Magic Johnson looks over downtown L.A. in 2003. (Nick Ut / Associated Press )
Magic Johnson, the man who helped make L.A. a Lakers town as a player, will soon be an owner of the Dodgers. Will the presence of the ever-popular Johnson in the ownership group help the Dodgers reclaim the city from the hoopsters at Staples Center?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the topic. Feel free to join the conversation by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
Barry Stavro, Los Angeles Times
In L.A. the sports buzz-meter points first to Kobe and the Lakers. This shift in allegiance, away from the Dodgers, dates to the ‘80s when Magic and his Showtime teams took hold of the city, and they completely blew by the Dodgers in the Shaq-Kobe era as the titles kept coming, while the Dodgers haven’t won anything since Reagan was president.
Part of this popularity shift is generational. In the digital age young people are drawn to video game-like action and MLB games are just too s-l-o-w — which is why the NBA and NFL resonates so well with younger fans.
When Kobe retires there will be a vacuum. And some magnetic player who wins a championship will take hold of the populace here. But that won’t be decided by a figure sitting in the owner’s box. Who knows, maybe LeBron will finish out his career with the Clippers and another tectonic shift will take place.
Dave van Dyck, Chicago Tribune
Sure, that’s why they call him “Magic.” Once Kobe leaves the Lakers and they go through the inevitable rebuilding, the door is wide open.
But first Magic and Co. have to find a way to become more popular than the Angels. It can be done, especially with Magic as frontman, but the Dodgers have fallen mightily from the O’Malley days. Heck, from Fox days. It will take more than spending on free agents to get the Dodgers back to prominence, it will take a presence.
And the Dodgers will have it, if Magic wants to commit fully to the project.
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Magic Johnson’s goal shouldn’t be to make the Dodgers bigger than the Lakers. How about making them more relevant than the Angels again?
Under owner Arte Moreno, the Angels have become a destination franchise. They’ve attracted top-tier free agents like Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, and most recently Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. They also have made bold trades (Dan Haren, Vernon Wells) and kept homegrown talent (Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Howie Kendrick) in the fold, all of which has helped make the club a perennial playoff contender. What the Dodgers used to be.
Having Johnson as a front man no doubt puts the spotlight back on Chavez Ravine. As far as attracting superstar free agents, playing for a franchise committed to winning and building around guys like Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw ultimately is more important than who’s signing the checks.
Steve Gould, Baltimore Sun
“Uphill battle” doesn’t begin to describe what Magic Johnson is facing if he’s expected to make the Dodgers more prominent in Los Angeles than the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.
In fact, after the splash the Angels made this offseason by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, Johnson first has to make the Dodgers bigger than their American League counterparts in Anaheim.
That said, it all comes down to winning. If Johnson surrounds himself with the right people — which, given his success with all his other businesses, we can assume he’ll do — to help build the Dodgers into a consistent World Series contender, then baseball will once again captivate L.A.
I can’t see the Dodgers overtaking the Lakers in terms of popularity, but if they’re even being mentioned in the same breath, Johnson will have once again shown why people call him Magic.