Nov. 1, 2003
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Hundreds of fans gathered Saturday to watch Earvin "Magic" Johnson pull the cover off a 12-foot bronze statue of himself as a Michigan State basketball player.
Johnson, his teammates on the Spartans' 1979 championship team and university officials helped dedicate the statue in front of Michigan State's Breslin Center.
"I did not achieve this alone," Johnson said after receiving a standing ovation and taking a long pause to keep down his emotion. "It's about all these guys, it's not about me. It was always about being a Spartan."
The statue has Johnson with a basketball in one hand is using the other hand to direct other players.
Johnson helped Michigan State win the NCAA championship in 1979 as a sophomore before going on to the Los Angeles Lakes in the NBA. With Johnson, the Lakers won five NBA titles and he was named league MVP three times.
University officials and current basketball coach Tom Izzo noted Johnson's charitable contributions to the Lansing community, where he grew up.
Matthew Means, a 2002 Michigan State graduate, said he's happy to see Michigan State recognize Johnson's accomplishments.
"The man is just amazing," said Means, who is studying to be a priest in Kentucky. "He's had a tremendous impact on so many people's lives."
Molly Peterman, 23, of Lansing, also turned out for the dedication. She said Johnson has helped her develop her basketball skills when he stops by a local gym to work out.
"He really makes other people feel like they're on the same level as him," she said.
The dedication began Michigan State's season-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1979 championship.
"That was a special time, a special team led by a special person," said Jud Heathcote, who coached Johnson and the 1979 championship Spartans.
The $250,000 statue was funded by private donations. It was designed by Highland Park, Ill.-based designer Omri Amrany and is titled "Always a Champion."
"I hope the statue is about more than basketball, because I'm about more than basketball," said Johnson, who has become a successful businessman since retiring from the NBA.
The statue was dedicated before Michigan and Michigan State's football teams faced off at Spartan Stadium.
"I cannot wait to take off this suit and put on my green and white," said Johnson, who was later acknowledged along with other members of the 1979 team during halftime.
Johnson is scheduled to play with the Harlem Globetrotters on Sunday against Michigan State in the Spartans' first exhibition game of the season.