Magic Johnson buys WNBA's LA Sparks

Magic Johnson buys WNBA's LA Sparks
NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson may very well save a second LA franchise in the Sparks

After all, his name is "Magic."

And he's been here before.....his charismatic smile and "Showtime" antics revived the NBA more than 30 years ago.

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, according to WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. The investment group includes Dodger co-owners Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten. Richie was joined by Johnson at the press event at STAPLES Center.

The franchise will remain in Los Angeles and play at Staples Center. The WNBA’s 2014 game and television schedule will also 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.”

“This is a great day for the city of Los Angeles and the Sparks,” said Johnson. “The leaders of this great city came together quickly to keep this franchise right where it belongs—in the city of Angels. Thanks to my sister, Evelyn, playing college basketball, I have a great appreciation of the talented players that represent the WNBA. Our group will now work together to bring our loyal fans another WNBA championship. ”

“Earvin came to me and said we need to help save the Sparks and keep them in Los Angeles,” Walter said. The decision was quite easy for our investment group due to the passion Magic has for this city, these great athletes and our phenomenal fans. This team and its great players should remain a part of the sports fabric of this wonderful city.”

One of the league’s original eight teams, Los Angeles won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002, and is the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons. Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Finals in three of the past six seasons, most recently in 2012. A trio of WNBA All-Stars – forward/center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, and guard Kristi Toliver – headline a talented roster. The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker also earned the honor during her rookie season in 2008. Ogwumike took home the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2012, the same year Toliver earned the WNBA Most Improved Player award.

"I love to win. I hate to lose. And I am raring to go," Johnson said to WNBA.com. "This town is about championships, we all know that. L.A. is about winners. And we are very excited about the players and coaching staff and front office staff here. We will build on last season -- we didn't go as far as we wanted to go -- but we can build on that."

Johnson said that, in reigning MVP Candace Parker, he has just the Leading Lady to lead the Sparks in 2014 and beyond.

Reigning WNBA MVP and Naperville native Candace Parker, with trophy in hand

Reigning WNBA MVP and Naperville native Candace Parker, with trophy in hand

"We have a good starting point with having the best women basketball player in the world in Candace Parker," said Johnson before elaborating on the 2013 WNBA MVP. "Physically, Candace has it all. She can go inside. She can go outside. She can shoot it. She can pass it. She can dribble it -- with both hands. But her knowledge of the game, her Basketball I.Q. is off the charts. Candace knows the right basketball play to make and when to make it. That ability and her ability to make her teammates better -- which is the true sign of a champion -- that is what sets Candace apart."

A longtime supporter of the WNBA, Johnson was almost giddy when discussing his personal history with the Sparks and the opportunity to lead the franchise to new glory.

"I've been a fan since the first game, I was in the arena cheering on the Sparks in their first ever game. My wife, Cookie, and I have been going to games since the beginning," Johnson reminisced. "And I think the brand here, with this franchise -- which started with Lisa Leslie and my boy Coach [Michael] Cooper who led the Sparks to championships -- is strong, and our fan base is strong and we can grow even stronger."

Chief among Johnson's goals for the Sparks is to implement a few things he's learned over time, dating back to his days with the Showtime Lakers and his current experiences with the resurgent L.A. Dodgers.

"I remember with Dr. Buss, he made Lakers games THE place to be in L.A.," said Johnson. "The fan experience of an exciting brand of basketball and winning basketball games -- and championships -- was what it was all about. And with the Dodgers, our group has taken a team that was middle of the pack in attendance and excitement, and is now among the league leaders. We will work hard to improve the fan experience for our Sparks fans, who deserve it because they are the best basketball fans in the league."

Magic was a regular at LA Sparks games before becoming the team's owner

Magic was a regular at LA Sparks games before becoming the team's owner

Following his playing career – during which he amassed a national championship at Michigan State (1979), five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), and earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award three times – Johnson began a meteoric rise through the business world.   As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE).  whose multiple business entities and partnerships provide products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements, Johnson also serves as part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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