Shoemakers lined up to sign basketball sensation Magic Johnson. But the 6-9 point guard narrowed it down to Converse and Nike.
He went with the first one, and to this day, it might be the biggest mistake Magic has ever made.
Magic missed $5.2 billion
With a net worth of $620 million, which puts him third on the NBA’s richest players list, Johnson usually has an eye for business opportunities. However, Episode 6 of Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty proves that the Hall of Famers haven’t always made the big calls.
So when it came time to choose between cash and stocks – Converse offered him $100,000 a year, Nike offered him $1 for every pair of shoes sold and 100,000 shares in stock options from from $0.18 – Magic went with the familiar.
Scroll to continue
Choosing instant benefits over potential long-term returns seemed like a no-brainer at the time. But in hindsight, Magic paid for it. I mean, big time.
Magic still regrets not choosing Nike
Nike, a rising shoe company at the time, had no choice but to offer an alternative to a regular cash deal that everyone was putting on Magic’s table. They were going to make the Lakers star their No. 1 basketball brand ambassador, having already landed major marathon runners and made a name for themselves locally.
But Phil Knight wanted to go global and Magic Johnson was the perfect person to help Nike achieve that. However, instead of buying into an upstart company, the Lakers point guard opted for the more established presence in the market.
The money he got from Converse was still unprecedented at the time – Julius Erving’s deal he had signed with the company four years earlier was worth just $20,000. But all of that was nothing compared to the Magic alternative left on the table.
“Now I never heard of stock at 19”, Magic said. “I had to take the money, I had to take the money. Man, I would have been a billionaire by now. If you think about 1979 getting that stock then what’s it worth today? Yikes. It kills me every time I think about it Man, Michael Jordan would have made me so much money.
Magic still won more than enough throughout its iconic NBA run. But the business mogul he is today, Johnson can’t help but feel bad for being wrong.