The Los Angeles Lakers squad of the 80s was called Showtime for a good reason. The run-and-gun style — easily one of the most entertaining playstyles of the sport — dazzled Tinseltown off their seats. The fancy passes delivered by Magic Johnson were one thing. The titles that came along with it were the ones that made a permanent mark.
It wasn't just by accident that the 80s Lakers squad were seen as the most remarkable entertainers on earth. Then Lakers owner Jerry Buss' vision for the Purple and Gold was to "create a team with Hollywood flair." For his dream to come alive, he took the team's stars to parties and all sorts of engagements with the elite. Among all the Lakers' players, it was Magic Johnson who shined the brightest. He had the skills to show for which he did wonders on the hardcourt. But it was his inherent charisma and charm that prompted Buss to push him to the front seat of a Hollywood escapade of a lifetime.
Too many beautiful women
Whenever the young Magic experienced something new and delightful for the first time, he did what any other teenager would do: share it with his mom and girlfriend Cookie (now his wife). But one night, Buss took Magic to a place only meant for his personal memories.
Fresh off inking a five-year, $2.3 million deal with a $175,000 signing bonus, Buss took a 19-year-old Magic Johnson to the Playboy mansion. The book "When The Game Was Ours" by Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan narrated the legendary Lakers' guard experience.
"A week later, Buss took Magic to Friday night at the Playboy mansion. It was movie night, only Magic couldn't concentrate on the film because there were too many beautiful women to distract him. That prompted another series of phone calls back home to say, "Guess where I was?"—except this time he left his mom and Cookie off the call list."
Earvin, dance with these ladies
That night at the Playboy mansion was just one of many excursions. Magic would rub elbows with Prince, Sylvester Stallone, and Michael Douglas. Magic wasn't treated like any other 19-year-old kid. Celebrities said hi and sparked conversations with the gregarious young man.
"It blew me away," Magic admitted. "And what blew me away even more was, they knew me."
Buss and Magic shared several things in common: their love for basketball and penchant for chocolate donuts on Saturday mornings. As their relationship deepened, Buss got Magic into loving the nightlife — something that he knew nothing about growing up in Michigan. The nightlife entails lots of drinking and gambling. Magic did not necessarily engage in those two activities. However, there's another aspect of the club scene he couldn't get away with: the ladies.
"Night after night, he and Buss toured the town. Buss brought lots of women with him on their excursions, and he'd dance disco, the waltz, and the tango with them for hours. When he got tired, he'd turn to Johnson and say, 'Earvin, dance with these ladies.'"
Johnson has looked back on those heady nights with Buss in numerous interviews. He's comfortable narrating those experiences, noting that he treated those around him with the utmost respect. He has also pointed out that it was his choice to engage in such activities.
Perhaps there's a tinge of regret since Johnson had to walk away from the game due to those nightly junkets. But whatever the case may be, safe to say that Johnson has lived and is living a very blessed life. It could've turned sour for Johnson, as is the case for most who have gotten deep into the elite social scene. Props to Magic for navigating his way through tricky terrain. From a basketball prodigy, a cultural icon, a savvy businessman, an activist, and a role model. Magic has done it all.