In case you missed it earlier today, Magic Johnson has taken over some role for the Los Angeles Lakers where he apparently now runs most aspects of the team and will certainly turn them into even more of a laughing-stock than they currently are.
But that’s not why we’re here. I’m here to tell you the story about the time I saw Magic Johnson at a Continental Basketball Association game in Muskegon, Michigan back when I was in high school.
For those who don’t know, back before the NBA D-League was the official minor league of the NBA, there were two leagues trying to compete for that title. The National Basketball Development League (Now the NBA D-League) and the CBA.
As you can guess, if you know anything about basketball, the CBA no longer exists, and the D-League is now rebranded and has more than 20 teams.
Well in 2004 Muskegon decided to get in on the minor league basketball act and got a team in the CBA, which was terrible and featured old players who were just hoping for one more crack at the NBA.
The team was a disaster.
They were bad, nobody went and they reportedly didn’t pay their bills to places around town for things like merchandise and marketing.
Well, in Year 2 the team hired a coach, whose name escapes me, who happened to be a very close friend of Magic’s. So close in fact that the team was sponsored by Magic’s shoe company and they wore his crappy shoes on the court during games.
One weekend, rumor started that Magic was coming to Muskegon to watch his friend coach this shitty CBA team. My friend Reid Arends had courtside seats from his dad’s company for the game, and since we were one of like four kids in town who occasionally went to games, we decided to go.
Word got out about Magic maybe showing up and a HUGE crowd of 1,200 (seriously, they were often lucky to get 500 fans in this 5,000 seat arena) were in attendance waiting to see if Magic would make an appearance.
The game was awful, and through the first quarter and a half or so, the most notable thing to happen was some guy playing the dizzy bat game, where you spin around a baseball bat for 30 seconds and then try to make a lay-up, who got so dizzy that he crashed into the advertisement boards in front of us.
Cut to the 2nd quarter and the team is down 30ish. And in walks Magic. The place goes WILD. Like, it’s mid-play and the fans give him a standing ovation as he walks out, surrounded by 8 guys in all black jumpsuits.
All of these, assumed, bodyguards were all HUGE and yet, Magic had 6-inches on each of them.
So Magic takes his courtside seat, opposite side of the court diagonally across from us, next to the Mayhem bench, and someone brings him a large stadium popcorn.You know the kind, it’s in a big yellow tub that says ‘POPCORN’ on the side and is about 8 to 10 inches tall.
I’ll never forget it, because again, the thing is taller than my entire hand and you and I probably hold it like a small child. He held it like you and I hold a little Dixie cup, and with room to spare. Literally made this large popcorn look like a child’s toy.
So fans naturally are yelling things like, “WE LOVE YOU MAGIC!” and trying to get pictures or autographs from him.
All the while the team starts to rally and comes all the way back from down 30.
In the dying seconds they’ve trimmed the lead to just two, and have the ball, bringing it up the court. They go up for a shot in the lane and get nailed, like, arm slammed down on by a guy going for the ball, and caught nothing but arm.
To this day the most blatant foul I’ve seen that late in a game…and no whistle. The fans go ballistic, the other team hit both free throws and they lost.
Then Magic left. That’s my story.