This Story Involving Magic Johnson And A Young Fan Teaches A Valuable Lesson About Business – And Life

Magic Johnson
Randy Miramontez /

Zig Ziglar, one of the most quoted motivational speakers of all time, talked about kindness in business and life.

“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others exists in you.”

Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, an entrepreneur launching a new product, or an entry-level worker just starting, treat every single person the way you would want them to treat you.

Because you never know who a person is, what they’ll become, or in this case, when you might cross paths again.

No story better encapsulates these ideas than this tale from the new book – From Hang Time To Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA.

In the book, author Pete Croatto explores the NBA’s surge in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s and its transformation into a global cultural institution.

Early in the book, Croatto breaks down the merger of the NBA and ABA. He explains that the NBA was the more “stuffy” of the two leagues while the ABA brought the flash and sizzle to the court.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the most popular – and dominant – players at the time of the merger.

Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the greatest player in NBA history but possibly one of the most disliked, especially during his playing days and after retiring from the game in 1989.

Croatto explains in the book that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was having a bit of a PR problem.

To say Abdul-Jabbar was surly during his playing days is putting it nicely. The Hall of Famer is widely considered one of the biggest jerks ever to put on an NBA uniform.

Abdul-Jabbar’s public persona was remarkably different than his former Lakers teammate, Magic Johnson. When the pair met long after both had retired, the 7’2″ Hall of Famer sought Johnson’s advice about finding more success in business.

At that point, Johnson already owned several Starbucks franchises, movie theaters and would go on to have a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even though Abdul-Jabbar went to Johnson for business advice, the former president of the Los Angeles Lakers gave his former teammate life advice that translates over to business.

According to Croatto’s book, Johnson told Abdul-Jabbar he still cringes think back to how the center would treat teammates and fans during their time together. Johnson even shared a story with Abdul-Jabbar about how his standoffish nature led to future success for Johnson.

“Johnson then told Abdul-Jabbar a story from twenty years before, when Johnson was a young star, and Abdul-Jabbar was deep into his brilliant career.

A father and his seven-year-old son gingerly approached Kareen as the pregame shoot-around wrapped.

‘Kareem,’ the man asked, ‘can we please get a picture?’

‘No,’ said Kareem, who didn’t break stride. The boy was crushed.

Magic went up to the father and volunteered to take a photo. Hey, he joked, maybe I’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday too.

Years later, Johnson was meeting with a prospective client. Afterward, the CEO of the company Johnson had just pitched – and the father of that little boy – approached Johnson.

That kid was now 29, and the photo from that day still hung on his wall.”

Johnson landed the account. He told Abdul-Jabbar that it could have been him in that meeting.

Abdul-Jabbar has softened in his time since retiring, appearing in TV shows, working as a cultural ambassador, and serving on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Magic Johnson’s friendly demeanor led him to be one of the richest former NBA players ever, worth an estimated $600M.

[via From Hang Time To Prime Time]

Chris Illuminati

Chris Illuminati is the author of five books and has written about personal finance, wealth, debt management, and entrepreneurship for numerous outlets including Wise Bread, Grow or Die, and Bankrate.