5 Minutes with Magic Johnson

April 18, 2012 – In addition to the 5 Minutes with Jalen Rose feature (which I wrote about on this blog a few weeks ago), there will also be a 5 Minutes with Magic Johnson interview in the May Issue of Yankees Magazine.

I interviewed Johnson at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway, where the show Magic/Bird is currently running.

The play details how the once contentious rivalry between Johnson and Larry Bird ultimately turned into a life-long bond.

In the interview, Johnson told me that he believes the scene that depicts his visit to Indiana to film a Converse commercial with Bird is the most compelling part of the show.

“Larry’s mother greeted me with a hug and told me how much she admired me,” Johnson said. “That was a wonderful moment in my life, and the way it’s portrayed in the play is very special.

“When we broke for lunch from shooting the commercial, I started walking from Larry’s outdoor basketball court to the trailer,” Johnson continued. “I assumed I would be eating with the crew in the trailer, but Larry invited me to eat lunch with him at his house. That showed me that I was welcome in his home, and when I met his mother, I learned that they had great family values and a lot of love for each other. It really gave me the opportunity to learn about Larry Bird the man, not just Larry Bird the basketball player. Larry also got a chance to learn about Earvin Johnson the man, not just Magic Johnson the basketball player. Before long, we were laughing like two little boys, and that’s what turned a contentious rivalry into a friendship.”

While the opportunity to interview Magic Johnson was unforgettable in its own right, the setting made it even more memorable.

In 1920, Harry Frazee, who owned the Boston Red Sox for seven years, sold the rights to Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000. A well-publicized myth in baseball lore states that Frazee made the sale in order to fund the play No, No Nanette, which was staged at the Longacre Theatre in 1925.

Whether the sale of Ruth was actually orchestrated so that Frazee could bring No, No Nanette to Broadway and whether that trade put an 86-year curse on the Yankees’ arch-rivals will continue to be debated for as long as baseball is played.

But regardless of whether those the sale of Ruth had anything to do with the funding of No, No Nanette, the two events will always be linked — making the Longacre Theatre a hidden baseball landmark.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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