The NBA legend discusses the importance of faith and his new documentary, “They Call Me Magic.”
Posted in , May 3, 2022
Though the documentary is titled They Call Me Magic, that is not his name. He was born Earvin Johnson, Jr.
The new four-part documentary follows the story of Johnson’s life from his birth to working class parents in Lansing, Michigan, all the way to his stardom playing point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. They Call Me Magic gives audiences a look at both the NBA legend named Magic, and the man behind the title, named Earvin. The film features interviews with Johnson, as well as with his friends and family, and NBA coaches and players – including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Director Rick Famuyiwa masterfully takes us through major parts of Johnson’s life, including perfecting his legendary no-look passes, his MVP Awards, his HIV diagnosis, his charity and community work, and accepting his son EJ’s sexual orientation. In a recent interview, Johnson explained that his faith has kept him going through all the ups and downs.
“Faith is everything,” he said. “I always leaned on my faith. God has truly blessed me to come through challenges in my life, especially regarding HIV.”
In 1991, Johnson announced he was retiring from basketball due to being HIV positive. Since then, he has been very open about his condition and has become a prominent spokesperson for AIDS awareness. Through it all, Johnson has relied on his faith and his family.
“I thank Him every day for everything He has blessed me with,” he said. “He blessed me with the best wife a man could have in Cookie and our children and grandchildren.”
Another member of Johnson’s family that was vital to his faith was his mother. Christine Johnson is a mother of six and worked as a school janitor when her son was young. She instilled in all her children a deep sense of faith and community.
“She’s a woman of huge faith,” said Johnson. “She’s very involved in her church and she raised us the same way. We’re all involved in our different ways. She has influenced [me] to give back.”
Johnson has dedicated his life to charity organizing. He’s opened HIV/AIDS clinics, built empowerment centers in poor neighborhoods, helped young people pay for college and find jobs, and is helping to build infrastructure that supports marginalized communities.
“The pandemic hurt the Black and Brown communities here in America,” he said. “Many kids didn’t have access to the internet. We’re building a broadband so they can be connected and do their homework.”
Johnson is still very much in touch with his Lansing, Michigan, roots. He credits his teachers, counselors, coaches, friends and family members in Lansing for helping him achieve greatness. “Lansing shaped my whole life,” he said. “It really takes a village to raise somebody. And that village of Lansing, Michigan, helped raise me, shape me, and cheered for me.”
Check out the trailer for They Call Me Magic below. It is available to stream on Apple TV +.