I may have grown up as a Larry Bird-loving Celtics fan, but in the last decade or so, Magic Johnson has become a personal hero of mine. He’s a brilliant business man, a wonderful ambassador for the Lakers and the NBA as a whole, and a courageous leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I was rewatching ESPN’s 10-part Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance just the other night with my father, and he asked me when Larry Legend would get his own documentary series. I told him that Bird would have to wait in line, as Magic would almost certainly be next up. Sure enough, two days later, Variety brings word that a new Magic Johnson feature documentary is in the works from XTR, H.wood Media, NSV and Delirio Films.
Now, I haven’t heard of any of those companies, so I’m a little surprised to read that they’ve been granted “unprecedented access” to the Lakers legend, but it’s always possible that a larger entity like ESPN could come aboard at a later time. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter who’s producing this thing, as Magic has lived an incredible life that is more than worthy of the documentary treatment. I think the only thing that surprises me is that this will be a feature, rather than a multi-part series, though I suppose it could be a long feature presented over two nights, like Marina Zenovich‘s Lance Armstrong documentary Lance.
The Magic documentary will include interviews with Johnson, his family, his NBA rivals, and his business colleagues who witnessed him grow his own nationwide chain of movie theaters before ultimately leading the group that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. On the court, Johnson guided the Lakers to five NBA championships, winning three MVP titles and an Olympic gold medal as a member of the 1992 Dream Team.
“In these unprecedented times we need films that celebrate heroes more than ever. As one of the most legendary, hardworking and resilient public figures of our time, Magic Johnson’s accomplishments both on and off the court are something worth spotlighting to the world and we’re excited to tell that story and work closely with him and NSV to take viewers inside his remarkable journey,” said XTR CEO Bryn Mooser said in a statement to Variety.
“Growing up, we viewed Magic Johnson not only as an NBA legend, but as a man who transcended the sport and became one of the most celebrated and accomplished businessmen of our lifetime. We are honored that we are able to assist in bringing to life the story of a man who has opened so many doors and inspired millions,” NSV partners Jordan Fudge and Jeremy Allen said in a joint statement. NSV is a media fund that supports diverse and innovative voices, and the company will finance the Magic documentary.
As excited as I am for this project, you can’t tell the story of Magic’s life without his incredible wife, Cookie Johnson. This may be a self-serving plug, but when Ron Howard and Brian Grazer launched their screenwriting incubator Imagine Impact, I submitted a project titled Cookie, that would’ve told Magic’s remarkable story through his wife’s eyes. They met as students at Michigan State, and she stood by her husband following his HIV diagnosis in 1991, when many assumed such news to be a death sentence. Magic and Cookie’s relationship is a testament to the power of love, and Cookie has set a shining example for serodiscordant relationships, in which one partner is HIV-positive, and the other is HIV-negative. I’ve never seen a movie deal with a straight relationship in which one partner has HIV, and I think it’s high time that Hollywood do its part to help destigmatize that disease. My pitch may have been rejected, but one “no” won’t stop me from advocating for that story, even if someone else has to tell it.
Here’s hoping that Cookie gets some significant screen time in this Magic documentary, because her life has been just as inspiring as her husband’s. If, for some reason, you still haven’t seen The Last Dance, then click here to check out the trailer, because it’s one of the best things ESPN has ever done.