Getting Magic Johnson to come back to town and call Michigan State’s game Tuesday night against top-ranked Indiana hardly was a difficult sell for the folks at ESPN.
His statue stands outside of the Breslin Center, but the NBA Hall of Famer was a lot like must alums on this night talking about his excitement for the matchup between No. 1 Indiana and No. 4 Michigan State.
“I was excited,” Johnson said of the notion of calling his first college game. “There was no hesitation at all. They don’t even have to pay me, I told them. I’d come for free.
“I would have been watching it at home anyway, so it’s nice to be here and feel the atmosphere ’cause it’s gonna be a crazy atmosphere.”
Johnson, who led Michigan State to the national title in 1979, is working with Mike Tirico and Dick Vitale and said he hopes he doesn’t “mess those two up,” adding that to him, Vitale “is college basketball.”
He was also asked if it would be hard to suppress the urge to cheer for his alma mater.
“I must remain professional,” he said, followed by a hearty laugh.
Johnson is back in town with a heavy heart following the death of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday.
“Dr. Buss was my second father,” Johnson said. “But I made a commitment to be here, so I’m here, but I’ll never forget Dr. Buss.
“He made me the man I am today, forget just as a basketball player, but the man I am. I owe a lot to Dr. Buss. He’s the reason I own the Dodgers today because of his expertise and giving me sound business advice and learning to take care of my money.