Magic Johnson is getting back into the Los Angeles basketball scene in a big way.
The former Lakers great 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 with a group of investors to buy baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for a record $2.15 billion. It will be the same group owning the Sparks, minus Peter Guber, who owns a stake in the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Richie said Walter, the Dodgers’ chairman, approached the WNBA about buying the Sparks a few weeks ago. She said Walter and Johnson discussed the idea on a cross-country flight and by the time they landed on the West Coast they had decided they wanted 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.”
Previous Sparks owner Paula Madison informed the league in late December that she wouldn’t be able to run the team anymore. She told The Associated Press that her family had lost $12 million, including $1.4 million last season, operating the franchise since buying it from the Buss family in 2007.
Johnson was a part owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers for a decade before selling his share in 2011.
While the franchise hasn’t been successful financially, the Sparks have been one of the WNBA’s best teams on the court and have led the league in attendance the past two seasons. They won titles in 2001 and 2002 and made it to the playoffs in five of the past six seasons. They were knocked out in the opening round by Phoenix last season.
Los Angeles, one of only four original WNBA franchises left, also has one of the league’s marquee players in MVP Candace Parker.
“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 at a news conference Wednesday outside Staples Center.
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