NBA Rumor: Magic Johnson Documentary

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Magic Johnson, who says he has no interest in watching “Winning Time,” is baffled that neither HBO nor the show’s creative executives sought participation from him or his teammates. “First of all, you can’t do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers,” says Johnson, 62. “The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys. There’s no way to duplicate Showtime. I don’t care who you get.” Now Johnson is revved up. “So let’s go through it like this,” he says, leaning forward and scooting to the edge of his seat on a private hotel patio.

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Moments from Johnson’s glory days are interspersed throughout “They Call Me Magic.” Some of the archival material — such as the coin flip that gave the Lakers the first pick in the 1979 NBA draft (over the Chicago Bulls); they chose a 19-year-old college student from Lansing, Mich., named Earvin “Magic” Johnson — he’d never seen before. And he never would have had he not agreed to be interviewed for Michael Jordan’s docuseries “The Last Dance.”

In hindsight, Johnson wishes he hadn’t retired from the NBA in 1991 after announcing his diagnosis and being told by doctors that his new meds would hinder his athleticism. But he maintains that he made the right decision at the time, given the information available to him. “They didn’t know if my immune system could hold up,” he says. “And I had to take a look at my wife sitting here as they’re telling me. I want to be with her forever. So it wasn’t a hard choice. Because you have to remember: They didn’t know a lot. I had to go on that side of caution, and do what I had to do.”

Legendary basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who earned the moniker “Magic” for his superior talents as a high school baller, debuted the first episode of his Apple TV+ series “They Call Me Magic” Saturday at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The four-part project, directed by Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope,” “The Wood”) streams starting April 22. The series features famous fans like Snoop Dogg (who shows off his Lakers arm tattoo), Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Kimmel and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Filmmakers also talked to several athletes including Johnson’s Lakers teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – whom Johnson annoyed by playing Parliament-Funkadelic on a boom-box – Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

Johnson, 62, agrees, he told USA TODAY on the red carpet of Saturday’s premiere at Austin’s ZACH Theatre. “I never go backwards. I always go forward, so yes, it’s my purpose,” Johnson says. “And I’m glad I’ve been the face of HIV for now 30 years. (It’s) because of my wife’s support, and my parents support, and my kids that I’m still here 30 years later. I’m so blessed to have her as my wife and my partner, business partner and partner in crime.”

Magic Johnson docuseries headed to Apple TV+

A new documentary series about the life and career of Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson is headed to Apple TV+. Announced Thursday, the four-part docuseries chronicles the two-time NBA Hall of Famer’s accomplishments on and off the court. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope”), the series will trace Johnson’s upbringing in Lansing, Mich., through his championship career with the L.A. Lakers as well as his HIV/AIDS activism.

Produced by XTR and New Slate Ventures, the project, originally planned as a feature film, boasts never-before-seen footage and interviews with Johnson and others to “offer an unprecedented look at one of sport’s all-time greats,” according to the announcement. Editor Dirk Westervelt (“Ford v. Ferrari”) and cinematographer Rachel Morrison (“Black Panther”) have also been tapped for the series, which is produced in association with H.Wood Media and Delirio Films. A premiere date has not been announced.

Kevin Durant: "Magic Johnson was the first guy to be a national brand"

Kevin Durant had a discussion on his podcast about what Magic Johnson has done for the game. Durant believes that Johnson was the first major superstar with a brand. He also hailed Johnson for being able to let his brand transcend the NBA. KD noted that while Jordan followed Johnson in that vein, Magic’s impact was unbelievable. KD said, “They don’t realize, as far as having an individual brand in the NBA, a new league at the time, Magic was the first guy to be a national brand at the time, then MJ came after. That kind of started the trend with guys, and basketball being a global sport because of guys like Magic being a pioneer. He meant a lot to the game, I can’t wait to watch that doc… Especially after the Last Dance, I know a lot of docs will be competing with it.”

Basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be the subject of a new feature film documentary from XTR, H.wood Media, NSV and Delirio Films. The filmmakers say they have been granted “unprecedented access” to the Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, whose dominance on the court helped drive the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships. The film will also rely on archival footage of Johnson, as well as interviews with the superstar, his family, fellow NBA players and business leaders. Directors for the project are currently under consideration. The Johnson doc comes on the heels of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” a smash hit that followed the career of another basketball great, Michael Jordan. The show finished its run as the most-popular ESPN documentary in history.
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