Living on a Paltry $2.5 Million Takes Magic

Dealing with issues in order of importance, we find it uppermost today to negotiate a contract for Earvin Johnson, known on Broadway as Magic.

It is a non sequitur, but Earvin acquired the name Magic, by which he would be identified hemispherically, from a sportswriter.

A dispenser of sports prose also labeled a Notre Dame backfield the Four Horsemen. Another called Red Grange the Galloping Ghost, and still another fastened the handle, the Yankee Clipper, on Joe DiMaggio.

Folks, we are talking creativity worthy of riches. And each time Johnson makes a score, cashing in on Magic, the guy who tagged him should bag a royalty, as Irving Berlin did each time someone played “White Christmas.”


Getting back to Earvin’s pay, he last was reported earning $2.5 million a year, an embarrassment, he felt, for one of his station. Earvin is the NBA’s most valuable player. And living costs are escalating.

Looking at recent contracts awarded Will Clark and Don Mattingly and Rickey Henderson and Patrick Ewing and Jim Kelly, Johnson asks the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dr. Jerry Buss: “Doctor, am I some kind of schnook? Do you see dust on my shoes? Brown socks with a blue suit?”

“You are a mountain of suavity and sophistication,” Buss answers. “When you cross a hotel lobby, you leave in your wake a swath of respectful attention. People whisper that here for a certainty is an American of formidable means, a scion, possibly, of the Rockefellers. Or even a distant kin to Donald Trump. In any language, this is a fat cat.”

“Then why am I working for only two-and-a-half million?” Johnson asks.

“It has something to do with a cap,” he is told.

“A cap is related to why I want the money,” explains Magic. “I am looking for a place at Cap Ferrat.”

“No, the cap is the ceiling placed on each team’s salary structure,” answers Buss. “When that ceiling is raised for the Lakers, your pay will be raised correspondingly.”

“It isn’t going to look very good if Jose Canseco gets a $5-million contract ahead of me,” says Johnson. “He is hinting to Oakland that five million is about what it will take.”

“I thought that figure was what Joe Montana wants from the 49ers,” replies Buss. “If Joe wants less, I’m not sure the DeBartolos will let him take it. They have an image to think about, too.”

In connection with pay, your impeccable judgment is now solicited on whether Johnson, Canseco and Montana deserve $5 million if Arie Luyendyk gets only $1 million for winning at Indianapolis.

“Hey,” you are told, “Johnson, Canseco and Montana work a whole season for their loot. Luyendyk gets it in only one day.”

“So Luyendyk is stealing his money,” you answer. “All he has to do is sit in that car for maybe three hours. He has to drive 500 miles at an average speed of 185.981 m.p.h. He has to hope that none of the 32 other cars run into him and vice versa. He also has to hope a wall doesn’t run into him, and, if one does, that the guy driving with the flame extinguisher has good aim.”

“Is that all?” you are asked.

“No, he has to worry that his tires aren’t going to blister. Tires that blister when one is traveling 200 miles an hour tend to create anxiety on the part of the individual driving the car.”

In a just society, it would happen that if Johnson, Canseco and Montana earn $5 million for a season, Luyendyk would get $6 million for one day at Indianapolis.

Arie’s sponsor is a purveyor of pizza whose business is linked to speed. He promises that if you don’t get your pizza in 30 minutes, you get it for nothing.

In cases that figure to be close, the delivery is assigned to Arie, who makes the run in a Lola-Chevy.

The record shows that delivering pizza can be even more dangerous than driving in the 500. No one at Indianapolis has a gun.

Have you ever seen a car at Indy bear the sign, “Driver carries only $5 in change.”?

You can see what Luyendyk has to do to keep his sponsor, strengthening the argument here that compared to him, Magic, Jose and Joe are getting away with larceny.