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Magic Johnson: ‘Your Competition Can Make You Better’

There’s a reason why Earvin Johnson Jr. was nicknamed “Magic” in high school and still carries that name today.

During Magic Johnson’s keynote speech at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) conference held in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, he focused on how his success-driven mindset has landed him basketball championships, major real estate deals, and profitable partnerships around the world.

Born in Lansing, Michigan, Johnson grew up with nine brothers and sisters in a household of working parents. One moment he’ll never forget is watching his parents get the deed to their house and gain access to the American dream of homeownership. “That showed us that one day we could all own a home, too,” said Johnson as he reminisced on the impact his parents’ decisions had on his future aspirations.

(Photo Credit: J.D. Smith at ceounlimitedfirm.com)

Johnson has positioned himself as a trailblazer on and off the court, but his dreams started in the world of basketball. “Before I became a businessman, basketball supplied me with everything I needed to hopefully become a successful businessman,” said Johnson during his address. “All the championships I won made me realize that winning is what it was all about.”

Johnson won five NBA Championships and three NBA MVP awards during his career. In his keynote speech, he touched on important lessons that he learned from being on a team of other talented players. “Your competition can make you better,” says Johnson as he stops and stares at the crowd. “Larry Bird was so great that he made me better.”

The lessons Johnson learned on the court prepared him for a successful career in business, which is best seen through his monumental deal with Starbucks. He convinced Howard Shultz to add Starbucks to urban communities. He knew that individuals in underserved communities would be willing to pay $3 for coffee but not for scones. “You have to know what is really important to those you are serving,” says Johnson as he reflects on his success. “Know your customer and they will become your brand ambassador.”

He wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning ready to win. He needed this high-powered energy to convince institutional capital to invest money in urban America. “They turned me down four times. The fifth time they said they will come up with $50 million. I had to put up the rest of the capital.” Johnson bought a shopping center and transformed it from 40% occupancy to 100% occupancy. This was the beginning of many successful business transactions.  

Despite Johnson’s long list of accomplishments and profitable business endeavors, he shares with realtors what matters most in life.  “You can do well and do good at the same time,” he said. “We are not going to be remembered by how much money we make but how many lives we’ve changed.” His passion for youth advocacy continues to expand opportunities for individuals all over the world and provide access to valuable resources. “We’ve built 18 technology centers and funded scholarships through the Magic Johnson Foundation.