Tasting 3-Straight Defeats as New NFL Team Owner, Were the Commanders a Good Investment for Magic Johnson?

Published 10/09/2023, 8:17 AM EDT

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Throughout his illustrious NBA career, Magic Johnson was able to compile just over $40 million. While a large number on its own, a comparison today would show that the 15-year total yields vastly different results. That amount stands as the 17th highest in the league today, equal to Kyrie Irving’s contract for the 2023-24 season. However, the relatively small amount hasn’t slowed Earvin down. Instead, from that sum, he has built an empire worth over $600 million. While other business empire-owning athletes like Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan got a big boost from their career earnings, that wasn’t the case for Magic.

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Instead, his business operations were shrewd and increasingly profitable. As a result, a true trailblazer is the best way to describe Magic Johnson. Practically everything that the Los Angeles Lakers legend touches turns to gold. Perhaps that is his Magic. However, this year saw him make one of his biggest business decisions yet. While the immediate results were overwhelmingly positive, the dividends have since flatlined. Could his foray into the NFL be a miscalculation? There are two ways to look at the returns, and the two offer contradictory answers.

The on-field success of Magic’s new team

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Since its inception, the Washington Commanders have been one of the most up-and-down teams in the NFL. Founded in 1932, the team has gone through various highs and steep lows. However, its most successful period was during the 1980s and early 1990s. In that timeframe, the team won all three of its Super Bowls.

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But, in recent times, Washington has been going through a down run. Since the turn of the century, they have been to the playoffs just 5 times, winning just 1 game. So, expectations were already low when the 5x NBA Champion took over in the summer. However, this is Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson we’re talking about.

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Regardless of the sport, any ownership stake from the 3x MVP has brought with it immediate success. Since taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB, the team has won 9 of the last 10 NL West Championships. With that track record in mind, expectations were high from his tenure in the nation’s capital.

Through 2 weeks, it looked like the Magic of Magic was in full effect. But, things have gotten progressively bleak since then. After a hot 2-0 start, the team had no shot against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills as they lost 37-3. While the next week was a moral victory in a neck-and-neck battle with reigning NFC Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, the team ultimately lost.

Next week, losing to the woeful Chicago Bears, in the midst of a 14-game losing streak dating back to last year, brought about this conversation. As a result, expectations are significantly lower now.

Watch This Story: 5 Months After Showing Warriors Star Love, Magic Johnson Gets Walked Over By Stephen Curry’s Teammate For One Reason

Judging the team’s on-field production to the Super Bowl standard would be unwise. What is a better judgment criterion is a year-by-year improvement. Through the first 5 weeks, the team does look like a far more complete team with steady room for growth. However, the conversation about the GOAT point guard’s investment evaluation is two-fold.

The monetary side of the deal for Magic Johnson

Unless something truly tragic comes to pass, a sports franchise ownership is always a good investment. Just ask Michael Jordan. Even though the Charlotte Hornets did not win a single playoff series in his 17-year run as owner in some capacity, his tenure is still a success from a financial standpoint.

The same could apply to Magic. A sport that is more popular than the NBA, and is beginning a global expansion, remains prized for a noticeable uptick in value and revenue. As a result, an investment, even as a minority owner, should surely be frutiful.

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One of the few African American owners in the sport, Johnson is continuing his trailblazing ways in the NFL as well. Along with billionaire Josh Harris and a couple of other investors, the deal for the Washington Commanders became official this summer, putting the 6’9″ guard in a minority ownership position.

While he’s immediately made an impact with a stadium and facility upgrade worth $50 million, the plans to improve are stringent. The entire deal came at the cost of $6.05 billion. Even though that sum is enormous, in the long run, it might be one of the smartest decisions Magic has ever made. While the on-field product might not always reflect it, the success is inevitable and undeniable.

What constitutes success for Magic Johnson?

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Even though Michael Jordan led the team nowhere and eventually the results were atrocious, his tenure was an overall success. Perhaps not from a team success standpoint. But, as far as investment goes, MJ knocked it out of the park in the deal.

While the NBA isn’t as popular as the NFL and Charlotte is a far smaller market, Mike’s transaction history was impeccable. When he first took over complete ownership in 2010, it cost him $275 million. During this year’s sale, it net him a grand total of $3 billion. That is to say that the move was a resounding business success.

In a similar vein, Magic’s tenure remains undecided from a winning perspective. But, as an investment and business move, it was a success the moment Johnson signed the dotted line.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EssentiallySports.

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Written by:

Priyanshu

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Priyanshu is an NBA Writer at Essentially Sports. Basketball has been his favorite sport for over a decade, and he has written close to 300 articles. If asked what he loves about the sport, Priyanshu would cite the technique, the breakdown, the ebb and flow and the theatrics that have endeared him since 2009.
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Edited by:

Pragya Vashisth

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