Magic Johnson once met with LA gang leaders in his attempt to invigorate Black neighborhoods with new businesses

Magic Johnson
Magic JohnsonStephen Dunn /Allsport
  • After Magic Johnson retired from the NBA, one of his first moves was to open a movie theater in Los Angeles.

  • Magic wanted to build businesses in Black neighborhoods but knew it would be in the heart of gang warfare.

  • He convinced gang leaders that violence around the theater would hurt everybody.

The new docuseries about the life and career of Magic Johnson, "They Call Me Magic," is now streaming on Apple TV+ and Episode 4 centers on the basketball legend's life after the NBA.

In the 30 years since retiring, Johnson has become a successful businessperson, and one of his first moves was to negotiate with gang leaders in LA to drop their violence for the sake of the neighborhood.

After Johnson was diagnosed with HIV and initially retired from the NBA in 1991, he wasn't sure what to do next in his life. When the Rodney King riots broke out in Los Angeles in 1992, Magic says he was convinced to build his businesses in Black neighborhoods.

"When I think about Rodney King and the rioting, what I didn't like was that we tore up our own community," Johnson says in the series. "The Black community, we set our own businesses on fire, and that hurt South Central, Compton. That hurt so many communities."

Johnson noted that community leaders immediately started reaching out to him.

"That was the start of something for me that had to change," Johnson said. "I said, OK. I've got to build my businesses in urban America. If you don't make a difference in the Black community, that doesn't matter that you're winning all those championships."

Johnson's first project was to build a movie theater in South LA. But he also knew there was a big gang problem in that area that could derail the entire project.

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson has gone on to start many successful businesses.Steven A. Henry/Wireimage

"We knew what everybody was thinking; it's in the middle of the Bloods and the Crips," Johnson said. "One incident could destroy our business, and everybody was thinking it was going to happen. That's what really made me mad."

To prove the naysayers wrong, Magic scheduled a breakfast meeting with the leaders of both gangs. According to Johnson's business partner Ken Lombard, about 35 gang members showed up.

Here is how Magic recounts the meeting:

"I said, 'I am not here to disrespect either one of you. What I am here for is to say, this theater is going to help the entire Black community. I want you to come. I want your families to come. But you guys gotta agree that we can't have violence, outside or inside that theater. And I am creating jobs. So, if you guys got some guys who want to work, I will employ them."

Lombard noted that the gang members respected Johnson because they were Lakers fans and then added, "We were off to the races."

Read the original article on Insider