Speaking at halftime of the Lakers’ season opener Thursday night at Staples Center, Magic Johnson reacted to the Dodgers’ 11-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs that secured their first World Series appearance since 1988:
“Oh, I’m so excited. This is a great moment for, first of all, the players, because Dave [Roberts] has done a wonderful job of managing our team, but also the players all stepped up. So I’m just happy for all the players, all the Dodger fans across the world.
“Then for my partners, the ownership team, too — it’s a true blessing to us as well. So this is a moment I will never forget. I was torn, because I wanted to be here for Lonzo Ball’s first game, and I’m glad I’m here. But my heart was already in Chicago, and I just talked to Mark Walters and congratulated him on the phone. So this is a great moment for all of Los Angeles, all Dodgers fans everywhere.
“I’m so glad that Clayton Kershaw can finally pitch in the World Series. He deserves this moment. All of our players [do], but I want to really thank him because he’s been a great leader for our team, and the pitching has been amazing. The relievers led by Kenley Jansen have been amazing, and … of course, hitting and the defense have been great.”
What about Enrique Hernandez tonight?
“He was amazing. I mean, to hit a home run and a grand slam, it was amazing, but that’s how we’ve been winning. We’ve been getting it from different players every single night, and tonight [he] stepped up and delivered for us in a critical game. And also Clayton pitched well, too. So give him credit as well. But everybody’s just played outstanding [in] a tough series and in the Arizona series as well.”
What does it mean to you?
“It means a lot, a little kid from Lansing, Mich., growing up cheering for the Detroit Tigers and all that — now, I’m in the World Series. Never even thought I’d own a baseball team, let alone be in the World Series….
“When we all came together, our goal was to get us back to the World Series, and people didn’t understand why we spent the money we spent. It’s because we wanted to be in the World Series and we wanted to deliver this to the Dodger fans. And so we’re there, and now we get to celebrate for one night and then get ready. So I hope that we continue to play well.”
Would you prefer to play New York or Houston?
“No, I’m glad to be there, and the best team will end up winning. And that’s who we’ll be playing on Tuesday, here in Los Angeles.”
Ever stop being nervous before the final out?
“No, no, no. I know in this game, in any sport, it can change real quick, so right when Kenley got that last out, then I was excited and cheering and screaming and kissed my wife, Cookie.
“We were like, ‘We’re going to the World Series!’ and Mark called and I talked to him, and I could hear all the celebration going on in the background. It’s been a tremendous evening, and I hope my Lakers get it together to make it a little better. But that’s how it goes.”
What would this mean for the city of Los Angeles to win a World Series?
“Oh, it would mean a lot because when you think about the two teams that really embedded in Los Angeles, it’s the Dodgers and the Lakers. We’ve been down in terms of the Lakers for some years here. We’re trying to move up.
“The Dodgers have been in the playoffs. We just haven’t reached this point. We’re here, so the town is going crazy and the players are excited, and so again, we just gotta celebrate and get ready for Tuesday.
“What did I say? This is our year. A lot of people didn’t want me to say that. I thought that Chicago series taught us a lot last season. I think when we got [Yu] Darvish and Chris Taylor performing the way he was performing as our leadoff hitter, I thought this would be our year, and so far everything is lining up.
“Dave has done an unbelievable job of managing the team. He’s pushing all the right buttons. [Yasiel] Puig, he got better. Top to bottom we’re just a better team, and every guy has accepted his role. It’s been really amazing. Then the relievers, man. It’s been amazing watching those guys come into the game and shut the Cubs down. But they did it also in the Arizona series as well. So this is a moment that I’ll never forget. I just can’t wait till Tuesday.”
What’s it like ushering in this era of Lakers basketball while also being part of the Dodgers being back in the World Series?
“I know, this is crazy, right? All day I was sweating because of Lonzo Ball, and I’m sweating because of the Dodgers too. Right now my shirt, I’m just drenched. I was waiting for this moment for Lonzo and the Lakers — this is really our first full season. And then also, I’m cheering for the Dodgers at the same time.
“I couldn’t even tell you how my emotions — it’s been crazy, it’s still crazy. I’m sweating because we’re not playing as sharp as I would like us to play. I’m happy because I’m in the World Series, and I’m going back and forth: ‘Dammit rebound!’ Uh, ‘I’m happy I’m in the World Series!’ ‘Who’s got him!?’ ‘I’m in the World Series!’
“You’re going back and forth. It’s crazy. What a night, what a night! I’m gonna celebrate regardless, but I’m just hoping in the second half we play a lot better.”