BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Earvin “Magic” Johnson was approached countless times by those who wanted to make a film documenting his life. The idea was to examine the story of the sports icon from his humble beginnings in Lansing, MI to becoming a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers to changing the conversation around HIV. Toss in community activist and successful entrepreneur and there was plenty of material.
The problem was that Johnson never felt like the timing was right. That changed when the ESPN documentary, “Last Dance,” was released. The success of that production was the clue Johnson needed to move ahead with his own story.
“They Call Me Magic” is a four-episode documentary that looks at Johnson’s life story. It will debut April 22 on the streaming service of Apple TV+.
“I think that this is an amazing journey that I’ve been on and we’re going to tell that story. And so I’m so excited that it’s going to happen now,” Johnson says. “So many things have happened in my life and I get to finally put it on film and really tell that story and do it on Apple TV, so I’m cool. I’m very happy. It’s a good time.”
“They Call Me Magic,” directed by Rick Famuyiwa, takes a look at the accomplishments and global impact of Johnson’s life, both on and off the court. It features never-before-seen footage and interviews with Johnson, his family, businessmen, politicians and those in Johnson’s inner circle.
Johnson promises that the documentary doesn’t only focus on the positive parts of his life. It balances the joy he felt when NBA champions with the pain he felt with the death of his boss, friend and mentor, Dr. Jerry Buss.
“Whether it was announcing HIV, whether that’s when I opened the movie theaters in the Black community. It was so many things that it brought back some incredible memories for me to do this documentary,” Johnson says. “I’m so proud of it. One thing I always love is the fact that I want to be proud of something. I want to be able to walk around and say, ‘Hey, this is so good. This is quality. It’s my story.’
“So it’s just all those things that I’m able to share with people. And I love going back, reliving some of those moments.”
The four episodes in the documentary include:
Chapter 1: All eyes are on a young basketball sensation dubbed “Magic,” the NBA’s 1979 first overall draft pick.
Chapter 2: After clinching the 1980 NBA Championship, Johnson’s popularity soars. But his personal life is turbulent and new NBA rivals emerge.
Chapter 3: Just as life is on the upswing, with marriage and a baby on the way, Johnson receives an earth-shattering diagnosis that he’s contracted HIV.
Chapter 4: Fresh off the Dream Team’s historic win, Johnson stages a comeback while evolving into a business powerhouse and nurturing a growing family.
The idea is to capture all the highs and lows of his career including one of the most memorable lows in “The Magic Hour.” Johnson was a magician on the basketball court but he never found the right touch to be a talk show host in 1998.
“It’s a part of my journey, ‘The Magic Hour,’ and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I was able to learn so much from failing,” Johnson says. “I think that I’m happy that ‘The Magic Hour’ is going to be in here.
“It would teach a lot of young people, a lot of just regular people, everyday people that, hey, you’re going to have challenges. You’re going to have things that happen that it’s not going to go your way. But you can pick yourself back up and try something else.”
Johnson will never attempt hosting another late-night talk show but will concentrate on what has worked the best for him since his basketball days ended. Johnson is chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), which provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements. He is known for his Starbucks partnership to serve as the catalyst for redevelopment in urban communities. And, he is the chairman and Founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation.
Whether he has found success or failure along the way, one thing has always remained the same. Johnson has approached every day with a positive attitude.
“I’m not a doubt-myself person. It’s not in my DNA. I meet challenges head-on. I’m not a get-down person on myself or allow my people who work for me to get down,” Johnson says. “It’s not what I’m all about.
“Even in negative situations, I try to find the good out of it and try to say, ‘Okay, hey, I failed.’ Just like we were talking about ‘The Magic Hour,’ it failed but there was some good that came out of that. That’s what I’ve always been about.”