By: Rodney Julius
It was the year 1992, and I was an ardent fan of Earvin Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. This is my story before emigrating to the United States of America, whilst still being an avid fan.
I remember that day, walking towards the post office to mail my personalized letter to Magic Johnson. While all my friends were Chicago Bulls fans, I was overjoyed in telling them that I was a Lakers fan. My mediocre and uneventful childhood, being the eldest of five children, the son of a single parent and living in the shadows of affluence bothered me. They all evaporated into a mist whenever the Lakers and Magic Johnson were on television.
During my childhood, I grew up in a neighborhood that was isolated and stigmatized by society. Living in the shadows of the capital, Port of Spain and its affluent neighborhoods, my peers ridiculed and stereotyped me based on my mailing address. It was as though growing up in Sea Lots automatically determined my future: someone who should not be allowed in society, a nobody who lived in an isolated area of Trinidad that society must forget. My determination and perseverance propelled me to work odd jobs to earn money: to support my family and for my personal use. During one of my routine odd jobs for a neighbor, I found $32 and immediately I thought it was a blessing in disguise; after all it was Magic’s basketball jersey number! My friends and I would all pool our monies together and purchase a fan club magazine. While everyone debated who would get the biggest poster of Michael Jordon for their room, I eagerly waited to see if the magazine had any posters of the Lakers or Magic Johnson. In one of the fan club magazines, I found the address for the Lakers and decided to write a letter to Magic Johnson.
Hi Earvin Magic Johnson,
My name is Rodney Julius, and I am very proud to be writing this letter to you. I do hope you get this letter. I live in Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. I watch you play every time I get the chance. Sometimes I sneak a peek at my neighbor’s television, through the crack in the wooden wall. You amaze me, and even when my friends and I are playing basketball, I try to imitate your magical passes and plays, but sometimes I get it all wrong.
After my mother purchased our first television, it did not matter to me that it only showed black and white. I had the colors of the Lakers uniform – purple and yellow – engraved in my head. I lived and breathed NBA action every weekend, whether it was a new game or simply a recap of a game that week. I was disappointed when the Chicago Bulls won their first championship against the Lakers. Michael Jordan’s impressive dunk (flipping the ball in his left hand so that it rolled in the hoop whilst elevating and loosing gravity) was the highlight play of that game, one that is still touted to this day. After that match, Jordan was my rival. I had never played a game against him but I took it personal because he was rivaling against my team – the Lakers.
I saw in a news article in a magazine that a Los Angeles star would be coming to Trinidad and my heart began racing because I thought it was you coming. I was jubilant in anticipation hoping it was really you maybe I can really see you live in person and be lucky to meet you too. Magic I am not asking for much, but my wish is to get a copy of your book, “The Magic’s Touch”, and an autographed poster of you. This would make me the happiest kid in the world! Thank you very much and God bless you, and I know one day I will meet you. Please write back.
Even today, reflecting on my childhood request, I am somewhat despondent at the fact that Magic Johnson or even the Lakers fan club did not fulfill my requests. Today, the Lakers consist of stars such as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher – individuals I can relate to and admire as I once did with Magic Johnson. In retrospect, I am comforted by the thought that maybe my letter was lost in the midst of millions of other fan mails.
When Magic announced to the world that he was HIV positive, I felt my world shatter to pieces. How could my hero be ill? Mortality never entered my sphere of thinking whenever I thought of Magic Johnson; even in my arguments with friends and even after his contraction it all seems so surreal to me. Today, I am an outreach worker in Brooklyn, New York. I educate the public through literature and about HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Personally, I have come a long way; in helping others be safe and protected, I believe I am still connected to Magic.
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