The nickname ""Magic"" was bestowed on him in tenth grade, by a Lansing sportswriter; he was ""a little embarrassed,"" but...



The nickname ""Magic"" was bestowed on him in tenth grade, by a Lansing sportswriter; he was ""a little embarrassed,"" but he liked it. (""I'm glad of that,"" said his father, ""because you're the one who has to live with it."" His church-going mother disapproved--those were God-given talents.) At age 23, the Laker superstar doesn't have a lot of story to tell: chiefly, he wants it known that he didn't use his multi-million-dollar, lifetime contract to force owner Jerry Bass to fire coach Paul Westhead in 1981--and that it really hurt to be booed. (But he doesn't mind saying now that Westhead's ""overreliance on Kareem,"" along with his unapproachability, accounted for his own decision to seek a trade.) There are other stresses in Magic's account of his first three Laker seasons: adjusting his play to Norm Nixon's (and others'), the torn cartilage that kept him out of 35 games in '80-81. Plus, implicitly: the rivalry between outgoing, outspoken Magic and aloof Kareem. But he'd grown up a winner, and he loved winning those championships. He also thought of pro basketball, like Bass, as entertainment; and entertainers deserved to be paid. Intercut are the years of growing up in Lansing ""an exceptional black athlete"" and exceptionally steady-on. To support seven children, his father worked at two full-time jobs, and his mother held a job too. His father's passion for basketball ""became my passion,"" says Johnson, and ""hers is the original smile."" In junior high, already famous, he met up with Dr. Charles Tucker, ""a street-wise, gym-wise black"" who'd become a school psychologist. (When he has problems today, he burns up the phone to his dad and Tuck.) He tells why he chose hometown, no-basketball-rep Michigan State--and why he felt he had to turn pro after his second, very happy year. Without much punch in the telling, there's still more story here than you might suspect--along with cautionary advice to other talented kids and a good deal of play for fans.

Pub Date: April 25, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983