'Homecoming' with Magic Johnson

December, 13, 2010
12/13/10
11:02
AM PT
It was an odd "Homecoming" (airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. ET on ABC) we shot with Magic Johnson on Michigan State's campus in East Lansing, Mich., if only because nobody called him Magic.

They called him Junebug (his mom), Buck (his Los Angeles Lakers teammates), Junior (his dad), E (his high school coach) and EJ the DJ (his wife, Cookie, who knew him as a very good DJ in college).

More than 4,000 people packed Jenison Fieldhouse -- including a rapt Michigan State coach, Tom Izzo, and most of his team -- for a night of laughs, tears and surprises. Among them:
  • His favorite jacket as a collegian was a chartreuse Superfly crushed-velvet number with a white fur collar that his sister remembered as "awful, awful, awful." You should've seen both their faces when we suddenly produced it.
  • Johnson revealed that he wants to buy not just an NFL team but an NBA team, too. "I've been contacted by all kinds of teams," Johnson said. "I will be an NBA owner."

He mentioned the Detroit Pistons as one potential team he could own. That would be convenient because Lansing is only 90 minutes away by car. But Johnson owned slightly less than 5 percent of the Los Angeles Lakers until October, when he sold his share of the team. What was wrong with that?

"I want to control a team," he said. "I'm a control freak."

But how could he afford both an NFL and NBA team?

"Because I'm going to use other people's money," he said, laughing.
  • The greatest basketball play he's witnessed isn't on video. It happened in the fourth epic, intrasquad scrimmage of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team behind locked doors before the Games began. Naturally, it starred Michael Jordan. Johnson's description of it is unforgettable.

By the way, all four of those scrimmages -- with the teams divided up into East and West teams -- ended in ties, according to Johnson.
  • Lakers forward Jamaal Wilkes learned early in Johnson's career that you can be open even when you don't know you're open.

In all, it was an amazingly open, honest and funny interview from an athlete who is among the most open, honest and funny I've covered.

But I still don't know what to call him.

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