The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark R. Walter.
Magic Johnson is a beloved figure in Los Angeles and he stepped up big time for the Sparks – just in the nick of time. With his trademark smile, Magic stood beside WNBA President Laurel Richie to make the well-received announcement that he and his business partners were helping to keep the team where it belonged – in the City of Angels.
Everyone knows Magic for his five championship seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he transcended star athlete status when he moved from being just another great basketball player to a symbol of this great city. It was off the court, that his true talent emerged and he has spent the better part of a decade working tirelessly to revitalize neighborhoods and employ minorities.
Magic’s work ethic may come from sports but he is driven by his desire to make a difference. His first project post-Lakers was to open a movie theatre in one of the most violent, crime-ridden neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He employed locals to build and run the theatre, including former gang members, and that theatre has since provided an immense sense of pride for South Central LA (not to mention it has been a financial success).
The legendary Magic will also do whatever it takes to keep LA sports in the spotlight. After previous MLB owner Frank McCourt nearly disseminated the city’s beloved Dodgers, Magic partnered with an investment group to buy the beleagured baseball team (for a record $2.15 billion dollars!) Last year the Dodgers had one of their best seasons in recent memory.
The Sparks, one of the original eight WNBA franchises, had been in limbo since Christmas when the previous owner, Paula Madison, abruptly told the league that her company could no longer afford to operate the team. After Madison’s announcement, the Golden State Warriors expressed interested in buying the Sparks and moving them to the Bay Area, which has a strong women’s basketball fan base because of the success of Stanford and Cal’s women’s programs.
But nobody really wanted the Sparks to relocate and Magic’s move means that the Sparks will continue to exist, which is good news for the WNBA and Angelenos. Losing one of the league’s most recognizable teams — one associated with stars such as Lisa Leslie — could have struck a major blow.
With Magic’s passion for the city and the sport of basketball, the franchise will remain in Los Angeles and play at STAPLES Center. The WNBA’s 2014 game and television schedule is expected to be announced this week.
“We are thrilled to welcome Magic Johnson and Mark Walter to the WNBA,” said Richie. “With their proven track record in the business realm, their commitment to the city of Los Angeles through civic engagement, and their passion for the game of basketball, we look forward to partnering with our new owners to usher in a new era for this iconic team. This is a great day for Los Angeles, the Sparks franchise, its players, and of course, the loyal fans who have been so supportive of the team for 17 seasons.”
Thank you Magic. Thank you. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Sparks fans this season.
WNBA President Laurel Richie’s letter to fans