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‘They Name Me Magic’ celebrates Magic Johnson’s life on and off the courtroom

CNN  — 

It’s a testomony to Magic Johnson, the person, that basketball solely accounts for about half of “They Name Me Magic,” a four-part Apple TV+ docuseries dedicated to his life, together with the wealthy chapters that adopted his NBA stardom. Consider it as a extra satisfying companion to HBO’s “Successful Time,” or extra targeted different to ESPN’s complete Bulls chronicle “The Final Dance.”

For basketball followers, these first two elements are actually a heady dive into Earvin Johnson Jr.’s dazzling expertise and incandescent persona, which earned him his nickname at an early age, with journalist Michael Wilbon drawing a distinction between Earvin, the man, and Magic, “a personality that performed basketball.”

Johnson’s high-school heroics, nationwide championship at Michigan State and NBA title as a rookie are all nicely documented, which could clarify why director Rick Famuyiwa provides them their due however doesn’t essentially dwell on them. In his intensive interviews, Johnson admits to having been indignant when Larry Hen received rookie of the yr, whereas fellow Lakers recall their skepticism over Johnson’s closeness to Lakers proprietor Jerry Buss.

“We had been all questioning if Earvin was a participant or administration,” teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar notes, after marveling that Johnson’s no-look passes “made it appear to be he was clairvoyant.”

Because the documentary notes, Johnson’s golden aura was examined at instances, from his failures towards the Boston Celtics incomes him the undesirable nickname “Tragic” to boos raining down on him after he was stamped with having triggered the firing of then-Lakers coach Paul Westhead.

Nonetheless, the true coronary heart of “They Name Me Magic” comes within the third and fourth hours, the primary extensively documenting Johnson’s HIV prognosis, catapulting viewers again not solely to how devastating that second felt however Johnson’s function in shifting the way in which that AIDS was perceived.

“All of us thought it was a dying sentence,” coach Pat Riley says, whereas James Worthy remembers as he and his Laker teammates heard the information, “We simply sat there, numb.”

Magic Johnson and his father Earvin Johnson in "They Call Me Magic."

The ultimate portion covers Johnson’s success as a businessman, championing growth and funding in Black neighborhoods; and his life as a husband and father, in addition to different detours, like his ill-advised latenight internet hosting stint “The Magic Hour,” which Jimmy Kimmel calls “one of many worst tv reveals in historical past.”

“They Name Me Magic” by no means ventures too removed from basketball, together with Johnson’s expertise with “The Dream Crew” throughout the Olympics and his occasional comeback makes an attempt, nevertheless it makes clear that the sport that made him well-known doesn’t completely outline him.

The docuseries additionally appears like a tonic, frankly, in comparison with the cheeky, cynical tone of “Successful Time,” and a becoming extension of different documentaries dedicated to these glory years for the NBA, akin to “Celtics/Lakers: Better of Enemies,” which extra extensively detailed the extent to which that rivalry, and Johnson and Larry Hen specifically, had been pivotal in reviving the league’s fortunes.

As for the inevitable questions concerning the pantheon of NBA greats, Riley admits to a sure bias in announcing Johnson the most effective ever, whereas Hen says merely, “It doesn’t matter who’s higher, we’ll be linked collectively for the remainder of our lives.”

Abdul-Jabbar and former Laker star-coach-general supervisor Jerry West not too long ago expressed their displeasure with “Successful Time,” and Johnson made clear he wasn’t thrilled about it both. This Apple manufacturing offers a Magic-approved view of the world, with an upcoming docuseries concerning the Lakers – the L.A. franchise’s model of “The Final Dance” – coming from Hulu.

Even those that are accustomed to Johnson’s profession will doubtless discover new wrinkles and anecdotes right here because of the broad attain of the interviews. And moreover, what basketball fan couldn’t use an help on the subject of placing extra Magic of their lives?

“They Name Me Magic” premieres April 22 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: My spouse works for a unit of Apple.)

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