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Magic Johnson becomes only 4th member of exclusive Billionaire Athletes Club

By CM Chaney · October 31, 2023

In brief…

  • Magic Johnson reaches billionaire status through savvy investments after NBA career
  • Majority of wealth comes from insurance, real estate, food franchises - not basketball earnings
  • Missed early opportunity to buy Nike stock, which would be worth billions today
  • Joins Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tiger Woods as only sports stars in 10-figure club
Magic Johnson has become the latest sports icon to achieve billionaire status, amassing his $1.2 billion fortune not from basketball but through shrewd investments after his playing career.  Neon Tommy / Wikimedia

Basketball legend Magic Johnson has joined an elite club after reaching billionaire status, according to Forbes.

The former Los Angeles Lakers star is now worth an estimated $1.2 billion, making him the fourth sports figure to hit 10-figure wealth along with Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods.

But unlike his fellow sporting billionaires, the majority of 64-year-old Johnson’s fortune comes from savvy investments outside of basketball rather than earnings from his playing career.

“My family didn’t come from money, that’s one thing that hurt us sometimes. When you don’t come from money, you don’t know,” Johnson said on a recent podcast about turning down Nike stock in the 1970s.

During his 13 years with the Lakers, Johnson made just $40 million total – a far cry from LeBron’s $480 million career haul so far. Even at his peak, Johnson pulled in only $2-4 million annually in endorsements according to Forbes’ estimates.

Instead, the five-time NBA champ has amassed his wealth through diverse investments in fast food, real estate, healthcare, insurance and sports teams after retiring in 1996.

“I didn’t even know what stocks [were] at that time,” Johnson admitted about missed opportunities earlier in his career.

But the business mogul has proven repeatedly he knows when to get in and out of assets, then reinvest the profits to build his fortune. After buying a small stake in the Lakers in 1994, he sold it in 2010 to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong for a huge return. He also partnered with Starbucks in 1998 to open over 100 stores in Black neighborhoods before selling back to the company in 2010 for a reported $75 million profit.

Johnson then used those funds to buy into the Dodgers in 2012. His 2.3% stake has now doubled to an estimated $110 million value. He also bought insurance company EquiTrust Life in 2015, which now comprises the majority of his net worth with $26 billion in assets.

In addition to insurance and sports, Johnson has money in everything from real estate to NFTs today. But his early missed opportunity still nags at him.

“Can you imagine? 45 years, $5 billion that stock would have been worth today,” Johnson said about the Nike offer he passed up.