Celebrity Retirement Scorecard: Magic Johnson

Who is making it? Who is not? We've concocted retirement scorecards for some showcase retirees in entertainment, politics and sports. See the full list here.

Magic JohnsonWinner: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr.
Former occupation/notable position held: Hall of Fame Guard, Los Angeles Lakers and member of 5 NBA championship teams
Activities during retirement: businessman; philanthropist; HIV/AIDS prevention advocate; NBA TV analyst
Retirement Report Card Grade: A

Magic Johnson's stat sheet goes well beyond his colossal assists, points and steals numbers. Along with longtime rival Larry Bird, Johnson's talent, charisma and statesmanship helped restore America's love for a game badly tarnished by a drug-addled, late-1970's dark period.

Johnson's many and major post-hardwood achievements – as broadcaster, as inner-city-minded businessman, as philanthropist -- easily earn him a retirement "A." His greatest feat may well be his role helping usher in today's understanding of HIV and AIDS.

It's a retirement story few may have foreseen in November 1991, when Johnson disclosed that he was HIV-positive and would immediately retire stunned the world. Although he attempted comebacks as a player, his retirement planning did begin in earnest with that announcement. He vowed to fight for his health as aggressively as he did for rebounds. And when he did return, it was not with the expectation to return to his former playing self, but to leave the court on his own terms.

"On his own terms" is indeed Johnson's retirement lesson. When he went into business, it wasn't the typical post-jock "name slap" on a car dealership. Rather, Johnson leveraged his already well-developed brand to bring modern movie theatres to inner cities where there were none.

Johnson shows us that in retirement -- as with any worthwhile pursuit -- you can't fear failure, rather, you should expect to adjust. When his late-night FOX talk show failed badly (and quickly), Johnson didn't disappear from the public eye for career rehab; he kept pushing forward. He diversified his Magic Johnson Foundation's philanthropy to reach beyond HIV and AIDS, and was the main speaker for the UN World AIDS Day Conference in 1999.

In retirement, as in his career, Johnson keeps moving the ball up court.


Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).

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