South Carolina State University’s Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center was configured for a speaking engagement on Thursday, but NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson stepped out to what might normally be center court as he fielded questions from an audience of students, faculty and alumni.
One of Johnson’s favorite inquiries came from a member of the South Carolina State basketball team. Senior forward Luka Radovic wanted to know what Johnson picked up on during his time in athletics that he has been able to translate into success in business.
“Discipline,” said Johnson, who said he still gets up every morning at 4 a.m. for an hour of cardiovascular training followed by an hour of weightlifting. “I’m probably the most disciplined person in the world. If there’s something, you want, it comes down to discipline and focus.”
The two-time NBA Hall of Famer, three-time league MVP and five-time NBA champion focused mostly on his life as an entrepreneur in delivering a speech as as part of the S.C. State School of Business Exectuive Speaker Series. But there was more than a little basketball woven into the visit.
Post-speech, Johnson, who led Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA National Championship, told a throng of media that he would be headed to Syracuse, New York, with his father on Friday to watch the Spartans play in the Sweet 16.
When asked to size up the remainder of this year’s NCAA Tournament, Johnson said Kentucky is the clear favorite. He then quickly pivoted to the NCAA Women’s Tournament, where he will have his eye on the South Carolina Gamecocks because of some family ties to the school.
Johnson’s sister Evelyn starred at USC from 1979-83, scoring 1,620 career points to rank eighth in school history.
“Will they get to the Final 4? Oh yeah, I think they will,” Johnson said. “They’re well-coached, and they have a lot of talent. They’re deep. Sometimes their bench plays better than their starters. I expect to see them play UCONN again in the finals.”
Johnson, who was dubbed “Magic” by a reporter who watched him record a triple-double in a high school game, opened his address Thursday by recounting that particular incident. He went on to detail overcoming his size to play point guard in college.
“People told me there’s no way you can play point guard at 6-9,” Johnson said. “I like to prove people wrong.”