Magic Johnson Shares His Mindset That Helped Him Transition from NBA Player to Billionaire Business Leader

Playing basketball helped Magic Johnson become a household name but his mindset has supported his successes on and off the court. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the National Retail Federation in New York this month, and there he shared the power of mindset in facing challenges and competition. 

Magic Johnson
ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA – JUNE 24: Magic Johnson speaks during the TSP Live 2022 conference at The Hotel at Avalon on June 24, 2022 in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images)

“It’s hard to become number one, but it’s even harder to stay number one,” Johnson told audience members at the recent event. “I learned that in sports.”

In October 2023, Magic Johnson became a billionaire with a net worth of $1.2 billion. After being chosen as the first draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979, Johnson went on to have a 13-year career with the team. He was chosen as the NBA Most Valuable Player three times, played in 12 All-Star Games, and won five championships. 

After retiring from the NBA in 1991 after testing positive for HIV — he returned four years later to play one more season for the Lakers — Johnson shifted gears and became a businessman. He launched Magic Johnson Enterprise, investing in the entertainment, real estate and healthcare industries. He also has an ownership stake in various professional teams such as the NFL’s Washington Commanders, MLB Los Angeles Dodgers, WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC. 

Start With A Vision 

Johnson advised audience members to give themselves three years to achieve their goals. 

“Then you have to come up with a plan, a strategy and get some mentors,” Johnson added. 

Before Johnson knew he was going to retire from basketball, he began laying the foundation for a new beginning. During this time, he began seeking business mentors and requested the contact information of top CEOs who had season tickets to Lakers games. He’d call them and request a lunch meeting. 

“I picked their brains,” he said. “Six of them became mentors.”

Mentoring, Johnson added, requires accountability and constant evaluation of an entrepreneur’s progress. These two skills will lead to a growth mindset, which is necessary in business. 

“For me, if I’m prepared, if I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, I feel that I’m going to win,” he said. “And I only hire people like that — the same type of mindset, the same type of dedication, the same type of discipline, the same type of focus. That’s what I want. I want people running with me that have that same mindset.”

Healthy Competition 

Perhaps one of the most notable rivalries in NBA history is between Johnson and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics. 

“I still hate him,” Johnson told the audience. “Why do I say that? Because he’s so good. Larry Bird made me play my best basketball.”

It’s the competitive spirit on the basketball court that has allowed Johnson to consistently break barriers in entrepreneurship and be successful. 

“Whenever you’re a player or a business and you’re swimming upstream against a new competitor or adversary, the stakes are always going to be higher,” Johnson said. “But you have to remember what got you to that moment, that game, that chapter in your life. You must rise to the challenge and embrace the role that’s needed to take it to the next level.” 

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