‘They Call Me Magic’: what we know about Magic Johnson’s new Apple TV+ series

Former US president Barack Obama, actor Samuel Jackson and the NBA player's family all appear in the four-part series

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was part of the US basketball 'Dream Team' for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. AP
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Following the success of Netflix’s Michael Jordan series, The Last Dance, Apple TV+ hopes to score a slam dunk of its own with an autobiographical look at the life and career of LA Lakers champion Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

The platform gave a preview of the four-part series They Call Me Magic at the South by Southwest Film Festival on Saturday, announcing a premiere date of April 22.

It is unclear if all the episodes will drop on Apple TV+ on the same day, or whether they will be available on a weekly basis.

The news follows this month's premiere of HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, which charts the group's growth in the 1980s, a time during which Johnson (played by Quincy Isaiah) heavily featured. It is also streaming across the Mena region on OSN.

While Isiah is earning strong reviews for his part in Winning Time, They Call Me Magic is set to provide the most intimate portrayal of Johnson to date.

Not only has Johnson been interviewed for the project, but it also features unparalleled access to his family and business life, as well as never-seen-before footage of a sportsman at his prime.

Here are three more things to know about They Call Me Magic:

1. It has a magical guest list

The guest list includes a US president, actors, musicians and business leaders.

Former US president Barack Obama is featured in the trailer extolling Johnson’s social entrepreneurship, while rapper and hardcore Lakers fan Snoop Dogg praises the champion's encouragement to him to leave the streets and “live a different way”.

Other personalities interviewed for the documentary include rivals Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Shaquille O'Neal, as well as actor Samuel L Jackson.

2. We learn more about his HIV diagnosis

Johnson has opened up numerous times about how his HIV positive diagnosis forced him to retire from basketball 30 years ago at the age of 31.

They Call Me Magic promises to get deeper into the fateful day he learnt about his condition and the controversial decision to play on, despite his retirement, in the Barcelona 1992 Summer Olympics as part of the US basketball side dubbed the "Dream Team".

3. Magic’s success off the court

Johnson found as much success off the basketball court as on, as he also became a much-lauded businessman and social entrepreneur.

The documentary looks at some of his deals, including opening a chain of cinemas in crime-riddled communities in Los Angeles.

It also shows how Johnson met members of warring gangs for a breakfast meeting to ensure no customers were hurt entering the cinema.

Speaking of his wheeling and dealing, Johnson says: "If you don't make a difference in the black community, it doesn’t matter that you win championships.”

Updated: March 13, 2022, 8:45 AM
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