, Oakwood University; and , news editor, Adventist Review
Former U.S. basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. has donated more than half a million dollars to Oakwood University and the Oakwood University Church in appreciation for the influence that Seventh-day Adventists have had on his life.
Johnson, 56, who was raised in an Adventist family, retired from basketball in the 1990s and became a wealthy businessman with interests in entertainment and sports. But he told the congregation at the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama, last Sabbath that he also is a Christian.
“And here I am,” Johnson said as he accepted the church’s 2016 Humanitarian Award on May 14. “I used to be a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers — had them little shorts on — and I was doing my thing. I was happy, but I wasn’t fulfilled. So now I am the point guard for the Lord.”
Johnson announced that he was donating $50,000 to Oakwood University for student scholarships in appreciation for the university’s contribution to his family’s education.
“My family has gone to this beautiful university,” Johnson said. “My mother made sure my sisters had no choice but to go to Oakwood.”
He said the scholarships were in honor of his mother, Christine Johnson, a Seventh-day Adventist of more than 45 years, who attended the ceremony. Also present in the church were his father, Earvin Johnson Sr.; and his wife, Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson, a Huntsville native.
Johnson said he remembers his mother walking door to door to share her love for Jesus.
“Very few people would listen, but she kept going,” he said.
Johnson also said he was donating $500,000 toward the construction of a new Family Life Center at Oakwood University Church.
“I believe in that man and the work he’s doing,” Johnson said of Carlton Byrd, senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church.
Byrd presented Johnson with the humanitarian award for his work with underserved communities through his Magic Johnson Foundation, which promotes HIV and AIDS awareness, distributes scholarships, and runs Community Empowerment Centers that put computer technology into the hands of ethnically diverse urban communities. The foundation spends $20 million assisting more than 250,000 people every year.
“Brother Magic and Sister Cookie have done so much,” Byrd said. “It is important for our young people to be … exposed to people who are making a positive difference.”