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How Magic Johnson missed out on $5.2 billion: "It kills me every single time I think about that"

Choosing Converse over Nike might be the biggest mistake of Magic Johnson's life
How Magic Johnson missed out on $5.2 billion from Nike

Magic Johnson on the Lakers' bench during the 1991-92 NBA season

Shoe companies were lining up to sign basketball sensation Magic Johnson. But the 6-9 point guard narrowed it down to Converse and Nike.

He went with the former, and to this day, that might be the biggest mistake Magic has ever made.

Magic missed out on $5.2 billion

With net worth of $620 million, which puts him at No.3 on the NBA's richest players list, Johnson usually has an eye for business opportunities. However, episode 6 of Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty proves the Hall of Famer hasn't always got the big calls right.

So when it was time to choose between money and stocks -- Converse offered him $100,000 per year, Nike offered him $1 for every pair of shoes sold and 100,000 shares in stock options starting at $0.18 -- Magic went with the familiar.

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Choosing instant benefits over potential, long term returns seemed like a no brainer at the time. But in hindsight, Magic paid for it. I mean, big time.

Magic still regrets not going with Nike

Nike, an up-and-coming shoe company at the time, had no option but to offer an alternative to a regular cash deal everyone else put on Magic's table. They were going to turn the Lakers star into their No.1 basketball brand ambassador, after already landing some significant marathon runners, and making a name for themseveles locally.

But Phil Knight wanted to go global, and Magic Johnson was the perfect persona to help Nike get there. However, instead of buying into an upstart company, the Lakers point guard went with the more established presence on the market.

The money he got from Converse was still unprecedented at the time -- Julius Erving's deal he had signed with the company four years earlier was only worth $20,000. But all of that was peanuts compared to the alternative Magic left on the table.

"Now, I’ve never heard of stock at 19-years-old," Magic said. "I had to take the money; I had to take the cash. Man, I would have been a trillionaire by now. If you think about 1979, getting that stock then, what it’s worth today? Yikes. It kills me every single time I think about that. Man, Michael Jordan would have been making me so much money.”

Magic still earned more than enough throughout his iconic NBA run. But the business mogul he is today, Johnson can't help but feel bad about getting this one wrong.

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