“He Was Dating the Other Girl”: Magic Johnson’s Wife Was “Crushed” After an Incident Involving His Mother in 1979

Published 11/25/2022, 8:50 AM EST

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Magic Johnson played college basketball at Michigan State University. He played there for two years and helped the team win the NCAA title in 1979. While Magic navigated through college life, he fell in love with Earlitha Cookie Kelly, his wife. However, like every other love story, Cookie and Johnson went through a good share of ups and downs. In the Apple TV show, They Call Me Magic, Cookie narrates a heart-crushing incident from the couple’s days of dating.

Released in April 2022, They Call Me Magic, is a TV Series that captures the life of the Los Angeles Lakers legend. In a typical docuseries style, the show also features interviews with those who played a vital role in Magic’s journey. Fans are a witness to untold stories about Magic Johnson and his journey. One such story revolves around his love life with Cookie Kelly.


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Magic Johnson left Cookie devastated during a college basketball game

While it was love at first sight for Magic and Cookie, their story took a turn when the duo decided to end things. However, Cookie was still in love with him. So she continued to attend his games and support him. Meanwhile, Magic was seeing someone else, but he never admitted this to Cookie. On the docuseries, she said, “He wasn’t really acknowledging that he’s dating the other girl.” 

With no idea about the truth, Cookie constantly told herself that there was a possibility of them getting back together. Yet, things came crashing down when Magic and his Michigan team qualified for the NCAA tournament. In 1979, while watching the NCAA tournament on TV, Cookie spotted Magic’s new girlfriend sitting in the stands.

To make matters worse, Magic’s mom was sitting next to this new girlfriend. This left Cookie devastated. She said, “But by the time they went to the NCAA and I’m watching it on TV, And I look in the audience, and I see his mom in the stands, and she is right next to her. And that just really crushed me.” 

However, as the saying goes, all is well that ends well. Magic and Cookie eventually got back together and tied the knot in 1991. Having said that, their journey to marriage was challenging.

Magic’s cold feet


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Magic proposed to Cookie in 1988. But he called the engagement off soon. This happened once more. The second time he called things off was worse because Cookie had already said yes to a wedding dress and “save the date” cards had been sent off.

The media followed this closely. Members of the press even questioned Magic about his wedding, which is when Magic stated that until he leaves basketball, there wouldn’t be a wedding. On the other hand, this whole debacle was tumultuous for Cookie. Despite these shortcomings, the two tied the knot in 1991.


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Written by:

Shriya Rajachandra


One take at a time

Shriya Rajachandra is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports. She earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism, Psychology, and Communicative English. Shriya previously interned at The New Indian Express, but her favorite journalist, Marcus Thompson motivated her to start writing about basketball.
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Edited by:

Bagavathi Eswaran