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NBA legend Magic Johnson speaks to El Paso ISD student-athletes during surprise visit

(ANDRESS HIGH SCHOOL – Oct. 26, 2022) – Legendary NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson paid a surprise visit Wednesday to Andress High School’s Performing Arts Center and implored more than 310 boys and girls basketball players from all El Paso ISD high schools to harness the talents they develop on the court and in the classroom to chase their dreams.

The student-athletes, who were on hand as part of an event organized by El Paso ISD and Cigna, were unaware of Johnson’s participation and roared with delight upon his introduction by Vince Sheffield, El Paso ISD Deputy Superintendent of Administration and Academics.

Johnson relayed to students the importance of education through snippets of his life growing up with nine siblings in his native Lansing, Michigan, where he earned the “Magic” moniker from a sportswriter en route to helping Everett High School win a state championship. He parlayed that success into a successful college career at Michigan State that culminated with an NCAA title in 1979. Johnson then enjoyed a storied career with the Los Angeles Lakers that includes three NBA MVP Awards, five NBA Finals championships, 12 All-Star games, and nine All-NBA First Team selections.

During his address, however, Johnson focused on education’s role in helping him overcome the challenges in his life, and how the same commitment players put into athletics can help them with their academics.

“I know for myself, at your age, that’s all I cared about, was playing basketball and making sure I got my grades,” Johnson said. “Why is that important? You want to get great grades because you want to go on, hopefully, to college. If that’s not a part of your plan, that’s OK, too, as long as you, then, get a trade.”

Johnson fielded many questions from students in attendance, injecting his responses with humor and physical interaction. He drew raucous applause for his immediate response to a question on whom he considers a better player – Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

“Jordan,” Johnson said.

Maryfer Carrera, a Franklin High School junior, said she drew inspiration from Johnson’s words and hopes he returns to spread his message to other players.

“It definitely brought the whole basketball community together,” she said. “It’s something I will remember forever.”

Cesar Gutierrez, a Jefferson High School sophomore, was one of 20 students who received a signed jersey and other apparel items from Johnson during the event. He said he is motivated to increase his effort in practice and in the classroom as a result of Johnson’s speech.

“I’m glad to get this opportunity,” he said. “It tells me that I could accomplish more and I could help the people here in El Paso if I accomplish something.”

And that is in line with Johnson’s overall message to the students. He constantly reminded them that they control their destiny and already possess the tools to achieve success. He implored them to continue the pursuit of their dream despite the obstacles that may be presented to them along the way.

“Never let anyone define what you can do,” he said.