On May 16, 1980, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson stepped in for injured centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and scored 42 points, leading the Lakers to a four games-to-two series win over the Philadelphia 76ers for their first championship since 1972. Abdul-Jabbar dominated the first five games of the finals, averaging 31 points and 12 rebounds per game, and the Lakers went up 3-2 in the series. When he twisted an ankle in Game 5, even the Lakers front office assumed that the team would travel without their star centre to Philadelphia and lose Game 6, a fact made evident by the team’s decision not to take their celebratory champagne with them to Philly. No one expected that Magic, at 6 feet 9 inches, the tallest point guard in league history, would so easily make the transition to centre. Magic rang up 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the Lakers to victory and was named Most Valuable Player of the finals, the first of three such awards in his career. The Lakers went on to dominate the National Basketball Association, winning a total of five championships in the 1980s.
Johnson’s career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular-season assists four times, and is the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game. Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team – The Dream Team – which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. After leaving the NBA in 1992, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that travelled around the world playing exhibition games.
Johnson embodies the spirit of what we call the Minsthorpe Way and that is "Always Believe That You Can Achieve." Despite contracting HIV in the 1990s, Johnson remained active in the sport he loved and, today, he is a philanthropist, businessman and entrepreneur. He is a man who has refused to be set back by setbacks. He has never given up. "If somebody says no to you, or if you get cut, don’t give up. Michael Jordan was cut his first year, but he came back and he was the best ever. That is what you have to have. The attitude that I’m going to show everybody, I’m going to work hard to get better and better."
Johnson’s quotations and sayings about his disease, his work ethic and his advice for young people is inspirational. Failure is not to be feared – it is how we learn – and success is the result of hard work, not luck. Everyone knows that you get better at a sport by not giving up, practicing and trying harder: education is no different.