The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday- January 29, 1990 - Page 3
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The NBA star discusses his amazing
10-year run as one of the best ever
The last ten years have been
almost perfect for Earvin "Magic"
, Johnson. He led the Michigan State
Spartans to the 1979 NCAA bas-
ketball championship before being
drafted number one overall in the
NBA by the Los Angeles Lakers that
same year. Since then all he has
done is lead the Lakers to five NBA
championships. Daily sports writer
Jonathan Samnick recently spoke
with Magic after a game in Mil-
* Daily: Who originally gave you
the nickname Magic?
Johnson: Well, Fred Stabley Jr.,
who was a writer for the Lansing
State Journal at that time gave me
the nickname. He's now the Sports
Information Director at Central
Michigan University. He just came
in one day and he said, I want to
give you a nickname and I asked
him, what? And he said I want to
call you Magic and that's how it
D: The name "Magic" is some-
what of a misnomer because your
game is predicated more on hard
work and consistency and less on
J: Well, some people really don't
understand that.They all think that
it's all about the player and the
.*glare, but it's really not. It's about
working hard and trying to win.
D: You've had a memorable and
successful career thus far. How
would you some up your first ten
years in the NBA?
J: Ten years would be summed
up like this: It's been great, it's been
very very successful, very satisfying.
I've learned, I've matured, I've
become a better man, a better person
;and I've had a lot of fun doing it.
D: Even after ten years in the
league do you still get nervous be-
J: Oh yeah, you're always ner-
vous because it's the nerves and your
adrenaline when you're ready to
compete, ready to play. I don't think
that's ever going to change.
D: Are you a little jealous of
*your good friends Isiah Thomas and
Mark Aguirre getting the chance to
play as teammates on the Pistons in
your home state?
J: Well not really, no, I'm not
jealous. I think that they are very
fortunate, blessed, and lucky to play
on the same team, and not only to
continued from page 1
Some people also believe that he
has underachieved - at least up to
this season - at Michigan.
Higgins, one of the nation's most
heavily recruited athletes his senior
year, had an amazing high school
career. At Los Angeles' Fairfax High
School, Higgins, a consensus All-
American, was the city player-of-the-
year as a sophomore and state player-
of-the-year his last two seasons.
A few off-court incidents also
contributed to the negative per-
ception. The most celebrated event
concerns his recruitment to Mich-
igan. After initially committing to
UCLA, Higgins claimed he was
coerced by a bat-wielding stepfather
and refused to attend UCLA.
During his second term at Mich-
#igan, Higgins (along with Demetrius
Calip) was declared academically
ineligible and missed the Big Ten
season. The following season,
Higgins was suspended for a few
games after a drinking incident.
"The things that happened to me
aren't much different to things that
happened to other people," Higgins
said. "That's (the UCLA affair) a
change of mind about schools. I
4,.. , _
play on the same team but to win a
championship. It's just more power
to them. I've been with the Lakers
this long and I want to remain with
them. I've had my fun just like
they're having their fun.
D: There have been rumors in the
past that you want to return to De-
troit to finish out your career?
J: Oh yeah, I've always said it
would be nice, but not really want-
ing to leave L.A. I never want to
leave L.A. But if I had to leave, that
(Detroit) would be one of my
D: How do you still motivate
yourself, in light of all your ac-
complishments, over the long NBA
J: Well, I just love to play the
game. For the competition and the
chance to play, compete and perform
in front of people. I mean, I love it
out here, I love to play this game
and that's what keeps me going.
D: Do you think that there is
more pressure on you personally,
now that Kareem has retired, to
return the Lakers to the NBA finals?
J: Well I don't think there is any
more pressure than before. I think
that we always put pressure on
ourselves because we want to return
to the finals. I mean, that's just us.
You know, so, that's just what
happens when you get used to
playing for the championship.
D: Do you ever step back and
think of yourself in terms of one of
the top two or three people in the
world at what you do?
J: Well, I think that I'm happy
to play the game the way it's sup-'
posed to be played, and that people
think that I'm one of the best. It
hasn't changed me or I don't go out
of here with a big head or anything.
I'm appreciative of that because all I
wanted to do was come in here and
be the best player that I could be. I
wanted to work hard and be the best
at this game. But the best means
winning. It doesn't mean going out
and scoring and those things. That's
not the best for me. The best for me
is winning games and winning
championships. That's when I'm at
D: Do you have to pinch your-
self sometimes when you sit back
and realize where you are now and
how far you've come? This must be
a real dream for you.
J: No question about it. It's like
a fairytale and I hope that I never
wake up. Anytime you can get paid
for something you love to do, you
have to pinch yourself. We all
should pinch ourselves for having
the opportunity to do what we love
to do and get paid for it and get a
high from it, in terms of a chance to
compete against other people. I
mean, that's just a natural high.
D: What happens when you do
wake up from this dream?
J: Well then I'll become a pro-
fessional businessman, which I'm
trying to do now.
D : So you'll get out of
professional sports entirely?
J: Oh yeah, But I'll never leave
it. I'll always be the biggest fan. I'll
probably be the biggest groupie at
D: Won't you miss the com-
petition associated with basketball?
You've been playing this game for a
J: Oh yeah, but I'll be playing
recreational ball. I'll get some com-
D: You've been called the best
basketball player throughout the
80s. Is there a player of the 90s that
you see who can dominate that way
J: I see guys like Michael Jordan,
David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing.
I'm sure Michael will carry on. I'm
sure Patrick, who's having a big
year, and David Robinson, are going
to be people to keep up with. From
Michael to those other two guys
you've got some guys who are
going to go into the 90s. Me and
Larry (Bird) had a great run in the
80's and Michael as well. But I don't
know who's going to dominate.
We'll just have to wait and see.
D: Much has been made about
the obligation of athletes, like your-
self, to be role models. How do you
J: You definitely have an obli-
gation. You have to set an example,
and not only be an example but to
help young people, to teach them
right from wrong and teach them
that if they work hard and if they
dream and have goals then they can
be what they want to be too.
D: Who were your role models
J: Dave Bing was my biggest
hero. My father is the guy that I
worship the most. And I'd have to
say, sports-wise, basketball players
besides Dave Bing would have to be
Oscar (Robertson) and Wilt
D: Are you conscious of the way
that you've personally changed the
way the game of basketball is play-
J: Well, I know, I understand,
that me and Larry have helped the
game. That's why the salaries are
what they are today.
D: Have you accomplished
everything that you've set out to do?
Is there anything left?
J: Not yet. I have to win one
more championship...or two more
or three more or how ever long I
decide to play. Then I will have
D: Are all of your dreams
J: Yeah, my dreams have come
true. But, I'm still dreaming. I hope
and dream that we start the 90s the
way we started the 80s.
D :What's it going to take to
unseat the Pistons as NBA champ-
ions this year?
J: We are not going to worry
about that right now; that's a thing
that you've got to worry about later
on. You can't set your sights and
goals right now for June, because
we've got a lot more to worry about
just like they do. They've got these
Milwaukee Bucks, the Chicago
Bulls, Atlanta and New York to
worry about. And we have Portland,
Utah, San Antonio, and all the
teams in the West. You don't worry
about that until later on. It's going
to take, no question, a great team
and a great effort from a team to beat
them. But right now, that's too far
D: Do you ever help Michigan
State out by recruiting for them?
J: If I know the guy I'll help
them out. If they ask me to, I'll help
them with anybody. Whether it's
football or basketball, it doesn't
matter. I'll help them out.
D: You just came out with a
book, Magic's Touch. Why did you
decide to do that now?
J: It was the best time. I wanted
kids to know and understand about
me because I think a lot of people
don't. They know Magic, but they
don't know Earvin.
Perles punches MSU
right in the kisser
Way back when, in the so-called Golden Age of Television, that
loveable schnook, Ralph Kramden sat at his kitchen table and tried to
explain "The Squeeze Play" to his wife, Alice.
By fabricating another job offer, Ralph explained, maybe he could get
a raise out of his boss and possibly a promotion to athletic director of
Michigan State University. Wait a minute, I'm getting a little ahead of
Anyway, Ralph went to his boss and told him of another job offer, an
offer that never existed. Ralph's boss then proceeded to tell him what a
great job he had done at this bus company and good luck at his new job.
(laughtrack roars, close up of shocked Ralph).
And who knew at the time that a young boy named George Perles was
watching and taking notes on Ralph's famous "Squeeze Play?" I'm gonna
be a loveable schnook, Perles said while wetting his diapers. I'm gonna
screw over Michigan State University one day when I grow old.
We all know the details of what happened by now as the Michigan
media covered Perles' squeeze play as if it were the Berlin Wall. Perles
used an offer by the New York Jets to force the Michigan State "ruling
elite" to give him the athletic director's position. Unfortunately, most of
the "ruling elite" was out in the corn field, slipping on manure at the
time, so Perles had to deal with a body of people with smaller intelligence
and guts - the Regents.
So, George Kramden went to the Regents and demanded the athletic
directorship even though his president, John DiBiaggio, swore that he
would never let one man hold both positions of AD and head football
coach. It would not be in the best interest for the university, academically
and athletically, DiBiaggio said.
Right in front of everybody, Perles and DiBiaggio played their parts to
the hilt. Athletics vs. Academics. Jocks vs. Nerds. Man vs. Nature.
Whoops, just had a high school English flashback.
And in front of everybody, the Regents showed what they really are: a
bunch of idiotic wimps who won't stand up for what is right. Even
though it would compromise whatever academic integrity MSU had and
cripple the presidency, the Regents voted in Perles to both jobs by a vote
Disgusting. And I thought that Michigan State stood for excellence in
academics. Silly me. I don't want to hear that stupid we've-got-more-
Rhodes-Scholars-than-you argument again. Spartan fans can no longer be
proud of that fact because the number of All-Americans on the football
team is obviously more important in East Lansing.
How can everybody be so damn surprised that athletics won over
academics at MSU? Since when did that institution become such a bastion
of higher learning? Who cares how many national merit scholarships they
have? You see, they've got a kick-ass football team.
But, do they? In his seven years at Michigan State, Perles has amassed
a less than impressive 43-33-3 record. Every year, for the past few
seasons, Perles' kick-ass teams gets their butts kicked in the first three,
four games by superior squads (read Michigan Wolverines). Perles then
beefs up his record against such powerhouses as Northwestern, Purdue,
Wisconsin and Minnesota, only to have the ultimate honor to play
in...The Gator Bowl?
In his seven years, Perles has won the big game only once: the 1988
Rose Bowl in which he beat USC. I don't count the 1987 win against
Michigan as big because the Wolverines almost won the game despite
seven Demetrius Brown interceptions.
In other words, why should MSU compromise its integrity for a coach
like Perles? I don't understand. We're not talking about Vince Lombardi
here. If he's creating such a rift between athletics and academics, then
DON'T HIRE THE DAMN GUY. Simple as that.
Let the Jets take him if they want to give him six million dollars over
five years for his 44-33-3 record. If college athletics has proven one thing,
it's that you can always get a decent coach to come to your school for a
certain price. It works all the time.
Many people in East Lansing feel that Perles will be able to do both
jobs with efficiency. Sure. Bo couldn't do it, neither could Penn State's
Joe Paterno. But George Kramden, he's a whiz with those decimal points
and debit figures.
There's no doubt that Perles will be a figurehead as some poor,
loveable schnook works behind the scenes to do the actual AD work.
Already, Perles has placed football on a higher pedestal than the rest of the
"My immediate plans are to take care of football recruiting, which ends
on Feb.14," Perles said, sounding like a man really geeked to start
shirking his AD duties. How many times will we hear the words "after
football" from Perles' mouth?
But that's no skin off my nose. MSU doesn't mean very much to me.
In fact, I enjoy watching all these Spartans eat crow. Walking out of
Crisler Arena Saturday and seeing all those State fans look shocked, I
smiled. There's nothing better than quiet, despondent State fans.
I even smiled when Perles took the AD position. Now we get to kick
Perles around for a few more years while we watch his institution
prostitute itself for a halfway decent football coach.
Georgie, you're the greatest.
Higgins, shown here at the 1986 Nike Basketball Camp. Included in this
picture are LSU's Chris Jackson(far right), Memphis State's Elliott Perry
(right), Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning (trailing) and MSU's Matt
trying to please other people."
During his first two seasons at
Michigan, not everyone was pleased
when Higgins averaged 9.8 and 12.4
points per game while shooting 50
percent from the field. Those figures,
in addition to his streaky scoring and
defensive lapses contributed to the
perception that he wasn't playing up
to his potential.
"When you come here you have
to sacrifice for the four other play-
ers," Mills said. "Sean's a scorer. I
think last year we had a shooter in
Glen Rice. You can't have four or
five shooters. If Sean shot as much
as Glen he might have scored as
much as Glen did. Glen was hitting
his shots. That's why we won the
"Ever since I've been here,
Michigan has been my first frame of
thought," Higgins said. "Why would
I go through all that stuff and have
people degrade me and my family if I
didn't want to be here. It would have
been easy for me to go to UCLA."
Had Higgins spent his first two
years in Westwood, it is possible
that Michigan wouldn't have won
the national championship last
season. Higgins scored 31 points,
including 7-of-10 three-point shots,
against Virginia in the Regional
Final, and his put-back against
Illinois was the decisive basket in
the Final Four semifinal.
His success in the tournament
has been attributed in large part to a
pre-tournament chiding given to
Higgins by former Michigan athletic
director Bo Schembechler. Though
he does credit Schembechler with
inspiring him, Higgins feels the
media misrepresented the event.
"What people don't understand is
didn't want to go to UCLA. People
have a right to go where they want
to go. People made it seem as if I
robbed a bank.
"Basically, people that sit around
and talk about things like that have
boring lives. That stuff is, like,
three, four years old. That's why I
don't want to talk about it. Let's
talk about now. I want to talk about
positive stuff. Everything I do now
is going to be positive."
This season, nearly everything
Higgins has done on the court has
been positive. Before Saturday's
game, Sean had scored in double
figures in every game since the first
game, was second on the team in
scoring at 16.6 points per game, and
first on the team with 32 three-
western's Walker Lambiotte.
Off the court, Higgins, who
possesses a quick wit, is surpris-
ingly more like Bob Newhart than
Richard Pryor. His quotable
comments overshadow his intro-
"I like to be on my own,"
Higgins said. "I get a chance to sit
back and think and keep my mind on
my family and that makes me work
hard. I owe my family, a lot. I owe a
lot to my dad (Earle Higgins, who
played at Eastern Michigan and with
the Indiana Pacers.) The reason I'm
playing basketball is because of
him. I've been playing since I was
six years old."
And Higgins understands why he
made those past errors.
"People just assume I'm going to
go pro because of the situation (four
seniors are graduating.) The NBA is
something I've always dreamed of
but it's not something that can't be
'if I can give a little
advice to people, it's
to stop being so quick
to judge people by
what you read or
hear. Just like I can't
judge people because
I don't know them.'
- Sean Higgins
waited for. It's not something that
just popped up in my mind. I can
remember a time in the second grade.
It was about 12 at night and I was
lying sound asleep in front of the
television, and then I heard the
announcer go "The NBA on CBS"
and I shot right up. You could go
the Washington Bullets and Sedale
Threatt of the Seattle Supersonics.
Though he is clearly capable of
playing in the NBA, there are those
who feel he needs some more polish.
"He's an offensive machine -
the best spurt shooter in America,"
Vitale said during a recent telecast.
"He has to learn to do it more
consistently...This kid can be as
good as he wants to be."
Counters Higgins: "I'm just
trying to play hard. I think I'm
playing intense. Do you think I'm
l- Wl. , I W.--