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Mike Downey

Hey, Magic, Get Your Full Value

November 11, 1987|Mike Downey

Magic Johnson must not play one more minute for the Lakers. Not one more dribble. I know that now.

He must tell Pat Riley right away that he is no longer in the right frame of mind to play. He must tell the coach to start Michael Cooper instead.

I have read my mail regarding Eric Dickerson, and I have seen the light. No matter what an athlete says or does, the thing that counts most is that you keep him on your team.

You must accept any terms he makes, any blackmail he uses, and give him what he wants. Otherwise, you are a cheapskate, a loser, a moron, maybe even a racist.

So, off you go, Earvin. You don't have to stand for this treatment from the Lakers one more second. You walk right into Jerry Buss' office this afternoon and tell that man you want $3 million a season.

Wait. Make it $4 million. You tell boss Buss to see how many championships the Lakers win without you.

Go on. Do it. The public will support you. Nothing else will matter, except your not playing. You are the best player in basketball. You are the cream of the team. You are the lord of the rings. You are entitled to anything and everything you can get.

If they think they can get away with paying you only 1 or 2 million dollars a year, they have a lot to learn about what an athlete is worth.

Mag, you just wander into practice and tell Riley that, contract or no contract, you simply cannot function as such an underpaid individual. You tell him to start somebody else. You go into the game for a few minutes, score a few baskets, make a few passes, then hobble back over to the sideline and tell them your leg is killing you. It won't matter if the trainer can't detect anything wrong. You tell them it hurts. They'll have to believe you. You're Magic.

What are they going to do about it?

They will have three choices. They can refuse to use you, putting you on the injured list or suspension. Fat chance. Or, they can give you absolutely anything you desire. You want $5 million? Make it $5 million.

Be patient. They'll start Byron Scott and Cooper for a couple of games, go to Wes Matthews and Jeff Lamp off the bench, lose to some team they usually beat, then come running to your house in Bel-Air with a certified check with a five and six zeroes.

Or, there is their third option. They can trade you. They can say, "Magic, if you keep this up, we're going to trade you to the Indiana Pacers." Whereupon, you can hit them with an eight-word reply. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, ho.

If they go ahead and do it, no matter how outrageous your behavior or demands happened to be, don't worry a bit. The greater fans of greater Los Angeles will cry out in protest. They will howl and growl. They will call the Jerries, Buss and West, every name in the book. They will descend upon every reporter who dared side with management. They will question the team's willingness to do what it takes to win.

And the only real winner will be you. Oh, you might not get to play in Los Angeles anymore, except on trips. But the folks in Indianapolis will give you every dollar you ask, with total disregard of every factor, including how you got it, and how you want it--in deferred payment, or in a briefcase with unmarked bills.

You'll still be in pro basketball, you'll still make the All-Star team, and your absence will be Los Angeles' loss.

By the time you get to Indiana, your injured leg will be all better, and you'll be firing up 35 shots the very next game.

Hey, Fernando. This goes out to you, too, babe. Call up those Dodgers and see how they'd like to try winning the division title in 1988 without Fernando Valenzuela throwing screwballs. You'll have O'Malley wiping the steam off his spectacles.

No way the Dodgers want to go through another season like the last one. No way the public would stand for it if the Dodgers tried to play without you. Around the third inning on opening day, just walk off the mound. You're just not in the proper frame of mind to pitch.

No problem. The fans will back you. They don't care what it takes, as long as you keep pitching. Use any method you like. The owners have the money. They're made of money. They're greedy pigs, all of them. They can dig into their pockets and come up with anything you need.

So what if player payrolls on baseball or football or basketball teams amount to $10 million, $20 million, $30 million. Hey, we're the fans! We foot the bills, buddy, and don't you forget it!

There is no way Eric Dickerson should have had to endure the handicap of playing under that contract he signed. No reason he should have continued to do the best he could for his team and his teammates. I am convinced of that at last. My readers have spoken.

Before the big trade, many of them were on my side. They admired my position. Since the big trade, they hate my guts. The only position they'd like to see me in is horizontal.

Uncle. I give. I know when I'm beaten.

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