball will have a new guy to look up to, in more ways than one. Magic has enjoyed tremendous success as a businessman since retiring from basketball, and his ownership of the Dodgers, once one of baseball’s grandest franchises, is something for all of his admirers to well … admire.

Magic is the latest former athlete to garner ownership of a professional club. But never before has a former player been primary owner of a team. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley both had small stakes in teams, as have former NHL players, but this is, to my knowledge, the first time a former player has been the principle owner of a major sports franchise. The fact that it’s the Dodgers – the storied team in the city where Magic made his name as a legend on the hardwood – is deliciously intriguing. Magic is still worshipped in the city where he won five NBA titles and turned a night at The Forum into “The Place to Be and Be Seen.” Kids out there who didn’t grow up watching Magic dish the ball — trust me, he was the greatest. He was so famous that an NBA expansion team was named after him!

I once found myself in an elevator with magic in New York just after 9/11, and all I could muster was a silly, “Hi Magic, I’m from Michigan too.” He grunted and I think he smiled, though I couldn’t be certain because that’s a long way too look up.

We all have a lot to look up to in Earvin Johnson. He’s an example of an athlete who understands that there’s a life after the cheering stops, that success can be found away from the arena. Ironic, since in the middle of his playing career he became as famous for having HIV as he was for his no-look passes. But Magic has forged ahead, a living example of the word “perseverance.”

I don’t know if Magic knows anything about the National Pastime. I don’t know if he’ll be involved day-to-day with the Dodgers. I certainly don’t know if the franchise can be turned around and restored to the glory it once had. But I do know that if anyone can do it, it’s Michigan’s Magic Johnson. A kid from the streets of Lansing who went to California in his early 20s and has never looked back. He’s turned almost everything he’s touched into gold, and there’s little reason to believe that he won’t make a success of the Dodgers again.

Magic will have to add another color to the rainbow of his wardrobe. He became Magic in green and white, he launched Showtime in purple and gold, and now he has a chance to cement his legend in America’s greatest sport in Dodger blue.

2 replies on “Presto! Magic’s purchase of the Dodgers puts him in exclusive owners club

  • Cecilia

    Dan, it used to be fairly common for former players to be involved in ownership once upon a time. The most famous, but by no means the only, former player to become a part-owner was Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack. His partner, Ben Shibe, was a businessman who knew that he needed a partner who was more familiar with baseball than he was. It worked, at least for a while.

    In more recent times, Mike Ilitch was a minor-leaguer for the Tigers before becoming a businessman. He can be considered a former player, and certainly is now an owner.

    As for Magic Johnson, he is far from the principal investor, in terms of money or in terms of percentage of ownership. I doubt that he was the most active in terms of recruiting others (with deeper pockets) into the ownership group. However, he had the personal magnetism to attract others to the group even if he did not do much to actively recruit them. That certainly was helpful in attracting other investors.

    There are two more hurdles which must be cleared, but they should be pretty easy. First, MLB owners must formally approve the new ownership team. They have already given their initial approval, so that should be no problem. Secondly, the bankruptcy court must approve the sale. That should happen as well.

    The big question is, with all the money being spent on buying the team, will there be enough money left to run the team? I sure hope so. The Angels have now become the number-one baseball team in Southern California, but there is room in that market for two teams, especially if they rarely appear against each other. I would love to see the Dodgers return to the status of an elite team.

    The N.L. West now has a Michigan State alumnus as the manager of one of its teams and another Michigan State alumnus as a part-owner of a different team. That is interesting.

    • Dan Holmes

      Always love your comments, Cecilia. So true about Mr. Mack, but I would point out that he was an exception rather than the rule. For the large part, owners were businessmen, not former players themselves. Mack was a pretty fair catcher in his day, by the way.

      I also thought about the MSU connection with the Dodgers and D-Backs. Now we just need to get Steve Garvey and Mike Marshall out there doing something for the Dodgers, Padres, or Giants!

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