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Without basketball, Magic Johnson shifts focus to community

(AP) — Magic Johnson might actually miss the Los Angeles Lakers if he wasn’t always checking up on them.

Johnson quit as the team’s president of basketball operations at the end of the last season, leaving him out of a gym, but not out of the loop, as Los Angeles opened training camp.

“I’m working like I’m still there, anyway,” Johnson said, laughing. “I talk to them all the time. It’s crazy how I’m still with them without being there physically.”

Without the daily grind of management to restrain him, Johnson has spent the months without basketball traveling with his family, tending to his thriving business interests, and giving time to his church. He’s still advising — Johnson recently consulted with his bishop at West Angeles Church of God in Christ on the sale of some its properties. The deal will help the church build its Family Life Center for its nearly 20,000 weekly attendees. The West Angeles Church also paid the mortgage on its cathedral with the sale and was able to establish a financial reserve.

Johnson and his family have been members of the church led by Bishop Charles E. Blake for years.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment itself that an African-American pastor, a bishop can say to us as a community and congregation that, ‘we own our church.’ I think what you’ll see is that others will follow,” Johnson said. “From that sale, we’re able to build our family life center. So many community services will be established because of the family life center. When he asked me to help out, I was very willing to do that and to advise him and the other members that he chose to make sure they were making the right decisions and moves.”

Johnson’s wife, Cookie, joined the church about 20 years ago and the basketball Hall of Famer soon followed her and found a deeper connection with his faith. Blake and Johnson have teamed on various projects to help improve inner cities, launched programs designed to strengthen black families and spearheaded relief efforts in cities hit by hurricanes or other natural disasters.

“I wanted to get more involved with my church and working with Bishop Blake,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “When you think about his spiritual vision and plan, as well as what he had in mind in terms of his business plan for the Crenshaw corridor, it’s in line with what I’ve been doing in my business. I share his vision and want to just work with him and for him to see how we can improve the community.”

Johnson recently toured a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, that boasts a greenhouse designed to boost wellness initiatives.

Amanda Lojewski

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