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Magic ‘3-peats’ $1-Million Benefit

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Magic Johnson finally got his “three-peat.”

In 1989, Johnson and the Lakers missed winning the NBA championship three consecutive times. But last weekend, for the third year in a row, Johnson’s annual fund-raiser for the United Negro College Fund netted more than $1 million.

This was the sixth time the Laker star has hosted “A Midsummer Night’s Magic,” which combined a black-tie dinner for 1,600 Saturday at the Century Plaza with an all-star basketball game Sunday at the Forum.

“I can’t believe this now,” says Vincent Bryson of the college fund’s Los Angeles chapter, “but when we started, I tried to talk Magic out of having the dinner. I said we’d never be able to sell the tickets. He insisted. Now, it and the game are our most successful ongoing fund-raiser"--so important that they bring in 2% of the fund’s annual budget.

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Magic’s secret of financial success is a twist on the United Negro College Fund’s slogan that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste"--he wastes no opportunity to raise money. The fund raising began at 5 p.m. with a silent auction. A live auction was held during dinner, T-shirts and sweat shirts were for sale in the lobby throughout the evening, and the dinner was heavily underwritten by corporate sponsors.

“I think we know how to do this so people enjoy themselves,” Johnson says. “You don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, no. Not another dinner.’ You want to keep it upbeat, to keep things moving.”

Emcee Jim Hill kept the evening moving along, through speeches by fund vice-chairman Dr. Oswald P. Bronson; president-elect Rep. William H. Gray, who is giving up his House seat for the college fund job because it’s “just as impactful, just as important to America,” and Wilberforce University student Hardy Brown. Lakers owner Jerry Buss was presented with the Dr. Frederick D. Patterson award.

Johnson spent the evening seated with film director Spike Lee, himself a graduate of a United Negro College Fund school. At nearby tables were some of the NBA stars who were to play in Sunday’s game, including Kurt Rambis, Spud Webb, Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Johnson, Herb Williams, Michael Adams, Ron Harper and Tim Hardaway.

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