Wednesday November 30th, 2016

Multi-millionaire Magic Johnson was once a janitor. Yes, it’s true.

Magic, who now owns part of the Los Angeles Dodgers was, unsurprisingly, a hard-working, aspirational young man growing up in Michigan. At the age of 10, he started a lawn-cutting business with his own mower. At 15, he was a stock boy at Quality Dairy. And, in junior high...he cleaned bathrooms.

We gave Magic, a rising businessman, the Sports Illustrated cover on Dec. 3, 1990. Inside, Richard Hoffer profiled the Lakers legend, and the big dreams he had growing up. That have way to this tidbit about Johnson taking a break from all that cleaning and pretending he was a CEO.

From the SI Vault:

“Back home in Lansing,” Magic says, “there were these two successful businessmen—Joel Ferguson and Gregory Baton. Everybody admired them. They had nice homes, drove nice cars. They owned office buildings and had whole staffs of people. They were our heroes.”

When Magic was in junior high and was still called Earvin, these heroes arranged to give him a janitor's job in a building Ferguson owned. He would go in, usually on Friday nights, and vacuum, empty the trash and clean the rest-rooms. Neither of these moguls could have guessed what else went on in those empty offices. Or perhaps only moguls could. “I’d sit back in one of those big chairs and put my feet on the desk,” Magic says, “and start giving orders to my staff. ‘Do this, do that.’” It was fantasy stuff, just like the basketball games he would play in his head. He had no idea what he was telling his staff to do, except that it involved the achievement of truly big business.

Everyone’s got to start from somewhere. Dream big, kids.

– Kenny Ducey

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