Magic Johnson was a basketball icon: within four seasons he had won a state high school basketball title, an NCAA hoops championship in a titanic match-up with Larry Bird and an NBA title with the Lakers. And then came the news in 1991 that transcended sports: Magic Johnson had contracted HIV. The superstar turned the devastating news into a teaching moment, educating the nation about a disease that sparked fear among many people. He created the Magic Johnson Foundation not only to educate people about HIV/AIDS, but also to improve urban communities. Over the years, it has helped hundreds of thousands of people through scholarships and outreach program. The Magic Johnson Foundation (MJF) is now one of the most recognizable philanthropic organizations in the world. The overwhelming community response to Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s HIV announcement – in the form of donations and letters of support – was the force that created the organization.
The MJF was created to fight HIV/AIDS through grant-making. Twenty-two years after its formation, the organization has evolved to address other powerful epidemics in urban communities, which include the lack of educational opportunity and the absence of empowerment. The Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program (TMSP), Named after Magic Johnson Enterprises’ COO, recognizes students with outstanding academic achievement, leadership and commitment to serve their community. The program empowers minority students through financial support, mentorship, and internship opportunities. Finally, the Community Empowerment Centers (CECs) help bridge the education gap by providing ethnically diverse urban communities with access to resources and programming that educate, empower and strengthen individuals through the innovative use of technology.