Transition Game: Magic Johnson

Updated: February 13, 2004, 6:05 PM ET
By Dr. Jack Ramsay | Special to

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Dr. Jack Ramsay's new book "Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Basketball." Ramsay interviewed many former NBA superstars who have used their athletic leadership capabilities to achieve success in the business world.

The Magic Touch: Earvin Johnson

Though his playing days are over, Magic Johnson remains committed to the sport that he loves. He is a vice president of the Lakers and serves as an analyst of NBA games for Turner Broadcasting. He enjoys his work with TNT thoroughly. "It's so much fun. We have a good group [Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Magic, and host Ernie Johnson]. It keeps me close to the game."

How to find Dr. Jack's book
You can get a copy of Dr. Jack Ramsay's book: "Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Basketball" at your neighborhood bookstore or online @
But his horizons have expanded far beyond the game as well, into the business world - transition he prepared for while he was still playing. "While the other guys were playing Nintendo games, I was reading the business section of newspapers and the Wall Street Journal. I was also able to meet people of influence because I was a player. I would invite 20 or 30 people who had great success in business, and pick up the tab for those meetings, to find out how they had become so successful. I humbled myself; I wasn't afraid to say 'I don't know.' It was a great learning experience - kind of like a course in Business 101."

Magic Johnson
APMagic's enthusiasm has made him a success both on and off the court.
He also learned a lot playing basketball that he carried over into his business ventures. "It takes the same commitment to excellence, the same hard work, and the same focus on preparation. You have to know whom you're dealing with - kind of like scouting the opposition in basketball. And you've got to be ready to change some aspects of your game plan to meet changing conditions. The same rules apply."

Magicwho was a great leader on the basketball court, setting the tone for how his team played, stopping the action when an offensive play wasn't carried out properly, and redirecting the action until the play was done rightapplies the same principles in his business practices: "A leader is a leader no matter what. In my company, I'm the one who initiates and solicits new business ideas, gets the plans in motion, represents us at meetings with prospective clients, and stays on top of what we're doing. My associates know that I'm up at 6:00 in the morning, that I get my workout before starting the business day, and stay at it until late in the evening when necessary. They see what I'm doing and know that I expect the same effort from them. That's what a leader does."

In 1993, Johnson formed the Johnson Development Corporation, whose stated business purpose is to foster local economic growth and financial empowerment in long-neglected minority urban and suburban neighborhoods. The corporation set out to accomplish those objectives by developing entertainment complexes, coffeehouses, restaurants, and retail centers in underdeveloped communities, thereby providing jobs within those communities and using local minority contractors and service vendors in the development processes.Johnson Development Corporation (JDC) comprises four entities: Magic Johnson Theatres/Loews's Cineplex Entertainment, Magic Johnson's T.G.I. Friday's/Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Inc., Urban Coffee Opportunities/Starbucks, and Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund.

Magic is the chairman and chief executive officer of the corporation, which establishes 5050 partnerships with the most successful businesses in their marketing categories. (He is ably assisted in these ventures by Kenneth Lombard, who is president of the corporation.) JDC's first business venture, in partnership with Paul Walter Properties, was a shopping plaza in West Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1983.

In 1994, Magic Johnson Theatres opened a 12-screen multiplex theater with Sony Entertainment at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, near Los Angeles. In 1997, the group partnered with Starbucks to open a store in Los Angeles, and in 1998 joined with Carlson Restaurants to open a T.G.I. Friday's in Atlanta, Georgia, then opened another store in Los Angeles in 2000.

In 2001, the corporation acquired the 47-store Fatburger Restaurant Chain, with plans to add another 100 stores over the next five years. In addition to the business ventures of JDC, Johnson also heads up Magic Johnson Entertainment, Magic Johnson Productions, and Magic Johnson Music. But it's not all about making money. The Magic Johnson Foundation, a separate, nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the health, education, and social needs of inner-city youth, and to supporting related charitable organizations.

Dr. Jack Ramsay coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Legendary coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay served as lead game analyst for The NBA on ESPN Radio. He also contributed to and ESPN The Mag.