- "I wouldn't say they're the best ever," said Magic Johnson of the Golden State Warriors.
- Johnson said part of the reason sports ratings have fallen is because the younger generation prefers to watch things on small screens or catch up on highlights later.
- "He promised a lot of things, he's got to deliver on those promises," Johnson says about President Donald Trump.
The Golden State Warriors are being called the greatest team to ever play the game, and the Warriors-Cavaliers the greatest NBA rivalry since the Lakers-Celtics of 30 years ago.
Not so fast, says one of the greatest basketball players of all time, a man who owns five championship rings and went to the finals nine years out of 12 full seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I wouldn't say they're the best ever," said Magic Johnson of Golden State's team, conceding the Warriors appear unbeatable at the moment. "If they can put together a string of multiple championships, they could go down as the best team, but right now, winning one doesn't make you the best."
Johnson spoke to CNBC at an event hosted by American Express, which brought in card members to meet Johnson and legendary coach Pat Riley in Los Angeles on Monday night. Johnson is free to mingle this year because he's not part of the announcing team for the playoffs. That's because he has a new job as president of operations for the Lakers. It's a tough job, as the Lakers are a shell of the great franchise they once were.
"I know what type of player I want, and our fan base has to be patient, but we're going to get there," Johnson said. He said it will take time to build a team which can take on the Warriors. "Everybody has their run, but that will eventually end, and when it ends, we'll be sitting there waiting on them."
Ratings for the finals are the highest since Michael Jordan's final title in 1998. "The country is engaged, they want to see who is going to win this rubber match," said Johnson, calling it good for the NBA. "Fans who might have gone away came back."
Overall, sports ratings have been falling. Johnson said part of the reason is that a younger generation prefers to watch things on small screens or catch up on highlights later. "There's nothing you can do about that. It's not marketing, not anything, it's just kids are different." However, he says there's nothing like a live sporting event to create excitement, pointing to the way Nashville, Tennessee, has gone crazy over hockey.
Johnson is a very busy man. Not only is he running the Lakers' front office, he remains part owner of the Dodgers, and he will also have a piece of a new soccer team coming to Los Angeles. Meantime, he runs an investment fund, which includes a joint venture with Loop Capital to bid for infrastructure projects. They recently landed a contract for the Denver International Airport, and Johnson is hoping for more work if the Trump administration gets an infrastructure bill through Congress. "He promised a trillion dollars but hasn't laid out a plan yet," Johnson said of the president. "We've raised a lot of money. We're excited about making sure minorities have a stake in the infrastructure space."
With talk of contracts coming out of the Trump administration, Johnson was asked what he thought of the president himself. "What do I think of him?" he replied, and then laughed. After a pause, Johnson seemed to choose his words wisely. "He has to find a way to bring everybody together and focus on the economy, putting people to work in our country, bringing people together in our country."
Johnson believes that has been challenging for Trump, because "the message is all over the place." Johnson said incidents like the racial slur sprayed across Lebron James' home in Los Angeles show how divided the country is, and he feels the president needs to step up and address that. "This could happen to Lebron James, so it can happen to anybody."
Johnson said he has no interest in ever running for office himself, but he has advice for the man in the White House. "He's got to get some wins, because the country is sitting, waiting for the president and his administration to provide us with how he's going to change things and put people to work here in America," Johnson said. "He promised a lot of things, he's got to deliver on those promises."