Magic Johnson is making his way back onto the Los Angeles basketball scene.
The former Lakers??? is part of a group buying the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.
“We’re totally thrilled,” WNBA President Laurel Richie told The Associated Press. “When Magic chooses to enter into a partnership with a WNBA team, that’s a great thing. He’s a legend within basketball. He’s very knowledgeable about the game. He’s a larger-than-life personality. He’s an extremely successful business man. He cares about the community the way that the WNBA does.”
Johnson and Mark Walter teamed up with a group of other investors previously in 2012 to invest in baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion. The same group, minusone member, has teamed up once again to buy the professional women’s basketball team.
Richie said Walter, the Dodgers’ chairman, approached the WNBA about buying the Sparks only a few short weeks ago. She also mentioned that Walter and Johnson explored the notion on a cross-country flight and by the time they landed in on the West Coast they both desired to own the Sparks.
“He is looking forward to coming to games,” Richie said. “He is a fan already and now I think he’s going to have a heightened interest in this team all together. There will be lots of opportunity to see him and interact with him.”
The previous Sparks owner Paula Madison announced to the league in late December that she wouldn’t be able to run the team anymore; she mentioned to the Associated Press that her family had lost $12 million, including $1.4 million last season.
Johnson previously owned a portion of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers for a decade before selling his share in 2011.
Although the franchise hasn’t been successful financially, the Sparks are one of the WNBA’s most successful teams, and has led the league in attendance the past two seasons, winning titles in 2001 and 2002, and also making the playoffs in five of the past six seasons.
“I do know they were very attracted to this team not just because they were in L.A. and their incredible history, but also their performance over the last few years,” Richie said. “The players, Candace being MVP, Carol (Ross) being Coach of the Year, their knowledge and experience — they recognize what an incredible franchise it is at this moment.”
The WNBA will announce the new ownership agreement during a news conference Wednesday outside Staples Center.