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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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NBA Lakers legend Magic Johnson tells Spokane business crowd to boost the underserved: ‘How many people did you make good?’

Sept. 15, 2021 Updated Wed., Sept. 15, 2021 at 10:11 p.m.

Former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson speaks at the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit 2021 on Wednesday at the Davenport Grand Hotel.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson speaks at the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit 2021 on Wednesday at the Davenport Grand Hotel. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW) Buy this photo

With dazzling charisma, thundering voice and personal experience as a multi-business owner, NBA Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson addressed the Association of Washington Business in a dinner keynote conversation during the group’s 2021 Policy Summit on Wednesday.

Johnson is famous for playing 13 seasons with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in that time. But he now owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment business he created after playing in the NBA.

“My mission is always to make life better for minorities,” Johnson said, adding that he also tries to support businesses owned by women.

Through the enterprise, Johnson has ownership in business entities such as the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Equitrust, a life insurance company.

Kris Johnson, AWB’s president, said the group selected Johnson because members wanted to “find a speaker who has a long history of engagement in urban communities.”

“We wanted to find a speaker who really connected with diversity, equity and inclusion mission and proven credibility in that space,” he said. “We found that in Magic, (who has also) built the ecosystem in urban communities.”

KHQ anchor Sean Owsley facilitated the discussion with Magic Johnson as he looked back in his journey from “legend to legacy,” detailing his life experiences as a young child in Lansing, Michigan, to an all-time NBA superstar and life after the league. Johnson paired personality with business for a colorful, yet savvy, keynote discussion.

He picked out random people from the audience, using their names to set up past scenarios. He walked around to make eye contact with people deep into the crowd. He told stories about his father making him redo trash and snow hauls in Michigan, which built a sturdy work ethic that propelled him to NBA greatness and business success. Johnson made jokes about the Boston Celtics, and early visits to state of Washington while playing the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conference Finals in his rookie season.

As patrons finished their dinners of ratatouille and roasted chicken breast, Johnson reflected on his earlier business ventures like the movie theater investment in urban communities.

Johnson spoke of the uphill battle as a Black man, even with his fortune he built on hardwood floors. Banks turned Johnson down eight times before the ninth one decided to invest in his earlier ideas. But, even from the beginning, Johnson zeroed in on ethnic and diverse communities. He recalled moments in which his friends emphasized the power of customer service and community training.

Johnson sprinkled in moments of his own career and corporate wins, but the bulk of the discussion leaned on AWB’s main focus on creating opportunity and investments to communities that are typically underserved.

“When we think about legacy, we’re all good (in this room), but what about everybody outside of here?” Johnson said. “Part of your legacy is about how many other people did you make good?”

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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